Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Publication of ‘The Gift of Authority’

12 May 1999 • Persistent link:

I welcome the publication of the ARCIC‘s latest document, “The Gift of Authority”. I would like to express my thanks to the Co-Chairmen of the Commission, Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Bishop Mark Santer, together with their colleagues, for all their hard work and dedication.

“The Gift of Authority” tackles the most controversial of theological issues separating Roman Catholics and Anglicans. It is noteworthy that in earlier stages in the life of ARCIC it was recognised that more work would be needed before the same level of agreement could be recorded on Authority as was achieved on the topics of the Eucharist and Ministry and Ordination.

Indeed, in the Common Declaration signed by myself and Pope John Paul II in December 1996, we underlined the crucial importance of this subject and noted that:

“Without agreement in this area we shall not reach the full visible unity to which we are both committed.”

It should also be noted that this is a subject of lively debate within as well as between our two Communions. In the Anglican Communion, for example, the “Virginia Report” of the Inter-Anglican Theological Commission is centrally concerned with the principles and structures of authority. Pope John Paul himself has raised interesting questions about the exercise of authority in his encyclical letter, “Ut Unum Sint” and the Church of England House of Bishops’ response to the encyclical (“May They All Be One”) has made a substantial contribution to the discussion.

No doubt there will be several issues in “The Gift of Authority” which will be questioned, critically evaluated and examined closely by both Communions. This is how it should be. But polemical theology has been replaced by convergent theology. We are on a journey together and are close enough now to make further progress based on significant theological agreements over the last 30 years.

In a world torn apart by violence and division, Christians need urgently to be able to speak with a common voice, confident of the authority of the gospel of peace. The subject matter of “The Gift of Authority” addresses vital issues of the Church’s mission and I commend the text to all Anglicans for the most serious consideration and debate.