I suspect many here have been surprised over the last few years on how many points of our faith Jessica, an Anglo-Catholic and I, a Lutheran agree on. In fact, we have been surprised as well, not least because Anglo-Catholics are rare in Nebraska, and Lutherans are just about as rare in England. Both exist, but you’ll look a while.
Historic Anglicanism and historic Lutheranism, while not the same, are pretty close cousins. And others are realizing it as well. They always have been, there has always been a rumor that Anne Boleyn was a Lutheran herself. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC), and the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the conservative breakaway from the Episcopal church, have been having talks for the last few years. And the thing is, they are finding that there is not that much room between them. We are not the same, and since we are conservative, we tend not to move off of what we have always believed, everywhere. As the committee says, we are not sister churches, in full communion, but we are first cousins.
On the other end of the spectrum, our liberal counterparts, the ELCA, and the Episcopal church have been in full communion for some time. But being liberal, they tend to be more accommodating. Here are some highlights from the report:
Instead of renewing the one historic church of the west as Martin Luther had desired, the Reformation of the 16th century ended up producing several distinct church bodies severely at odds with each other. In this process many sharp words were spoken and negative judgments delivered, by Lutherans against Roman Catholics, Reformed, and Anabaptists; by Reformed against the other three groups just named; by the Church of England in her classic formularies against Roman Catholics and Anabaptists; and by Roman Catholics against all who had left their communion. Remarkably, Lutherans and the church body later called Anglican aimed few if any direct shots against each other.
While not of one heart and soul, neither were our forefathers at daggers drawn with each other. There is in fact enormous overlap between successive editions of the Book of Common Prayer and how it took shape in church life, on the one hand, and the way in which the Book of Concord was reflected in the teaching, worship, and ethos of the Lutheran churches of Germany and Scandinavia. Accordingly, we can ascertain much compatibility between historic Anglicanism and Lutheranism in fundamental doctrine, liturgy, hymnody, and devotion.
For a considerable portion of the 18th century the ruling kings of England (who remained electors of Hanover) were practicing Lutherans and Anglicans at the same time; the Lutheran George Frederick Handel composed his church music mainly in England; and there was much formal cooperation on the mission field between some German Lutherans and the Church of England.
We should not overstate the case, however. The Lutheran chaplain of Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708) refused to commune him after he decided, on certain state occasions, to receive the sacrament alongside his wife, Queen Anne.
Rather than describe ACNA and LCMS–LCC as sister churches, we should acknowledge each other as ecclesial first cousins, closely related indeed, but not yet partaking publicly of the same Lord’s Table. Our church bodies share a common foundation in the Holy Scriptures and in their confessions. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion draw heavily on the Augsburg Confession and other Lutheran influences. Eight of the Thirty-Nine Articles are drawn directly from the Wittenberg Articles1 of 1536, a joint Lutheran–Anglican document. […]
Outsiders had viewed Anglicanism as endlessly pliable in matters of Christian doctrine, a form of church in which incompatible “parties” simply agreed to disagree. This perception has been sharply challenged by the emergence of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which has more adherents than the “mainline” Anglicans that include the Church of England, The Episcopal Church of the USA, and the Anglican Church of Canada. It is apparent that the divide in Lutheranism between the LWF and the ILC is paralleled by the division between GAFCON and the Anglican “mainline” churches of the Anglican Communion […]
Affirmation of the classical creeds goes hand in hand with deep respect for the ancient Fathers and for the practices of the Church of the early centuries. But as Christian antiquity assists us in the understanding of the Scriptures, it adds nothing to their content. We note and affirm the major role played by patristic studies among the Lutheran and Anglican theologians of the 17th century.
From the report, it looks to me as if one of the larger points we dispute has to do with the Real Presence, and yet in all three churches, there are varieties of belief, but we all admire the famous quote from Queen Elizabeth I:
“Christ was the word that spake it.
He took the bread and brake it;
And what his words did make it,
That I believe and take it.”
I’ve merely given you snippets here, the document itself covers much more, including how the evolution of civil power, and the Erastianism of the west since Constantine, has led to the startling fact that the supreme power of the Church of England and the State Churches of Scandinavia is not the Word of God, as understood by either the Anglican or Lutheran confession, but the will of a government that may be of an unbelieving mindset. That is a high price that the churches in our old homelands have, and are, paying for the benefits that alliance with the state may have provided.
I think that we are seeing the same split that has happened in our churches, happen now in the Roman Catholic Church as well, perhaps that means that the respective parts of that church will also draw closer to the corresponding parts of our churches as well. But I see no hope at all of all the splits in any of our churches healing.
Perhaps since we quoted Queen Elizabeth I above, we should also quote Queen Elizabeth II from the forward of a book celebrating her 90th birthday, published by Hope Together (and others) called The Servant Queen – and the King She Serves:
As I embark on my 91st year, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the words of a poem quoted by my father, King George VI, in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, the year that this country went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century.
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”