2015 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
On December 2nd, 55 years ago, Pope John XXIII had a private audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher, the first time that Anglican and Catholic leaders had met together since the Reformation.
Following their historic encounter, the archbishop met with Cardinal Augustin Bea, head of the newly established Secretariat for Christian Unity, leading to the invitation of Anglican observers to the Second Vatican Council. The meeting also paved the way for the first official encounter between their successors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in March 1966 and the establishment of an Anglican Centre here in Rome.
The current director of that Centre and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican is New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the upcoming 50th anniversary and about the significance of Archbishop Fisher’s visit to the Vatican in December 1960 ….
Few prophetic oracles in the Old Testament can be dated so precisely as that of Haggai, which we have just heard in the first reading. We can place it between August and December in the year 520 BC. The exiles, after the deportation to Babylon, have come back to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They set to work, but soon grow discouraged, each preferring to work on his own house instead. Into this situation comes the prophet Haggai, sent by God with the message we have heard.
The Word of God, once it is proclaimed, remains forever alive; it transcends situations and centuries, each time casting new light. The situation deplored by the prophet is renewed in history each time we are so absorbed in the problems and interests of our own parish, diocese, community – and even of our particular Christian denomination – that we lose sight of the one house of God, which is the Church.
The prophecy of Haggai begins with a reproof, but ends, as we heard, with an exhortation and a grandiose promise: “Go up into the hills, fetch timber and rebuild the House, and I shall take pleasure in it and manifest my glory there” – says the Lord”.
One circumstance makes this point particularly relevant. The Christian world is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs. Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level.
At their autumn meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., members of the Anglican Church of Canada’s House of Bishops agreed to convene a special meeting from February 23-26 to discuss the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon.
In a communiqué released October 26, the bishops said this meeting would “pay particular attention to the theology of marriage, the nature of episcopacy, and the synod’s legislative process” and “wrestle with how to honour our roles as guardians of the Church’s faith and discipline and signs of unity both locally and universally.”
The question of legislative process — how General Synod 2016 will approach the divisive vote on whether or not to allow same-sex marriage — has raised some anxiety among bishops, and was brought up in the communiqué.
“We are concerned that parliamentary procedure may not be the most helpful way to discern the mind of the Church, or of the Spirit, in this matter,” it stated. “We would ask those in charge of designing the process whereby the draft resolution comes to the floor…to consider ways in which trust and understanding can be deepened and promoted.”
When the Anglican House of Bishops met in Niagara Falls, Ont., in mid-October, one of the first items on the agenda was the policy of authorized lay ministry adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) during its National Convention this summer.
Sometimes called “lay presidency,” authorized lay ministry is a dispensation by which—in extraordinary circumstances—lay people can preside over services of the eucharist. While it can hardly be considered part of standard Lutheran practice, the convention voted in July to allow it in heavily circumscribed circumstances.
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson said that the measures were brought in to meet a serious need.
“We find ourselves with occasional situations where it’s difficult and/or impossible to provide regular word and sacrament ministry,” she said, explaining that after considering a number of possibilities, including greater use of reserve sacraments and local ordination, authorized lay ministry was seen to be the “best compromise.”
Historic agreements have been signed between Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Churches helping to heal the oldest continuing division within Christianity.
An Agreed Statement on Christology, published in North Wales this week by the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC), heals the centuries-old split between the Anglican Churches within the family of Chalcedonian Churches and the non-Chalcedonian Churches over the incarnation of Christ.
In addition, the Commission has made substantial progress on issues concerning the Holy Spirit, which have continued to keep the Churches apart over the centuries.
Leading clergy and theologians from both Christian traditions from around the world have been meeting at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden to engage in theological dialogue, while at the same time forging deeper bonds of faith and mutual support.
His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt and Co-Chair of the Commission said: “With this agreement we are able to heal the cause of the division between the two families of the churches worldwide which started at Chalcedon.
“There are other things which emerged during the long history since Chalcedon in the fifth century, so we have on our agenda many other topics including the position of the Holy Spirit, which we were able to sign a preliminary agreement on this subject also.
The church may want to look at same-sex marriages as partaking “in the same covenant” as heterosexual unions, but “on somewhat different terms,” and possibly involving alternate liturgies, recommends the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, released today.
Just as the New Testament describes the Gentiles in the early church as drawn into the people of Israel’s covenant with God, but not required to observe Jewish tradition, so might the Anglican Church of Canada understand same-sex couples as drawn into the same covenant as heterosexual couples, but in a new way, commission member Stephen Martin told members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), who gathered for a special session in Toronto to receive the report.
“We’re suggesting this might be the more accurate, faithful and biblical way of thinking about what might be happening in the church today,” added commission member Canon Paul Jennings, who explained the report’s section dealing with models for same-sex marriage. “That is, it’s not a question of us redefining marriage in the abstract to be more inclusive and thereby imply, I don’t know what – that the previous understanding of marriage was wrong. But, it may be simply that God is calling same-sex couples into marriage and thereby broadening and enriching the institution without denying its previous meanings.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury today wrote to all 37 Primates inviting them to attend a special Primates’ gathering in Canterbury to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion. The meeting, to be held in January 2016, would be an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion and to decide together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference. The agenda will be set by common agreement with all Primates encouraged to send in contributions. It is likely to include the issues of religiously-motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment and human sexuality. Archbishop Justin Welby said: “I have suggested to all Primates’ that we need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion and especially as Primates, paying proper attention to developments in the past.”
