We Too Have Common Sense: The Waterloo Declaration and Full Communion in Canada

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Recent studies of Anglican-Lutheran agreements on full communion have tended to focus on agreements in Europe and the United States. This address to a gathering of Anglican and Lutheran historians tracks the development of the third full communion agreement, "The Waterloo Declaration of Full Communion" between Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans in 2001. The Canadian agreement owes more to the approach of the Porvoo Agreement than to "Called to Common Mission," and offers a way forward in those places where Anglicans and Lutherans serve in close proximity and in existing shared ministries.

Introduction

Whenever one of my favorite professors gave a lecture on Zwingli, he began with the same statement: "I shall try to be fair." In that same spirit, I feel obliged to make clear that I am not an impartial observer on Canadian Anglican-Lutheran affairs. From 1992 to 19951 served as an Anglican appointee to the Lutheran Relations Task Force and then, from 1995 to 2001, as a member of the Anglican-Lutheran Joint Working Group, the group charged with the responsibility of leading our two churches into full communion. As a member of that group I served on the drafting team for the Waterloo Declaration and as the editor of a volume of essays on Anglican-Lutheran relations in Canada. Presently I am a member of the Joint Commission. Consequently, full communion is not an academic interest for me. The growth into full communion and our continued growth in full communion are matters of existential meaning for me. I hope this essay will be helpful to those unfamiliar with our work in Canada, but I acknowledge that there are different points of view on whether our approach is the right one. Suffice it to say that I believe we have chosen the right path for Canadians, a path that respects our context, arises out of the catholic tradition, and paves the way for the full, visible unity of the church.

I am encouraged in this view when I remember Ambrose of Milan's response to those who questioned why he washed the feet of the newly baptized when his colleague in Rome did not. In De Sacramgnfis III.5 he writes:

We are aware that the Roman Church does not follow this custom, although we take her as our prototype, and follow her rite in everything. But she docs not have this rite of the washing of the feet. Perhaps it is because of the large numbers that she has ceased to practise it. But there are those who try to excuse themselves by saying that it should not be performed as a mystery, not as part of the baptismal rite, not for regeneration, but that this washing of the feet should be done as a host would do it for his guests. However, humility is one thing, sanctification another. You must know that this washing is a mystery and sanctification. "If I do not wash your feet, you shall have no part with me." I am not saying this as censuring others; I am simply recommending our own rite. I wish to follow the Roman Church in everything: but we too are not devoid of common sense. When a better custom is kept elsewhere, we arc right to keep it here also.'

Let me begin with a little bit of Canadian context.

The Canadian Context

Canada is the second-largest country in the world. We stretch from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Arctic Sea in the north. Only a small portion of this landmass, however, is populated year-round. More than eighty percent of Canada's thirty million people live within two hours' driving distance of the border between the United States and Canada, most of them in the metropolitan regions of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal.

The Anglican Church of Canada has some 800,000 members. We are organized into thirty dioceses and episcopal regions distributed into four internal provinces. Our House of Bishops numbers forty-four including the new primate, Andrew Hutchison. If you have any mathematical interests, you may already have averaged out our numbers and our dioceses: roughly 27,000 people per diocese. …