On 15 October 2017 The Lutheran Church – Canada (LCC) Synodal Assembly resolved unanimously to sign an agreement of ecclesiastical fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. This information was conveyed by Dr Robert Bugbee, President of LCC, immediately after the publication of the decision.
What does this mean? The Lutheran Church – Canada has already enjoyed contact with the Mission Diocese for a number of years. Dean Dr Juhana Pohjola studied and taught in the LCC Lutheran Seminary at St Catharines a few years ago. The same seminary called Rev. Esko Murto to join the teaching staff two years ago and appointed him Assistant Professor of Dogmatics last autumn. In addition, the Mission Diocese has begun cooperation with the LCC in the Odessa Concordia Theological Seminary, Ukraine, supported by the LCC, as well as the work done among the Jarai people in Cambodia.
The ecclesiastical fellowship, so-called pulpit and altar fellowship, means that the churches signing this fellowship recognise one another’s basis of doctrine and office. The members of these churches are also publicly welcome to join in Holy Communion in one another’s congregations.
Ecclesiastical fellowship naturally requires the resolution of the two parties. This year the LCC Synodal Assembly met about a month prior to the Assembly of the Mission Diocese, which then decided upon the stand of the Mission Diocese on this fellowship.
Last August the LCC and the Mission Diocese negotiated on ecclesiastical fellowship. The negotiators from Canada were President Robert Bugbee and Rev. Hamp. Finland was represented by Bishop Risto Soramies, Dean Dr Juhana Pohjola as well as Rev Dr Samuli Siikavirta. The negotiations were not held in order to adjust the two parties’ doctrines or praxis to fit one another but to assess and state their shared faith and theological foundation. The LCC and the Mission Diocese differ quite a bit in regards to their history, age and size as well as structure. We were, however, able to state that we are united by the same faith and theology, which we also confessed in the same manner.
The LCC was established in 1988 by congregations that had previously belonged to the American Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. They still maintain warm relations with it. The church has 300 congregations in three different regions, each with its own administration. The LCC is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), consisting of confessional Lutheran churches around the world. It is through the ILC that the Mission Diocese and the LCC became acquainted. Our Diocese is not yet a member of the ILC, but for several years we have been invited to attend various negotiations and conferences.
We naturally rejoice over the Canadians’ positive resolution. Our common faith and the bearing of a shared yoke is a wondrous matter. Our Diocesan Assembly met in Helsinki on 11 November 2017 where our stand on the ecclesiastical fellowship with the LCC was brought forward for due consideration and discussion. The resolution to sign this agreement on full ecclesiastical relations was reached . We rejoice in this outcome.
text: Bishop Risto Soramies
This news item has been amended to reflect the date of publication.