United, Anglican Churches See Closer Ties

By Folkins, Tali | Anglican Journal, March 2016 | Go to article overview

United, Anglican Churches See Closer Ties


Folkins, Tali, Anglican Journal


Fresh out of a meeting in Toronto January 8 with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada--their first official meeting since her election last summer--the Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell was brimming with enthusiasm.

"We could've talked for three times as long," Cantwell, the new United Church of Canada (UCC) moderator said in an interview. The main topic of their conversation, Cantwell said, was the episcope, the ministry of oversight--"how that's exercised in our different churches, and what would the path towards mutual recognition of ministries, or of full communion, or just of deeper union or deeper co-operation, look like...what are the barriers, what are the opportunities."

Earlier that day, Cantwell had preached a sermon at a special Epiphany service, featuring United Church hymns, in the national church offices' chapel in Toronto.

"You know, there was a bit of a lull after the discussions in the '70s sort of fell apart, but it's picking back up," said Cantwell. "I think we're on an upswing in our ecumenical relations."

In 1975, a plan to formally unite the two churches, approved by the UCC's General Council, fell through after the Anglican church's General Synod voted against it--leaving UCC members feeling "left at the altar," as Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican church's co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, has put it. But formal dialogue began again in 2003--and, meanwhile, a lot has been going on informally, Cantwell said. A number of congregations in Canada, for example, have been sharing clergy despite the discomfort some Anglicans have expressed about the administering of sacraments by lay ministers and non-Anglican priests.

Ecumenism is one of her three top priorities as moderator, Cantwell said, together with fostering reconciliation and right relationships within and beyond the United Church, and encouraging the growth of youth and adult ministry.

The two churches' common history of involvement in the Indian residential school system and their desire to work out a new relationship with Indigenous people have already brought them closer together, she says--and that is likely to continue. Cantwell noted, for example, that both churches are now in the process of exploring with their Indigenous members what kind of changes might be needed in order for Indigenous congregations to have more autonomy.

Hiltz agreed the meeting had been both enjoyable and fruitful. There's currently "new life" in the United Church-Anglican dialogue, he said, particularly in the area of mutual recognition of ministries.

One interesting thing the two spoke about, Hiltz said, was the idea that the two churches, in their formal dialogue with one another, might draw more heavily from the on-the-ground experiences of ecumenical shared ministries. …

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