Revived Anglican-United dialogue issues report

After six years of conversation, the Anglican-United Dialogue offers their churches “Drawing from the Same Well: the St. Brigid Report.” Formatted for quick reference, the report describes where Anglican and United churches are working cooperatively, and outlines the differences between the denominations.

Thirty-four years ago, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the United Church of Canada (UCC) were having a much different conversation; they were talking about becoming one church. From 1967 to 1975, the churches made steps towards this “organic union” until the Anglican House of Bishops quashed the idea, and the dialogue broke off.

Restarting the conversation in 2003 was “awkward,” said the Rev. Dr. Bill Harrison, the dialogue’s Anglican co-chair. “No one’s quite certain why the union was stopped, to be honest. The House of Bishops did not explain in any depth its reasons.”

When 12 Anglican and United representatives met in 2003, the first step was for Anglicans to listen to pain and anger from many UCC representatives.

“They felt rejected,” explained Mr. Harrison. “Since then, of course, we have developed a very close relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), so there was a sense that we had jilted them and walked up the aisle with someone else.”

In 2001, ACC entered into a full communion relationship with ELCIC.The Waterloo Declaration allowed Lutheran and Anglican clergy to minister at the others’ churches and for baptisms to be mutually recognized.

Now the national Lutheran and Anglican leaders are moving the two churches towards working together both in management and at a grassroots level, where joint ministry in rural areas is often a necessity.

The St. Brigid Report describes similar Anglican and United cooperation, which has sprung up in recent decades. Anglican and United church members work together in chaplaincies, social justice coalitions, and theological colleges, often within a broader ecumenical context. (The Anglican-United dialogue has contributed to an Ecumenical Shared Ministries Handbook.)

Over their 13 meetings, Anglican-United dialogue members visited many of these cooperative ministries across Canada. They spoke with deacons in Halifax, professors in Winnipeg, and church members involved with Indigenous reconciliation work in Ottawa.

The St. Brigid Report, which marks a pause in the dialogue, includes chapters on Indigenous experiences, sacramental theology, and interfaith relations. Members recommend that the dialogue continue to consider topics like Christology in interfaith relations and the history of the churches’ missions. The ACC and UCC will wait to gauge the report’s reception before making a next move.

“Perhaps the most important thing that the dialogue has to say to both the Anglican and United churches is that we have a remarkable amount in common,” said Mr. Harrison. “We also think that our differences are significant, but we don’t want our differences to be allowed to overshadow the unity that we do share.”

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