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Dialogue at First Cousin Stage

Participants in the dialogue involving Anglican Church in North America, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the Lutheran Church–Canada gather in St. Louis. • ACNA photo

Adapted from the ACNA

A 13-page document, “On Closer Acquaintance,” is an interim report on ecumenical dialogue involving the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC).

The report is the culmination of six years of regular discussions between the three church bodies, and highlights the discovery of significant doctrinal agreement among the Anglican and Lutheran participants.

The authors are clear that there is still much work to be done before altar and pulpit fellowship between the two sides is possible. Nevertheless, they have found the discussions promising enough to publicly declare their prayer that, “in the time and manner of His choosing, our Lord would grant each side in our conversations to acknowledge our ‘first cousin’ to be in fact a true sister church, with the result that we would welcome each other wholeheartedly to our respective altars and enjoy the blessed situation in which our clergy and people would be interchangeable with each other as we stand under the grace of God and work for His kingdom.”

In the meantime, they encourage the three church bodies to “consider the ways in which we can cooperate and come together in ways that fall short of full communion but do allow the greatest measure of cooperation while maintaining full theological integrity.”

The leaders of the three churches welcomed the report warmly, reflecting on the growing relationship between confessional Anglicans and Lutherans.

“In a time when so many churches are departing from the teachings of the Bible, it has been refreshing to see the stand for scriptural truth that is being made by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church–Canada,” said the Most Rev. Foley Beach, archbishop of the ACNA. “We agree on the essentials of the Faith, and share a common desire to evangelize North America with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the LCMS, expressed a similar perspective. “In these trying times for global Christianity, we were joyously surprised and deeply heartened to learn of ACNA and its struggle to be faithful to the New Testament and historic Christian faith,” he said.

“By God’s grace we have found real friends who have encouraged us deeply. … They have sacrificed greatly, virtually all of them losing the properties of their respective congregations due to the structure of the Episcopal Church. I pray that we would be so courageous facing such difficulties.”

The Rev. Robert Bugbee, president of the LCC, praised the dialogue and the growing theological consensus between confessional Lutherans and Anglicans. “These discussions have been marked by great thoroughness and theological integrity,” he said. “Nobody reached for easy compromises, nor did anyone paper over matters that needed to be fully worked through on the basis of God’s Word. Biblical Christians throughout North America face many pressures, not only with the secularization of our society, but also because of the doctrinal decay and revisionism in much of mainline Christianity. We thank the Lord for the commitment of our Anglican friends, and ask him to use our witness to hold Christ the Savior out to people all around us.”

All three leaders were present for the most recent round of dialogue, held Feb. 8-9 in St. Louis. A major focus of the meeting was completing the interim report.

On Closer Acquaintance 2016

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