Pioneer of Ecumenism in South Sudan, Bishop Mons Paride Taban, dies

We are sorry to report the sad news that Bishop Paride Taban, an ecumenical pioneer and courageous peace-builder, died on the feast of All Saints.

Bishop Taban was born in 1936 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1964 and to the episcopate in 1980, becoming an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Juba. In 1983 he became the first bishop of the diocese of Torit in which rule he served until retirement in 2004.

In 1989, when the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) overran Torit, Bishop Taban was arrested along with three other Catholic priests. However, he was able to continue to minister under rebel rule. In 1990 the Sudan Council of Churches was formed, with Bishop Taban becoming its first leader. The body was immediately involved in peace talks.

In the wake of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, Bishop Taban was sent to support reconciliation efforts.

A year after his retirement, in 2005, Bishop Taban established the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron. Bishop Taban was inspired by his experience of living briefly in an Israeli-Palestinian peace village. By listening to young men who felt they had no other option but to engage in fighting and cattle-raiding, the village was able to offer alternatives and now provides education and vocational training as well as sporting facilities. The village promotes the formation of peace committees to hear grievances, resolve differences and to restore justice when skirmishes do occur.

Bishop Taban was awarded the Sergio  Vieira de Mello Peace Prize from the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in 2013 and the Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation by Archbishop Justin Welby in 2017 in recognition for his tireless work in service of ecumenism and peacebuilding.

Communiqué: ARC-Canada discusses ‘theologies of church apologies’

Communiqué: October 2023

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada (ARC) has met regularly since 1971. It works closely with the Anglican-Roman Catholic Bishops’ Dialogue (ARC-B), which was established in 1975. Supported by the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the mandate of both Dialogues is to advance ecumenical understanding and cooperation between the churches in our country. In recent years, the Anglican contingent on ARC has also added members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) as an expression of the deepening full communion relationship between the ACC and ELCIC.

The latest round of meetings of the ARC Dialogue were held Oct. 2-5, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ARC-B Dialogue also convened for both independent and overlapping sessions with ARC from Oct. 1-4. The gatherings provided the opportunity to continue work on several current projects, as well as to connect with local church leaders and their communities, in order to learn about the ecumenical context on the ground.

Over the past year, ARC has been focused on research around ‘theologies of church apologies,’ from an ecumenical perspective. While each tradition has particular ways of understanding and articulating the relationship between personal sins by members of the Church and the identity of the Church itself, nevertheless, there is a high degree of agreement on all sides that it is important and necessary for Church leaders today to confess and take responsibility for the failings of the Church – and the harms committed in its name – in generations past. Indeed, this seems to be an increasingly common feature of ministry in the 21st century as churches are regularly being called upon by their own members, as also by the wider society, to make amends and to seek justice in regard to both historic and contemporary wrongdoings. This penitential vocation does not belong to any one denomination or ecclesial communion alone, and therefore it is critical to reflect on the matter from an ecumenical point of view. ARC anticipates that it will have a written resource to share later in 2024 that may assist leaders and members of the churches to do so in their own right.

While in the Halifax area, members of ARC were also able to encounter the local community through excursions and public events. On Oct. 3, a special Choral Evensong, followed by a reception, was held at the chapel of the University of King’s College, providing the chance for the Dialogue to connect with both students and members of the administration. On the morning of Oct. 4, ARC travelled to the Millbrook First Nation to visit the local Roman Catholic parish, to spend time at the Cultural and Heritage Centre, and to sit in circle with Mi’kmaq Elders and community members to receive their teaching, listen to their concerns, and share in their hopes for the restoration of right relationships. The evening of Oct. 4 saw a public event hosted at the Atlantic School of Theology – an academic panel presentation on how to encourage ecumenical formation in the changing world of contemporary theological education.

As is always the custom, these times of discussion and learning were complemented by daily prayer drawn from different rites and forms within the Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Ukrainian Catholic liturgical traditions. Eating together and enjoying social times are also essential components of the ARC Dialogue, which must always be built upon a foundation of trust and friendship if it is to bear good fruit.

Meeting two times per year and alternating between digital and physical gatherings, ARC will convene virtually in May of 2024, and in-person in November of 2024 in another region of the country yet to be determined.

Current members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada are:


Bishop Bruce Myers, co-chair, Anglican Diocese of Québec

Bishop (retired) Cindy Halmarson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Cobourg, Ontario

Rev. Dr. Iain Luke, Principal, College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Rev. Paul Sartison, Pastor, Epiphany Lutheran Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier, Humboldt, Saskatchewan

Rev. Canon Dr. Scott Sharman, co-secretary, Animator for Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations, Anglican Church of Canada


Archbishop Brian Dunn, co-chair, Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth

Adèle Brodeur, Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Québec

Sr. Dr. Donna Geernaert, SC, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nicholas Jesson, Ecumenical Officer, Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan

Dr. Nicholas Olkovich, St. Mark’s College, Vancouver, British Columbia

Subdeacon Dr. Brian Butcher, co-secretary, Advisor for Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Anglican Centre in Rome celebrates 50th anniversary of the John Moorman Library

The Anglican Centre in Rome is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its famous John Moorman Library with an exhibition of some of its most treasured items. The exhibition, which is being opened by the Archbishop of Cantebrury, Justin Welby, this morning (Saturday 30 September) will highlight the library’s ecumenical missionary endeavours.

The exhibition will include new artworks commissioned for the anniversary and inspired by the library’s rich history and collection.

The Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop Ian Ernest, said: “this exhibition is made up of the library’s most treasured material, along with contributions of created artworks by international artists inspired by the library’s history and collection, highlighting the Anglican Centre’s ecumenical missionary endeavours and bearing witness to the quest of God’s people on their journey towards unity.”

