Archbishop Justin Welby welcomed leaders from the Church Council of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) to Lambeth Palace March 1. In anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon and Bishop Martin Lind planted an English beech tree in Lambeth Palace’s garden. Representatives of the Anglican Communion planted a similar tree at Wittenburg in 2009.
The Lutheran delegation included Gerhard Ulrich, presiding bishop of the VELKD, and Bishop Lind, representing the Lutheran World Federation. Canon Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion and the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of unity, faith and order for the Anglican Communion Office, appeared on Anglicans’ behalf.
“It is crucial that the agenda of our ecumenical relationships is not limited to the status of our churches in relationship to each other,” Archbishop Justin Welby said after the ceremony. “We are profoundly united in the work of Christ.”
Archbishop Welby noted that the Church of England’s General Synod adopted the Meissen Agreement with the Evangelical Church in Germany in July 1990 without dissent, calling it a significant achievement.
In that agreement, the churches commit themselves to “share a common life and mission” and to “take all possible steps to closer fellowship in as many areas of Christian life and witness as possible, so that all our members together may advance on the way to full, visible unity.”
Archbishop Welby added: “In the broader context of Anglican Communion and Lutheran World Federation relationships, I am sure this meeting will be a further sign of churches growing together and responding to the call of Christ that all may be one that the world may see who Christ is.”
Bishop Ulrich said the trees planted in the Lambeth garden and in Wittenburg showed how deeply the Lutheran World Federation valued its relationship with the Anglican Communion. “It is a symbol of reconciled diversity,” he said.
Bishop Ulrich added that the Meissen Agreement “gives witness to the good and trustworthy relations between the two churches.”
Archbishop Welby sent greetings last month to the 8th Meissen Theological Conference, saying that Meissen has “made a significant contribution to the reconciliation process between our two nations and has enabled the establishment of a large number of vibrant partnerships and links between our churches.”
Lead image: Presiding Bishop Gerhard Ulrich and Archbishop Justin Welby. • Neil Vigers/ACNS