Greetings to the Archbishop of Canterbury
from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson
A Message from Bishop Mark Hanson
President of the Lutheran World Federation and
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
To the Most Reverend Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury
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I extend warm greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation – A Communion of Churches and the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In our common witness to God’s grace that is poured out upon us, we cherish the unity that we share as sisters and brothers in Christ.
The full communion agreement with The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has provided ten years of close cooperation in mission and ministry within the United States. In Called to Common Mission, our full communion agreement, we affirmed: “Our churches have discovered afresh our unity in the gospel and our commitment to the mission to which God calls the church of Jesus Christ in every generation. Unity and mission are organically linked in the Body of Christ, the church.”
In our Affirmation of Baptism, we commit ourselves “to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” For Anglicans and Lutherans, our resolve to be engaged in ministry and mission together is grounded in the centrality of Baptism and the Eucharist as God’s means of grace.
In your New Year’s greeting, you said, “the needs of our neighbors are the needs of the whole human family,” and offered the challenge to tackle more deeply the Millennium Development Goals to end poverty and disease. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through the Lutheran Malaria Initative and our HIV and AIDS strategy is committed to joining you in making these priorities for our daily lives and ministries.
The Lutheran World Federation’s Eleventh Assembly will be held in Stuttgart, Germany in July 2010 under the theme “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.” We affirm God’s call to care for creation and to serve all of God’s people, especially the most vulnerable in society. This theme reflects our conviction that God sends us to respond to the hungry, those who hunger for the Bread of Life, for daily bread, and for justice and peace.
Together we mourn the loss of life and the destruction that has fallen upon God’s people in Haiti. As we are deeply moved by the cries and testimony coming from the Haitian people, we know that God calls us to accompany those living in poverty so that together we may work to eliminate poverty wherever it exits. Responding together is a powerful witness to what Christian unity can do for the world that God loves.
Care for the environment is another priority we share. Your challenge to those who recently gathered in Copenhagen highlighted the environmental crisis and the need for climate change as matters of theological and moral concern. The ELCA’s social statement, “Caring for Creation,” gives direction to our church’s vision for and commitment to the environment.
The statement affirms, “We see the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of God’s gracious gift of creation. Scripture witnesses to God as creator of the earth and all that dwells therein (Psalm 24:1). The creeds, which guide our reading of Scripture, proclaim God the Father of Jesus Christ as the ‘maker of heaven and earth,’ Jesus as one Being with the Father; ‘through (whom) all things were made,’ and the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ (Nicene Creed).”
We confess our complicity in the severity of the environmental crisis that is before us. We understand that humanity’s separation from God and from the rest of creation is the central cause of the environmental crisis. We join you and our Anglican sisters and brothers in acknowledging that the need to respond is a spiritual call to care for the creation entrusted to us by our gracious God.
As we live in God’s majestic creation, our prayers for peace and justice for all reflect the shared vision of God’s people living together without fear and with the blessings of the abundant life that God provides. As Lutherans, we share this call and commitment with you and the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths. This time calls for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to deepen our understanding of one another and our resolve to work together to build a world of peace with justice.
Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, shared with members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that “the yearning for unity has made it possible for the Lutheran World Federation to speak and act on behalf of the majority of Lutherans in the areas of international diakonia and advocacy. It has urged us toward deeper relationships with other Christians….we cannot choose the challenges which are presented to faithful Christian witness in our lifetimes. But in the Lutheran World Federation, we look to the future with hope that we will continue to grow in communion with one another and in unity with the whole Church of Jesus Christ.”
Among those challenges in our Communions, we face moral, ethical, theological, and ecclesiastical differences in understanding. As the Anglican Communion considers a Covenant as a way to approach present and future challenges, we offer our prayer that unity may be preserved and the rich heritage of the Anglican Communion may continue to provide a united witness throughout the world.
We as Lutherans also ask for your prayers as we face these challenges in our Communion and within our churches. As we continue our fruitful dialogues and continue to learn from one another, may we live more fully into the agreements that Lutherans and Anglicans have embraced in recent years.
We look forward to opportunities for greater engagement and service in the name of our gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit guide and support us that we may be one as our Lord wills so that the world may believe and receive God’s love and care through our hands.
Your witness, wisdom, and words have been gifts to Christ’s Church. May God bless you in your leadership and in your ministry within the Anglican Communion and on behalf of all of God’s faithful people.