John Moorman was Bishop of Leeds in the Church of England from 1959 until his retirement in 1975. A committed ecumenist, he was a frequent visitor to the Vatican, and led the Anglican delegation invited to observe the Second Vatican Council. In 1967 he was appointed Chairman of the Anglican commission that led to the creation of ARCIC – the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He remained a member of ARCIC until 1981. He died eight years later, at the age of 84.

The library at the Anglican Centre in Rome was effectively created by John Moorman. He arranged for its installation in the Doria-Pamphilj Palace, which has been home to the ACR for the past 50 years, and also appealed to publishers, communities, authors, and friends to donate material, enlisting the help of competent scholars to monitor accessions and receive donations, including 189 books from the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, bequeathed by his wife.

Today, the library is widely recognised as one of the largest collections in Europe dedicated to the Anglican tradition, history, culture, and ecumenism.

As part of the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to explore contributions and artworks from worldwide collaborators, including notable institutions such as the Virginia Theological Seminary, Saint Michael’s Parish in Dallas, the Venerable English College, Centro Pro Uniole, the Lambeth Palace Library, Gladstone’s Library, and Ripon Cathedral.

“Through a carefully curated selection of themes, events, and personalities associated with the Centre’s history and library collection, visitors will have the opportunity to unearth an array of treasures”, the ACR said in a statement. “These treasures include letters of historical significance, autographed books, captivating photographs, exquisite artworks, and much more, all of which bear witness to the profound journey towards unity undertaken by God’s people.”

Archbishop Ian Ernest said: “the library is a rich legacy of gems and treasures that can inspire future generations. My deepest gratitude is extended towards all those who have worked relentlessly to create what we hope will be a historic exhibition. My desire is that the legacy of the exhibition might go some way to raise the profile of Bishop John Moorman’s ecumenical vision, highlight the resource of the John Moorman Library, and further the missionary endeavors of the Anglican Centre, Rome, both today and for generations to come.

“Our commitment to fostering understanding and unity among diverse communities, both within the Anglican tradition and beyond, remains unwavering.”

The opening of the exhibition coincides with Pope Francis’ ecumenical prayer event, Together, which will take place in Saint Peter’s Square this evening. The exhibition will run to Wednesday 4 October.

Irish church leaders meet in Rome to celebrate 25 years on the journey towards peace

Church leaders from Ireland have gathered in Rome to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

In a joint statement, the Irish and British Ambassadors to the Holy See, Frances Collins and Chris Tott, said that they were delighted to welcome the leaders from several denominations.

“For decades, the Churches have played an important role in supporting peace and reconciliation,” they said, expressing hope that visit would “serve to inspire other church and faith-based leaders as they work to support peace and reconciliation around the world.”

The group from Ireland includes the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell; his Roman Catholic counterpart, the Most Revd Eamon Martin; the head of the Prebyterian Church in Ireland, the Revd Dr Sam Mawhinney; and the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Revd David Turtle.

A statement from group said: “We must remember that the signing of the Agreement was not the end of the journey to peace in Northern Ireland.

“It simply marked the first faltering steps down a very long road to a new, brighter, and shared future … shaped by tolerance and respect for our differences, and a recognition of the need for greater understanding and reconciliation.”

On Thursday afternoon, the group participated in a a seminar held at the Pontifical Irish College, at which the part in reconciliation played by faith was discussed.

Reformed presence in Rome strengthened through appointment of WCRC ecumenical officer

The presence of Reformed churches in Rome is being strengthened through the appointment of Tara Curlewis in a dual-serving capacity.

Curlewis, an ordained minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, will serve in two roles: as the new minister of the Church of Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Church and as the Reformed Ecumenical Officer for the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

She said she was looking forward to taking up a calling that is grounded in an international and multicultural congregation and “exercising ministry in an exciting ecumenical setting.”

Curlewis said ecumenism “is in her DNA” and churches are “at their best when their voices unite to advocate for shared concerns together.”

“When I am in the ecumenical spaces, I am filled with an inner stirring of God’s perichoresis and have a sense of that same stirring as I prepare to take up the role in Rome, which provides strategic opportunities to uphold and promote the concerns of the Reformed churches,” she said.

The Reformed Ecumenical Officer role will see her develop dialogue, engagement, and joint action for peace and justice with ecumenical partners and give momentum to Reformed initiatives in the ecumenical setting.

Curlewis will act as a liaison to support cooperation amongst the WCRC and its member churches, the Waldensian Church, and the Church of Scotland with the Roman Catholic Church, particularly with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“We hope that the new office will develop the cooperation of the member churches of the WCRC with the Roman Catholic Church and the wider ecumenical fellowship in Rome,” said Hanns Lessing, WCRC acting general secretary as part of the collegial general secretariat. “We thank the Church of Scotland and the St. Andrew’s congregation in Rome for their support and look forward to good collaboration in the future.”

The WCRC and the Waldensian Church will cover the costs of running a new Reformed Ecumenical Office which will be supported in its work by an Advisory Board, appointed by the WCRC, Waldensian Church, and Church of Scotland.

Employed and paid by the Church of Scotland as a mission partner, Curlewis will also cooperate with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Conference of European Churches, and World Council of Churches.

“The cooperation with WCRC and the Waldensian Church in appointing a Reformed Ecumenical Officer is a significant step for the Church of Scotland and the broader Reformed movement,” said Ian Alexander, who leads on international partnerships for the Church of Scotland.

“Tara Curlewis brings to the role a history of engagement and action within the Uniting Church of Australia and the National Council of Churches of Australia in building relationships with international ecumenical bodies,” he said. “It is a good fit, relating to the Vatican and the other world communions with representatives based in Rome.”

As pastor of the St. Andrew’s Church, Curlewis will lead worship and offer the sacraments in the Reformed tradition, sensitive to the international nature of the congregation, including a variety of worship styles, provide pastoral support, and encourage people to take services.

She is expected to support the congregation’s commitment to participating within the wider ecumenical community in Rome, to engage with the work of Churches Together in Rome, and strengthen collaboration with Mediterranean Hope, the refugee and migrant programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.

