January ~ 2017 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
When his Grace, Archbishop Justin Welby, visited Rome in June 2014, Pope Francis, in his address to the Archbishop said, quite simply, “We must walk together.” The image of the journey undertaken together was already a theme common to a number of papal speeches, and part of Pope Francis’s vision of the Church. Addressing clergy and lay-people in Assisi on 4 October 2013, he said, “I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.” This conception of the Church has much to offer our ecumenical relationships. The image has now been used in a variety of different contexts and has been enthusiastically taken up by other Christian leaders. However, two moments in Anglican-Catholic relations that occurred in 2016 have given a fuller sense to its meaning and enable us to discern with greater clarity what walking together with our ecumenical partners might mean.
These two moments came at the beginning and the end of a vespers service celebrated by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby at San Gregorio al Celio on 5th October. The vespers celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the historic meeting between Blessed Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966. On that occasion the first Common Declaration between a Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury was published. It signalled the desire of both communities to work towards a “unity of truth”.
The same year that the International Anglican–Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission produced Growing Together in Unity and Mission (hereafter, GTUM), the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue published the Cyprus Agreed Statement, The Church of the Triune God (hereafter, CTG). This statement represents the fruits of the third phase of a dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox that began in 1973, and its particular task was “to consider the doctrine of the Church in the light of the doctrine of the Trinity, and to examine the doctrine of the ordained ministry of the Church” (Introduction).
This is a rich document, well worth careful study. Since I have spent some time thinking recently about Anglican and Roman Catholic ecclesiology in Rome with my Covenant brethren, including a consideration of GTUM, I want to identify a few places in CTG that helpfully reinforce and expand much of what we find in GTUM, as well as a few places that are possibly in tension with GTUM when held up for comparison.
Our parish, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, sits on a major street at the edge of the great city of Toronto, with over 2.5 million residents. Less than a kilometer away sits Our Lady of Peace Roman Catholic Church. For years now, both parishes join together every Sunday night from November through Easter in a program called “Out of the Cold,” hosting homeless folks who flock from all over the city for a feast. After supper, many of the men choose to stay overnight and keep warm, sleeping on mats on the gym floor. Many sit and chat, or watch the nightly movie; others take the time to shower, and pick out warm clothes. The last time I volunteered, I talked with a Roman Catholic lady struggling with her faith and the stance of her church. We talked about how much we have in common in doctrine and in practice, and how little we worship together and serve together. She was someone without much of a theological background, and so it was difficult to explain to her why Anglican orders are not received as valid, or how our Communion has drifted further from Rome doctrinally over the years. For her, these esoteric beliefs — doctrines — were getting in the way of real fellowship.