ACC considers ‘The Gift of Authority’

21 September 1999 • Persistent link:

“The dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics is only one stream in the wider river of ecumenical dialogue. The issue of authority comes up sooner or later, in one form or another, in every dialogue which addresses itself seriously to the questions of communion and unity,” the Rt Rev Mark Santer, Bishop of Birmingham and previous Co-Chairman of ARCIC (the Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission, said. He was taking part in a presentation of the ARCIC document The Gift of Authority: Authority in the Church III, to members of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Dundee, Scotland.

“In local or national dialogues the issue of authority comes up on the local or national level. In global discussions, as we have discovered within the Anglican Communion, the issue of authority comes up at a global level,” he said. “It is simply inescapable…Authority has been in the Church since the days of the apostles. It is not a new issue. The apostles had to struggle to maintain unity in the Church, and their authority was at stake in the struggle. The issue of authority was likewise central to the story of the split between East and West, and to the tensions in the Church in the West in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which lead to the schism of the Reformation. Questions of authority and obedience will be at issue in the Church until the end of time,” Bishop Santer said.

He was joined by the Rev Canon David Hamid, Ecumenical Officer for the Anglican Communion, and the Rev Timothy Galligan, Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome, as they brought The Gift of Authority to the ACC.

Canon Hamid pointed out this was presentation was a part of the reception process of the work, noted that this was a significant occasion for the Anglican Communion, for the Anglican Consultative Council is the first of the Anglican Communion’s ‘instruments of unity’ to receive this document for careful study and reflection.

Bishop Santer said that Anglicans tended to focus on the question of the authority of the Pope, but he said this “is a cop-out.” for the Pope’s authority is only one of a number of questions, including the authority of bishops, and the problematic authority if kings and of civil authorities over the Church. He suggested another major question is “who speaks for the people as a whole, and by what authority.”

“Perhaps the deepest question is whether we really believe that Christ has given living organs of authority to his people, such that when necessary the Church as a whole can recognise that it is being spoken to and spoken for in the name of its Lord,” Bishop Santer said.

Fr. Galligan set this present ARCIC statement into the context of previous documents and demonstrated the logical background of these prepared statements in the earlier ARCIC work which commenced with Pope Paul VI‘s meeting with Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966.

“The Gift of Authority lists points of convergence on ARCIC’s earlier work. The opening paragraphs of The Gift of Authority are an invitation to go back and re-read that earlier work which, remember, has been officially reflected on and evaluated by our churches,” Fr. Galligan said.

He suggested that the ACC members might like to consider is how might this whole corpus of work on authority be made available for reflection by our churches?

The document has been sent to all Roman Catholic Episcopal conferences throughout the world and to Papal Nuncios, and it was accompanied by a letter commending it for study and reflection. It has also been circulated to every Primate in the Anglican Communion by the Anglican Communion office.

ACC members gathered for group discussion of the presentation and prepared written questions that were handed in for the consideration of ARCIC. The next meeting of the ACC in 2002 will also address the The Gift of Authority after the discussions in the provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The text of the ACC ARCIC resolution is:

The Gift of Authority

The Anglican Consultative Council, recalling that the 1988 Lambeth Conference encouraged ARCIC “to continue to explore the basis in Scripture and tradition of the concept of a universal primacy” and that areas for further work identified at that time included: the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the exercise of teaching authority; collegiality, conciliarity and the role of the laity in decision making; and the Petrine ministry of universal primacy,

  1. Welcomes the publication of the report entitled The Gift of Authority: Authority in the Church III; and all other reports of ARCIC II which have yet to be considered;
  2. Expresses its appreciation to ARCIC for these agreed statements, the fruit of five years of dialogue, which seeks to address the issues identified at Lambeth 1988 and to deepen the agreement expressed in previous statements on authority;
  3. Commends these reports to the provinces for careful and critical study over the next five years, particularly with a view to considering any outstanding issues of ecclesiology and authority;
  4. Directs the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations
    1. to facilitate and monitor the process of response to The Gift of Authority and the other reports which the member Churches of the Communion will undertake;
    2. to ask helpful questions to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion based on the suggested questions circulated to the Primates in May 1999 and those offered by ACC-11; and
    3. to report to ACC-13 in 2005.