“The congregation of St. Andrew’s has been vacant for a number of years and will be glad to have a permanent minister to work with them and share in their ministry amongst the English-speaking community in Rome, and reaching out in service,” said Alexander.

St. Andrew’s Church was established in Rome 161 years ago. Its congregation today is diverse and international.

Curlewis will also act as an ambassador for the Church of Scotland, engaging with the British and Australian ambassadors to the Holy See and other members of the diplomatic corps.

She is expected to take up her post in November.

Curlewis was ordained in 1994 as a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, a sister church to the Church of Scotland and a member of the WCRC. She has served congregations in rural and urban locations in New South Wales (NSW) and served as the president of the NSW Ecumenical Council and also as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Bishop David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese in Europe announces retirement

Bishop David Hamid, suffragan bishop of the Diocese in Europe and one of the longest serving bishops in the Church of England, has announced his plans to retire in February 2024.

Bishop David said: “For over 20 years I have been blessed to have one of the most fulfilling and enriching jobs in the Church. At times the Diocese in Europe is difficult to explain to outsiders and to many in other parts of the Church of England, but I can sum up from my experience that it is a family, a family of committed and loving people, a truly rich and diverse, if scattered community, which seeks to live the Christian life in the Anglican way. The diocese embodies a profound vision of ecumenical outreach and collaboration and is a beautiful multicultural and multiethnic mosaic. These particular aspects of her life are very close to my own heart and have added to my joy in serving the diocese as one of its bishops.

“I am grateful beyond words for the kindness and generosity that is shown to me in my pastoral visits, and I give thanks to God for all the many signs of growth in faith and Christian witness and service that I see from the shores of the Baltic to the Mediterranean, and beyond. Throughout these years, I have been dependent on the encouragement and support of both the late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell and Bishop Robert Innes, as well as from a wonderful group of colleagues in the Senior Staff, and the wisdom, patience and commitment of my Chaplain Deacon Frances Hiller who has served me throughout my episcopal ministry.

“I am 68 right now, and while I can continue until I turn 70, the time seems right for Colleen and me to look towards the next phase of our life. However, there is still much on my agenda before the end of February! But when the day comes, I know that I will take into retirement a heart filled with thanksgiving for these past couple of decades and a heart which will always hold the people of this wonderful diocese in my prayers”.

Bishop David was consecrated as a bishop in October 2002, and installed as suffragan bishop of the Diocese in Europe, where he has served for almost 21 years.

Bishop Robert, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, said:

“Bishop David’s retirement will leave a huge hole in the diocese. We will miss his vast knowledge, mature experience and personal friendship. These days, senior roles in the Church are extremely demanding, arguably all the more so in our diocese with the demands of frequent international travel. The Church therefore owes Bishop David an immense debt of gratitude for more than two decades of devoted episcopal service.

“He has supported and encouraged the diocese and its chaplaincies through numerous international crises: banking, sovereign debt, migration, Brexit and Covid. At the level of individual chaplaincies, he has overseen numerous recruitments of chaplains, baptized and confirmed hundreds of candidates, advised on mission initiatives and building projects, dealt with situations of conflict, and exercised a highly skilled ministry of oversight so as to build up the faith of individuals and communities.

“Bishop David is a skilled ecumenist. He has, for example, served as co-chair of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, the chair of the Church of England’s Porvoo Panel, which serves the links between Anglicans and Scandinavian and Baltic Lutherans and President of the Society of St. Willibrord, which brings together Anglicans and Old Catholics. A proficient linguist, Bishop David has nurtured personal relationships with ecumenical colleagues for the good of the whole Church. He retires with prayers and love from across our diocese.”

Once Bishop David retires, the process to seek to appoint the next suffragan Bishop in Europe will begin.

Christian unity a matter of discipleship—and of increasing ‘urgency,’ says Sharman

This article was the seventh instalment of Hearing the Lambeth Calls, a 10-part Anglican Journal series on the calls to the global Anglican Communion made at the 2022 Lambeth Conference.

Ecumenism and the search for Christian unity are no mere niche interest, the Anglican Church of Canada’s lead animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations Canon Scott Sharman says, but rather “an essential part of being a disciple of Jesus today”—and ecumenical agreements between churches in countries like Canada may soon become more common.

Sharman was responding to the Lambeth call on Christian unity, one of 10 statements drafted by committees of Anglican bishops from around the world, laying out priorities for the Anglican Communion. Each call is expected to be shaped in response to feedback: an earlier version of the calls served as the basis for discussion at the 2022 Lambeth Conference, a gathering of 650 bishops from across the Anglican Communion; this spring, an updated version was released based on that discussion. Now, Anglicans worldwide are invited to share their own feedback through a series of webinars.

The Lambeth call on Christian unity in its 2022 version urged the Anglican Communion to renew its “commitment to an urgent search for the full visible unity of the Church”; and for Anglicans to build relationships with other churches in their provinces, working with them to proclaim the gospel and respond to the needs of world. It asked Anglicans to learn from other Christian traditions and seek dialogue to overcome theological and ecclesiological differences; to speak up for those suffering persecution; and to establish relationships of communion with other churches.

The 2023 version includes these but also calls on Anglicans to seek unity and reconciliation within the Anglican tradition itself—recognizing divisions within the Anglican Communion that have led to the establishment of separated churches and groups.

Sharman said he was encouraged by one of the Lambeth calls being devoted to Christian unity, viewing ecumenism as a key part of following the teachings of Jesus.

“In a world that is used to people pulling away from one another [and going] their separate ways, a commitment to seek unity with those who think and speak and pray their faith in Christ ‘differently than me’ is a powerful witness to the gospel and the call to reconciliation,” Sharman said.

“The importance and urgency of this is likely only going to increase in the decades to come. I think the fact that the Lambeth Conference gave ecumenism the attention that it did confirms this.”

