Anglican-Lutheran shared offices transforming mission

The 2001 Waterloo Declaration brought the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) into full communion. Since that time, the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission (JALC) has typically met twice a year  to explore ways the two churches can work together at local, regional, and national levels.

The most recent JALC meeting received a report of flourishing full communion relationships in Winnipeg, MB, where the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land and the ELCIC’s Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod have since last summer shared offices at the newly christened Anglican Lutheran Centre.

Almost one year into the new living arrangement, Anglican Bishop Donald Phillips and Lutheran Bishop Elaine Sauer are eager to share lessons learned and successes from life together at 935 Nesbitt Bay.

From the Lutheran perspective, the July 2013 move has been quite comfortable. “As the person who moved into the office,” says Sauer, “the transition went quite smoothly. There’s a lot of warmth and welcoming happening here.” Her Anglican counterpart agrees. Phillips remembers how receptive Anglican diocesan staff were to the proposal and that they “latched onto the idea of a shared office very quickly.”

The staff teams are delighting in finding opportunities for ecumenical collaboration. They share in activities ranging from coordinating joint study days for Anglican and Lutheran clergy, to mid-week celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, to shoveling snow from the office steps.

The dozen or so people who work at the Anglican Lutheran Centre are also open to negotiating the partnership as it evolves. The bishops noted, for example, that at first there were monthly joint staff meetings. These were later scaled back as staff got to know each other and settled into working relationships.

The bishops believe this initiative will be a seed for growth elsewhere in their churches. This vision is supported through close collaboration at the centre, including shared communication through their respective newspapers, Rupert’s Land News and the MNO Crossword. Sauer says she hopes congregations will think about ministry and learn to always ask, “How might we do that together? Who can we do this with?”

While the practical benefits of shared office spaces are clear, Phillips and Sauer also emphasize the importance of mission and ministry at the Anglican Lutheran Centre. “The driving force in this is how we can be the best disciples of Jesus Christ,” says Philips, “and how we can further this mission in our local and global neighbourhoods.” Sauer agrees and adds, “This has been the whole cornerstone of our relationship. What we can do together, we can do better.”

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