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GERMANY: Confessional Lutherans and Anglicans Take Talks Global

GERMANY: Confessional Lutherans and Anglicans Take Talks Global

ACNA Press Release
November 14, 2019

The latest round of dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Lutheran Church--Canada (LCC), and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) took place in Wittenberg, Germany from October 28-November 2, 2019, welcoming the representatives of several European churches to the discussions for the first time.

The meetings in Wittenberg focused on opportunities for new areas of cooperation between confessional churches, both Lutheran and Anglican, in continental Europe and England, especially in the areas of theological education. To that end, the dialogue welcomed additional guests from Germany's Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche -- SELK), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE), the Free Church of England (FCE), the Reformed Episcopal Church in Germany (Anglikanische Kirche in Deutschland -- AKD), the Reformed Episcopal Church in Croatia (Protestantska Reformirana Kršćanska Crkva -- PRKC), and the United Methodist Church in Germany (Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche -- EMK).

Despite differing backgrounds, the individuals in attendance were united in their commitments to the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation by grace through faith in Christ together with the infallible authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of doctrine and life. Although meeting in Europe, the Anglican and Lutheran representatives both have firm connections and shared perspectives with churches in the Global South who are at odds with the growing numbers of churches in the West that have forsaken biblical teaching and turned instead to affirming universalism, same-sex marriage, ordination of active homosexuals, and other deviations from Scripture.

The event was also notable in that it featured introductory meetings between the heads of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON): Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of SELK and Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA, respectively. The ILC is a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies representing millions of Lutherans around the world. It includes LCC and the LCMS among its members. GAFCON was born out of the confessing realignment of world Anglicanism as those who uphold the authority of Scripture banded together. Today GAFCON represents roughly 50 million of the world's 70 million Anglicans.

During the dialogue, participants took time to outline the background of their various churches and movements. This was especially important given the addition of multiple European church leaders who were attending the discussions for the first time. Bishop Ray Sutton, presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church and Dean of Ecumenical Affairs for ACNA, outlined the history of the confessing Anglican movement. The Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Chairman of the LCMS' Commission for Theology and Church Relations, provided background on The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, while Bishop Voigt presented on the history of SELK. LCC's Past President Robert Bugbee spoke on both the history of LCC as well as the International Lutheran Council. Discussions turned to the possibility of further discussions between GAFCON and ILC leadership. Future meeting dates were set for additional discussions on this subject.

A major focus of the meetings was investigating the possibility of cooperative educational work in continental Europe and the United Kingdom. The seminaries of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England were particularly highlighted as potential venues for such cooperation. Additional discussion focused on the possibility of interchanges between Anglican and Lutheran representatives in Germany and England, as well as those form North America.

As the meetings coincided with the observance of Reformation Day on October 31, participants had the opportunity to visit a number of Reformation sites throughout Wittenberg, including Martin Luther's house, Philipp Melanchthon's house, the Castle Church, and St. Mary's Church. On Reformation Day itself, participants gathered at the doors of the Castle Church where they made a joint declaration:

On these doors some 502 years ago, Martin Luther called all believers to a life of repentance. Scorning the high-sounding promises of a corrupt church, he asserted that every repentant Christian "participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church." As repentant Christians, representatives of Anglican and Lutheran churches, and heirs of the Reformation that began in this place, we humbly rejoice that together we believe, teach, and confess such truths. In humble faith we join our voices to declare the enduring, central truth of the Reformation: that although "we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," we "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:23-25).

The next dialogue meeting between the ACNA, LCC, and the LCMS is set for April 21-23, 2020 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The event will be a planning meeting to establish meeting plans for the next triennium.

Anglican Church in North America: Archbishop Foley Beach; the Rev. Peter Frank; the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Riches, Reformed Episcopal Seminary (REC) rector and professor; and REC Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton, Dean of Ecumenical Affairs.
Lutherans: LCC Past President Robert Bugbee; the Rev. Joel Kuhl, Chairman of LCC's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the LCMS' CTCR; and the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Executive Director of the LCMS' CTCR.
International guests included: the Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock, Rector and Professor at SELK's seminary Lutherische Theologische Hochschule; outgoing ELCE Chairman Jon Ehlers; FCE Bishop John Fenwick; AKD Bishop Gerhard Meyer; PRKC Bishop Jasmin Milić; SELK Bishop Emeritus Jobst Schöne; SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, and the Rev. Dr. Vatroslav Župančić of the EMK.

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