In the global North and West, Sharman said, a point may be approaching when the focus for Christians will be less on how to maintain the presence of specific denominations such as Anglicanism or Lutheranism, “but rather how we best encourage and support the presence of a vibrant and active community of Jesus followers at all.” For that reason, he said, various forms of “full communion agreements, ministry-sharing covenants and collaborative mission partnerships” between previously separate denominations will become more frequent and common in the future. Sharman cited the recent agreement of full communion between the Anglican, Lutheran and Moravian churches in Canada, reached in Calgary this summer at the joint Anglican-Lutheran Assembly, as an example.

The Assembly also saw the celebration of Churches Beyond Borders—a cross-border, four-church relationship in which the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada have expanded full communion to include their U.S. counterparts, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—with speeches followed by an exchange of communion cups from each church.

Sharman said the Lambeth call on Christian unity benefits the Anglican Church of Canada’s ecumenical work by providing “touchstones” that have been discerned and articulated by the broader global church, helping give focus and guidance to local and national churches.

“We are in a time as a church where many priorities of the church national are being reassessed, and where our resources and energy need to be carefully directed towards those things that can make the greatest difference,” Sharman said. “This is equally true with respect to our ecumenical initiatives.”

‘Ecumenical emergency’

Last summer’s Lambeth Conference also saw Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Roman Catholic Church’s lead on ecumenical affairs, highlight, in a message read out by a representative, what he called an “ecumenical emergency” after decades of progress in bringing different Christian denominations together.

Koch contrasted the dominance of postmodernism—a school of thought that denies any single overarching account of reality and instead raises pluralism to a principle—with traditional Christian thinking that found meaning in unity (the word “catholic” comes from the Greek word katholikos, meaning “universal”). This postmodernist mentality, Koch said, has found its way into ecumenical thinking, “expressed in an ecclesiological pluralism … according to which precisely having multiple diverse churches is regarded as a positive reality and any attempt to regain the unity of the church appears suspicious.”

However, these divisions in Christianity have turned out to be a strong barrier to evangelization, Koch said. He cited the 2013 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis I, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which spoke about how divisions among Christians, particularly in Africa and Asia, had become a serious problem.

Implementation at the Communion level

The Lambeth call on Christian unity states that responsibility for its implementation lies mainly with the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), working through the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) and the Anglican Communion Office (ACO). It calls on the ACC and secretary general “to ensure that adequate resources are available to enable this task.”

Sharman said the ACC and IASCUFO are critical to Anglican work for Christian unity, since “most if not all our ecumenical dialogue partners are, like us, part of global denominational communions of families of churches.” The most direct way that the Anglican Church of Canada receives support for ecumenical work, he said, is through forums for discussion.

Christopher Wells, director of the Unity, Faith and Order department—the ACO branch that supports the work of IASCUFO—called ecumenism “from the beginning, a centrepiece of the ACO’s work.”

Wells said a considerable part of the ACO’s budget goes to support ecumenism at Unity, Faith and Order through staffing, organizing, and financially supporting the Anglican Communion’s bilateral dialogues by covering costs such as airfare, accommodations and travel visas.

“To be sure, proper financing of this work has been and remains a challenge, but we are in no way backing away from any of it,” Wells told the Anglican Journal in an email.

The Anglican Communion, Wells said, is currently engaged in bilateral dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the family of Eastern Orthodox churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council and the Pentecostal World Fellowship, as well as with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. It is also engaged in exploratory discussions with the Assyrian Church of the East.

Wales: Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops to work co-operatively for Flintshire holy well site

An historic agreement to recognise and celebrate the significance of the holy well and Shrine to Saint Winefride in Holywell has been signed by the local Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops.

The Bishop of Wrexham and the Bishop of St Asaph have pledged to work co-operatively towards the development of the whole site in Holywell as an integrated place of worship, pilgrimage and tourism, while maintaining the distinctive tradition of worship associated with the Shrine. The two bishops, Rt Revd Peter Brignall and Rt Revd Gregory Cameron signed a statement of intent (in full below) during a service in the Beaufort Chapel of St James’ Church yesterday (Wednesday 12 July).

The site of the ancient Shrine to St Winefride comprises the holy well and associated buildings and St James’ Church, the historic centre of Anglican worship in Holywell. The Shrine has been a continuous place of Roman Catholic devotion for 1400 years.

St Winefride is believed to have been a virgin martyr, beheaded by Caradoc, a local prince, after she spurned his advances. A spring rose from the ground at the spot where her head fell, and she was later restored to life by her uncle, Saint Beuno, going on to live a life of devotion in Gwytherin near Denbigh. Today, people still come to bathe in the waters from the well, and plans are in place to develop a well-being centre for the local community in St James’ Church.

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron said during the service: “The site St Winefride’s Well and associated buildings is a world-class place of pilgrimage, sacred to Christians across all traditions down through history. We have huge hopes for the development of the Shrine site, with the local priest, Father Dominic using St James’ as a centre for healing and community.

“Today’s signing of the statement of intent is really making public what we already do together; we’re cooperating to establish this special place to welcome all Christians and people of all faiths, sharing as much as we can while maintaining our distinctive traditions.”

The Bishop of Wrexham, the Rt Revd Peter Brignall added: “The history and tradition of Saint Winefride and Holywell provide an opportunity for the church in the 21st century as a place of witness and evangelisation. So many facets of Winefride’s story will appeal to the world today. In some ways, she can be seen as a patron or example for women who experience domestic violence or abuse. There will be people who come for the heritage, architecture, and history, but also those who come for healing and an encounter with the divine physician through Winefride and her traditions.

“St Winefride’s Well is also a reminder that faith is the centre of ordinary life. The pre-Victorian engravings on the walls tell a story of people washing their clothes in the holy well. If we can put faith at the centre of life today, that is all well and good. I am delighted to sign this statement of intent at this time.”