In a nine-page contribution submitted to the Anglican Church of Canada’s commission on the marriage canon earlier today, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada (ARC) warns that changing Canon 21 to allow for same-sex marriages would “weaken the very basis of our existing communion, and weaken the foundations upon which we have sought to build towards fuller ecclesial communion.”
The contribution, produced at the request of the Anglican church, acknowledges that while great changes have taken place in the broader cultural understanding of marriage in North America in recent years, “Roman Catholics are left to wonder what has changed, such that our previous common understanding of marriage is left in doubt.”
The commission on the marriage canon, established by Council of General Synod in the fall of 2013, was created in response to a resolution approved at General Synod earlier that year to bring a motion concerning same-sex marriage to its next meeting in 2016. The commission’s mandate is to carry out a “broad consultation” within the church in preparation for the motion, and part of this consultation has involved seeking opinions from ecumenical partners such as the Roman Catholic Church.
A new chapter of the Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan’s lifelong ecumenical engagement has begun with her installation as the new president of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) on 14 May. The current Interim Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and its former Director for Unity, Faith and Order, she was unanimously elected to a three-year term as CCC president by the council’s Governing Board. She succeeds Lt. Col. Jim Champ of the Salvation Army. A priest of the Anglican Church of Canada, for which she served several years as ecumenical officer, Canon Dr Barnett-Cowan had previously served a term as one of CCC’s vice-presidents. She brings with her a wealth of ecumenical experience, having been engaged with various inter-church dialogues and councils of churches at the local, regional, and international level. “I am delighted and honoured to have been chosen for this important voluntary position. It is wonderful to be able to put the experience I’ve gained working for the ecumenical life of the Anglican Communion to use in the service of the Canadian churches,” Canon Dr Barnett-Cowan said of her appointment.
This morning Pope Francis received in audience twenty members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, meeting in these days in order to study the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, with particular reference to processes for discussions and decision making regarding moral and ethical questions. The Commission was created as a result of the historic meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey, who signed a joint declaration to establish dialogue based on the Gospel and the common tradition in the hope of leading to the unity in truth for which Christ prayed.
The Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon has been appointed to be the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.
Dr Idowu-Fearon currently serves as Bishop of Kaduna in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) where he has earned a global reputation in the Church for his expertise in Christian-Muslim relations.
He was selected out of an initial field of applicants from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
Since 1998 the Most Revd Dr Idowu-Fearon has been Bishop of Kaduna, and he is the current Director of the Kaduna Anglican Study Centre. Before that he served as Bishop of Sokoto, Warden at St Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa, and Provost of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kaduna.
Responding to his appointment, Dr Idowu-Fearon said, “I am excited to take up the post of Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, and to continue the fine work undertaken by my predecessors in this office.
“It is a privilege to be so honoured and recognised by the Communion for this leadership position. I look forward to serving the Anglican family with my future colleagues at the Anglican Communion Office and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
An international group of 16 prominent Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians and church leaders is gathered at Boston College March 22-26 for the third annual meeting of the Malines Conversation Group, a grassroots forum committed to dialogue and unity.
The Malines Conversation Group has support from both the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. The group takes its name from the Malines Conversations hosted in the 1920s by then Archbishop of Mechelen (Malines)-Brussels Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier. The Malines Conversations were resurrected in Belgium in 2013. Another meeting followed in England in 2014. This is the group’s first meeting in the United States.
The group is expected to discuss the sacramentality of the Word and the Eucharist. Last year’s conversation focused on themes surrounding communion, memory and the future. The group’s first meeting included reflection on socio-cultural, liturgical and ecclesial developments from the time of the Malines Conversations to the present, and on the anthropological dimension of liturgical experience in the two Communions.
While the consecration of the Church of England’s first woman bishop presents significant challenges in bringing Catholics and Anglicans into “closer communion,” ecumenical leaders say the door to dialogue remains open.
The consecration of Libby Lane as an Anglican bishop earlier this month creates a “further challenge to a hope of organic reunion”, said David Moxon, another Anglican bishop, in a Jan. 29 interview with CNA, reiterating concerns expressed by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham.
Moxon and Archbishop Longley are co-chairs of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which aims to advance ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.
In a Jan. 27 interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Longley, acknowledging the challenges presented by Lane’s Anglican episcopal consecration, stressed that it “shouldn’t affect the way in which the dialogue is continued.”
The Catholic archbishop of Birmingham says he wishes the Church of England’s first female bishop well in her ministry and will be remembering her in his prayers. Archbishop Bernard Longley is the Catholic co-chair of ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He told Vatican Radio that the consecration of Bishop Libby Lane on Monday was a “historic moment in the life of the Church of England” but noted that there has long been “the presence, the witness and the work of women” as bishops within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The Reverend Libby Lane was ordained in York Minister as the new Bishop of Stockport, after the Church of England voted to adopt legislation last November to allow women bishops. Archbishop Longley said that while the ordination of women presents challenges to the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, this latest development “shouldn’t affect the way in which the dialogue is continued”.