The Anglican Church of St James’ ceased to be the town’s main place of Anglican worship in 2007 when St Peter’s Church was built on Rose Hill. Almost £500,000 has been raised to launch Well-being @ St James’, which will see the church transformed into a place for healing and community. This will include space for a parish nurse and various support groups, as well as a cinema, coffee shop and a dedicated space for prayer. In addition, the people of Holywell will continue to be able to use the church as a warm and comfortable setting to celebrate key life events. Work on St James’ is due to begin in October.

The Bishop of Wrexham, the Rt Revd Peter Brignall, looks after Roman Catholic communities across north Wales stretching from areas surrounding Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Dolgellau, and Flint, to Wrexham. The Church in Wales Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron looks after Anglican communities across north-east Wales from Llandudno in the west to the Wales/England border and down to Newtown in the south.

Statement of Intent

The Bishops of Wrexham and St Asaph recognise and celebrate the historic and religious significance of the ancient Shrine to St Winefride, comprising of the well, and associated buildings. They also acknowledge the complex history of the site, which has resulted in different bodies having ownership of various parts of the shrine, while celebrating the cooperation between Roman Catholic and Anglican Christians, which has enabled the Shrine to exist as a continuous place of Roman Catholic devotion for 1400 years, and St James’ Church to function as the historic Anglican centre for worship for the Parish of Holywell.

Respectful of this inheritance, the Bishops of Wrexham and St Asaph pledge to work co-operatively towards the development of the whole site as an integrated place of worship, pilgrimage and tourism of World Heritage class, respecting the continuous patterns of worship and spirituality at the site and the rights of different stakeholders, but working as far as possible with openness, generosity and hospitality to secure a future for the site as a place of historic cultural and religious significance which is open to all members of the Christian oikumene, and indeed, all people of goodwill from all faiths or none.

The Churches must seize this moment of ecumenical opportunity

Is it time for a game changer in relations between the Churches? There are already signs of the times pointing to a better way forward. The joint mission of the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to South Sudan was a powerful symbol of what church leaders can achieve when they work together. The visit of the Archbishop of York to Pope Francis in Rome was another indication that ecumenism still has plenty of potential. Archbishop Stephen Cottrell said afterwards that one of the biggest mistakes that Christians have made is to talk, write and confer about church unity “rather than seeing it as something that we must do.” He is right, though talking and writing have their place. And conferring.

It is striking that both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales scarcely engage in joint ventures. Yet the problems their communities face are identical. The cost of living, the state of the NHS and social care, refugees, the housing crisis and so on are at the top of the political and social agenda. They should be at the top of the Christian agenda too. Church leaders do address them, but separately. Given how similar the points they make are, why do they hardly ever speak side by side? When the Archbishop of Canterbury made his full-frontal attack on the government in the House of Lords for its abominable “Rwanda” refugee policy, a few days later, the lead Catholic bishop for migrants and refugees issued a statement in support. It was largely ignored. The presence of a posse of Catholic bishops in the public gallery when Justin Welby spoke would not have been. The Churches must work together if they are not to be marginalised. There is even a moral and philosophical language they share. The bishops of the Church of England made a statement some years ago – “Who is my neighbour?” – that said the common good, the core idea of Catholic Social Teaching, is the essential basis for the making of social policy. Virtue, the bishops said, is nourished “not by atomised individualism, but by strong communities which relate honestly and respectfully to other groups and communities which make up this nation.”

Pope Francis could not have put it better. Earlier this year, the Catholic bishops issued “Love the Stranger,” a statement of principles guiding the Christian response to migrants and refugees that might have come from Anglican, Methodist or Nonconformist leaders. The Church of England recently produced an excellent report calling for a new approach on social care – an ideal subject for a meeting of Christian leaders. The major political parties in the United Kingdom are searching for new ideas. They realise that yesterday’s policies and ideologies have reached their sell-by date. There is an opportunity for a positive, thoughtful joint Christian intervention, in words and deeds. It should not be missed.

Malines Conversations Group meets in Malta

The Malines Conversations Group, an unofficial theological dialogue of Catholic and Anglican theologians, met in St Paul’s Bay, Malta, from 20 to 26 May 2023. This was the ninth meeting of the group, named in honour of the original Malines Conversations of the 1920s. These early informal conversations, held between a small group of British Anglicans and European Catholics, were made possible by the bonds of friendship between the members of the group. In that spirit, despite some disruption caused by COVID-19, the current Malines Conversations Group has been gathering annually, always in early spring, alternately in Anglican and Roman Catholic venues.

Following the document, Sorores in spe (2021), on Pope Leo XIII’s letter, Apostolicae curae, which rejected the sacramental validity of Anglican ordinations, the group has extended its work to the consideration of further key issues dividing Catholics and Anglicans. During the course of the meeting, members listened to and discussed several papers on issues related to Apostolicity and Ministry. With the help of local guests, they also engaged in a contextual reflection on migration and its reality in Malta today.

The group visited many sites connected with the period spent in Malta by the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They prayed daily in a small chapel in St Paul’s Bay, near where the Apostle is said to have found refuge after being shipwrecked, and visited the present-day Cathedrals of both traditions in Valletta and Mdina, as well as St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat. The group was hosted by the Archbishop of Malta, Most Reverend Charles Scicluna, for dinner at his residence on 24 May.

As an unofficial dialogue, the Malines Conversations Group is not sponsored by the Dicastery, but the official responsible for relations with the Anglican Communion, the Reverend Father Martin Browne OSB, attended in the capacity of observer.

The Malines Conversations Group has released a communiqué from the recent meeting in Malta. The previous meeting of the Group was held in Madeira from 15 to 22 May 2022.

Archbishop of York visits Pope Francis

Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York in the Church of England, is leading a delegation on a visit to Rome from May 20-24. As part of their journey, they have visited the Basilicas of St Peters and St Paul Outside the Walls, where they spent time praying in the crypts. Prayer at the tombs of the apostles is a traditional focus of pilgrimage to Rome.

On Sunday, the delegation attended All Saints Anglican Church, an English parish in the heart of Rome where the Archbishop preached. He also preached at the Anglican Centre in Rome on Tuesday. Other visits will be to the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Roman Catholic association dedicated to social service; the Benedictine monastery of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, from which Pope St Gregory sent St Augustine to Canterbury; and the Venerable English College, a seminary training English and Welsh Roman Catholic priests.

The highlight of their trip was a private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace. Archbishop Cottrell said that his audience with Pope Francis, at which he was accompanied by his chaplain, the Revd Dr Jenny Wright, and his wife, Rebecca, had “further consolidated the strong bonds of friendship between our two World Communions. We are now looking forward, for further cooperation between the Dicasteries of the Vatican and the Anglican Centre in Rome.” Archbishop Ian Ernest, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See, accompanied them on their visit. The delegation was also accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and Revd Martin Browne OSB, the Dicastery official responsible for relations with Anglicans.

During the meeting, the Archbishop did not miss the opportunity to show his gratitude for Pope Francis’ coronation gift to King Charles III. Pope Francis gave relics of the True Cross which have been incorporated into a new processional cross used at the coronation and now residing in Wales. It is known as the Cross of Wales.

The Archbishop’s visit this week also includes meetings with Vatican departments connected with evangelization and ecumenism. On Wednesday, he will participate in a conversation with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, of the Dicastery for Evangelization, at a conference entitled “The Ecumenical Impact on Evangelization”.

Archbishop Cottrell spoke of the encouragement of meeting people within the Roman Catholic Church leadership. “My prayer is that Christians of all denominations can work together more and be united in our desire to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as we look to share the love of God as seen in Jesus with the many in our world who long for hope and meaning in their lives.

“It is my experience that when we, the Church of Jesus Christ in all its manifold shapes and sizes, reach out together in mission, in service of the world, and in proclamation of the gospel, that our unity is strengthened and revealed.”

Archbishop Cottrell’s visit is being hosted by Archbishop Ernest, who said that the visit: “comes as an affirmation of the longing of the Anglican Communion to diligently and constantly work for the visible unity of Christians. The personal commitment of Archbishop Stephen, in the different callings he has exercised, to encourage a collaborative spirit amongst different groups of people, in spite of cultural, denominational, and religious differences, inspires and encourages us to carry forward with love the mission entrusted to the Anglican Centre in Rome.” The Anglican Centre is a vital link between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church, working on shared projects as well as offering opportunities for study, hospitality and encounter.

While in Rome, Archbishop Cottrell is sharing daily video updates via:

Coronation ceremony marks turning point in Catholic-Anglican relations

When King Charles III and his wife, Queen Consort Camila, are crowned on Saturday, the event will mark a historic juncture in Catholic-Anglican relations, as it will be the first time a Catholic bishop has participated in the ceremony in four centuries.

In a May 5 statement, the Archdiocese of Westminster in the UK, overseen by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, called Saturday’s coronation “an historic occasion for the nation, and also for the Catholic community.”

“For the first time in over 400 years, a Catholic Archbishop will take part in a Coronation in this country,” the statement said, referring to the fact that Nichols has not only been invited to attend the ceremony, but he will also give a blessing.

Other Catholic representatives at the coronation will be Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the newly-appointed apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Spanish Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía, as well as Archbishop Mark O’Toole of Cardiff, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin.

Read the complete article in Crux

In a May 5 tweet, Nichols said he was “privileged” to take part in the coronation ceremony, saying he’ll be standing beside the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders “to invoke God’s blessing on His Majesty the King.”

In a May 2 tweet, British Ambassador to the Holy See Chris Trott said, “We are thrilled that Cardinal Parolin will represent Pope Francis at the Coronation,” noting that the last cardinal to do so “would probably have been Reginald Pole. In 1553.”

King Charles ascended to the throne last fall following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who had reigned for 70 years, setting a historical record by becoming England’s longest-reigning monarch. She had just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee when she passed away at the age of 94.

Charles will be formally crowned in an Anglican ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Westminster Abbey in London on May 6.

Historical tensions between Catholics and Anglicans date back to 1534 when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England. However, Nichols and many other observers have said that rift and the tensions that ensued finally faded during Queen Elizabeth II’s time on the throne.

Her 70-year reign spanned seven different pontificates, beginning with Pope Pius XII. She met with Pope Francis in 2014. The last pope to meet her in the United Kingdom was Benedict XVI during his visit in 2010.

When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, the religious landscape of the country was drastically different, and tensions between Catholics and Anglicans were more acute.

According to the Archdiocese of Westminster’s statement, in 1953, “it would not have been permitted for any Catholic to enter a Protestant church, let alone to take part in a Coronation service. This significant step is the fruit of decades of ecumenical relations.”

In the lead-up to Saturday’s coronation, churches throughout the United Kingdom were invited to hold a triduum of prayer, of sorts, for King Charles from May 3-5. Nichols invited Catholics to participate by offering up their daily tasks and through formal prayers such as the rosary and the Mass.

The three-day prayer initiative closed Friday evening when, per the request of the bishops of England and Wales, each Catholic community was asked to offer a special Mass in the King’s honour prior to Saturday’s coronation ceremony.

Nichols and the Presidents of Churches Together in England urged Christians of all confessions to join in the moment of prayer, calling it “a moment of great importance and joy for this nation.”

The Archdiocese of Westminster’s statement Friday quoted Nichols as saying the coronation ceremony would be symbolic, “because it respects our history, it builds on our history, and it complements the history, both in this way, and with the presence and greeting of the faith leaders from the other major religions now present in this country.”

Despite the fact that the coronation is an Anglican ceremony, Nichols said there are still traces of Catholicism and pointed to three specific moments he said highlight the “profoundly Christian nature” of the event.

The first is that the King will observe a moment of silent prayer, he said, saying, “I’ve been told this is his way of expressing his first allegiance, which is to Almighty God. And then, that having been done, he can accept the allegiance of others.”

For the first time in a coronation ceremony, following the Constitutional Oath, the King will pray out loud in his own name, representing a ‘public moment’ in the service.

Nichols said the second moment is the anointing of the King, which he called a “tangible expression of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which goes back to Old Testament times,” and is something “which is precious and in these coronation settings is intimate and therefore private.”

This part of the ceremony will take place behind a screen, and the oil used to anoint King Charles was blessed in Jerusalem. At this point in the ceremony, Welby will anoint the King on his head, hands, and breast, an act that also reflects the Catholic act of anointing in the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.

A third aspect of the ceremony with Catholic connotations is when the King and Queen Consort will receive communion, Nichols said.

In reference to the oath Charles will swear to uphold the Protestant succession while Catholic prelates are participating in the ceremony, Nichols said the oath is a constitutional act, reflecting “our desire for continuity,” and is important for the “stability and constitutional maturity” of the country, as the King is a constitutional monarch.

In addition to the Catholic representation at the coronation, the leaders of other faith traditions, including Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikh leaders, have also been invited to attend.

The presence of other Christian leaders and leaders of other faith communities has been broadly hailed as part of the King’s commitment to maintaining the way of life in a country that is drastically more religiously diverse than when his mother took the throne in the 1950s.

Seventy years ago, more than 80 percent of England was Christian, yet secularism and mass migration over the elapsing decades have changed that. According to Fortune Magazine, the number of Christians in England is now less than half, with the latest census figures saying 37 percent state they have no religion, while 6.5 percent declare themselves Muslim, and 1.7 percent Hindu.

This change is felt most acutely in London, where more than a quarter of citizens adhere to a non-Christian faith.

In a famous interview in the 1990s, while still in his role as the Prince of Wales, Charles made the historic statement that he would like to be known as “the defender of faith,” marking a small but deeply significant diversion from the British monarch’s historic title as, “defender of the faith,” meaning Christianity and, specifically, the Church of England.

His emphasis on religious diversity has been hailed as especially important in an increasingly diverse nation where clashes between different faith communities, such as Hindus and Muslims, are still happening, where antisemitism has been a political issue, and where historic differences between Catholics and Protestants can still be felt in Northern Ireland.

In addition to sending Parolin as his representative from Rome, Pope Francis has also gifted King Charles relics of what are believed to be the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, which will be included in a new processional Cross of Wales to be used at Charles’s coronation.

In his statement Friday, Nichols said he sees the diverse participation in Saturday’s coronation as part of Charles’s commitment to openness with regard to all faiths and their free expression in British society, alongside the country’s Christian roots.

Referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion during the ceremony that people pledge their allegiance to the King, Nichols said it is an invitation, not a command.

“It’s a lovely invitation and I hope people will take it up in their own way to express that they wish King Charles God’s blessing, and they wish him well in his spirit of service which he brings to this coronation,” he said.

Pope Francis gifts relics from the True Cross to King Charles III

The Cross of Wales, a new processional cross presented by King Charles III as a centenary gift to the Church in Wales, will lead the Coronation procession at Westminster Abbey on 6 May.

In a significant ecumenical gesture, the Cross of Wales will incorporate a relic of the True Cross, the personal gift of Pope Francis to the King to mark the Coronation. The relics, set into the silver cross, are two small wooden splinters from the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Words from the last sermon of St David are chased on the back of the Cross in Welsh: “Byddwch lawen. Cadwch y ffydd. Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain”, which translates as: “Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.” The Cross was blessed by the Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, at Holy Trinity Church, Llandudno, on April 19. It will be officially received by the Church in Wales at a service to follow the Coronation and its use going forward will be shared between the Anglican and Catholic Churches in Wales.

Welcoming the gift on behalf of the Church in Wales, Archbishop Andrew said, “We are honoured that His Majesty has chosen to mark our centenary with a cross that is both beautiful and symbolic. Its design speaks to our Christian faith, our heritage, our resources and our commitment to sustainability. We are delighted too that its first use will be to guide Their Majesties into Westminster Abbey at the Coronation Service.”

Speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Wales, the Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, Mark O’Toole, said, “With a sense of deep joy we embrace this Cross, kindly given by King Charles, and containing a relic of the True Cross, generously gifted by the Holy See. It is not only a sign of the deep Christian roots of our nation but will, I am sure, encourage us all to model our lives on the love given by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We look forward to honouring it, not only in the various celebrations that are planned but also in the dignified setting in which it will find a permanent home.”

Additionally, Archbishop John told The Times, “It’s hugely significant. It’s a remarkable thing that the King has been able to find favour with the Vatican and as a result of that very good relationship, Pope Francis has agreed to gift these small fragments of the holy cross.”

The coronation service

“The coronation will be an Anglican service, but the prominent inclusion of a gift from the head of the Roman Catholic Church reflects how other denominations and faiths will be represented,” reported the BBC.

The service on May 6 will be led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has emphasized that the coronation is fundamentally a religious ritual and likened it to the ordination of a priest. In the official souvenir program, the archbishop said that in the middle of all the “magnificence and pomp” is a moment of “stillness and simplicity” when the King is anointed with holy oil, dressed in a simple white shirt and will be “in the full knowledge that the task is difficult and he needs help.”

The coronation, which has remained much the same for more than 1,000 years, formalizes the monarch’s role as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and marks the transfer of their title and powers. The last coronation of a British monarch was that of the late Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Westminster Abbey has been Britain’s coronation church since 1066 and King Charles III will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned in May 2023.

During the service, Charles will swear to uphold the law and the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury will anoint the King’s hands, breast, and head with holy oil and he will then be presented with items including the Royal Orb, representing religious and moral authority; the Scepter, representing power; and the Sovereign’s Scepter, a rod of gold topped with a white enamelled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy. Finally, the archbishop places St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head.

It is not actually necessary for the monarch to be crowned to become King – Charles automatically became King the moment his mother Queen Elizabeth II died.

The True Cross

Relics of the True Cross have long been revered, and pilgrimages have been conducted to the churches where they are kept, despite skepticism about the volume and authenticity of such relics and whether they could all come from a single cross.

There are no early accounts that the Apostles or early Christians preserved the physical cross. Tradition has it that Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine I, travelled to the Holy Land 326–328 where she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to have been used at the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves. Helena was not sure which of the three was the cross on which Jesus died until a miracle revealed one as the True Cross.

Designing the Cross of Wales

Designed and made by master silversmith Michael Lloyd, in consultation with the Royal Collection, it is crafted from recycled silver bullion provided by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, a shaft of Welsh windfall timber, and a stand of Welsh slate.

Dr Frances Parton, Deputy Curator of the Goldsmiths’ Company, who managed the commission said, “The Cross of Wales shows the relevance of traditional skills and craftsmanship in the modern world. Using the ancient craft of chasing silver, Michael Lloyd has created a beautiful object which combines a powerful message with a practical purpose. We are thrilled that the Cross will both feature in the Coronation and see regular use within the Church in Wales.”

Designer and maker, Michael Lloyd said, “This project started with a love of the material, its malleability, its potential for expression. The commission has allowed me to delve into the previous 1,000 years of faith and history. Now, with more than 267 thousand hammer blows, the Cross has emerged from the inanimate sheets of silver, and I am delighted it will be used as part of the Coronation Service on 6th May.”

“Inspired by medieval Welsh art and design, the Cross of Wales combines historical reference with the very best contemporary craftsmanship”, said Tim Knox, Director of the Royal Collection. “It has been a unique and interesting project which we have been delighted to consult upon.”

In compliance with the Hallmarking Act, the silver elements of the Cross bear a full hallmark (of the London Assay Office), including the Royal Mark (leopard’s head) which was applied by the King himself in November 2022 when visiting the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London.

Anna Rowlands seconded to Synod Secretariat and Dicastery for Integral Human Development

A leading Durham University theologian is to help shape the Catholic Church for years to come.

Professor Anna Rowlands has been selected for a secondment that will see her spend two years working with the General Secretariat of the Synod, and the Dicastery (Department) for Integral Human Development of the Holy See (Vatican).

Her role includes working closely with the team managing the global Synod process established by Pope Francis.

The Synod is the largest grassroots listening process undertaken by the Catholic Church and aims to renew processes of participation, governance, and mission in the life of the Church.

It will result in two major world meetings in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024 and will examine key global realities that will help to shape the Catholic Church.

In addition, Professor Rowlands will work to support the core research work of the Holy See department that speaks on matters of politics, economics, climate and migration.

Professor Anna Rowlands is the St Hilda Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, in Durham’s Department of Theology and Religion, and a member of the University’s Centre for Catholic Studies.

Lambeth Palace responds to GSFA statement

Lambeth Palace responds to the recent statement by the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA).

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson has said:

“At last week’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Ghana, there was widespread support for working together patiently and constructively to review the Instruments of Communion, so that our differences and disagreements can be held together in unity and fellowship. The Archbishop is in regular contact with his fellow Primates and looks forward to discussing this and other matters with them over the coming period.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury commented last week at the ACC in Ghana that these structures are always able to change with the times.

“We note the statement issued today by some Anglican Primates and we fully appreciate their position. As was reaffirmed in multiple discussions at the ACC in Ghana however, no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon by the Instruments of Communion.

“The deep disagreements that exist across the Anglican Communion on sexuality and marriage are not new. The 42 member Churches of the Anglican Communion are independent and autonomous, but at the same time interdependent. It is a fundamental principle of the Anglican Communion that no province can bind another province, and no Instrument of Communion has any jurisdictional authority over any province.

“In a world of conflict, suffering and uncertainty, we must remember that more unites us than divides us. Despite our differences, we must find ways to continue walking and working together as followers of Jesus Christ to serve those in need. It was clear at this week’s global Anglican gathering in Accra that many Anglicans share this view. It remains the Archbishop’s prayer and his call to Anglicans around the Communion.”

The Anglican Communion’s Secretary General, the Right Reverend Anthony Poggo, has also issued a statement, which you can read here

ACC-18 visits former British slave castle in Ghana with the Archbishop of Canterbury

Members of the global Anglican Consultative Council took time out from their week-long 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18) in Accra today to visit a 17th-century castle on Ghana’s Cape Coast. At the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many enslaved Africans were held at Cape Coast Castle before being transported to the Americas on British slave ships. After touring the castle and visiting the basement dungeons, known as slave holes, and the cells for condemned prisoners, members of the ACC took part in a Service of Reflection and Reconciliation at the adjacent Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.

They were joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, President of the ACC; the Archbishop of Ghana and Primate of West Africa, the host province of ACC-18, Cyril Ben-Smith; and the Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Jamaica, Howard Gregory, attending ACC-18 in his role as Chair of the Commission on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion.

During the tour, ACC members heard how Africans were taken from their homes sometimes hundreds of miles away, and held with little ventilation and no windows before being transported across the Atlantic. Many died on the journey to the slave castle, some died at the castle while others died in the journey across the Atlantic.

Archbishop Justin Welby paused to pray in silence in a small basement prison cell where up to 200 men at a time were kept, underneath what was then an Anglican church.

During the tour, ACC members also saw the women’s cells, the place where enslaved men and women were branded, and the Door of No Return through which enslaved people passed before boarding ships bound for the Americas.

Commenting on the visit, Archbishop Justin said today: “It was profoundly moving and humbling to visit Cape Coast Castle today with my brother Archbishops from Ghana and Jamaica. It was a reminder that the abomination of transatlantic chattel slavery was blasphemy: those who imprisoned men and women in those dungeons saw them as less than human.

“It is to the Church of England’s eternal shame that it did not always follow Christ’s teaching to give life. It is a stain on the wider church that some Christians did not see their brothers and sisters as created in the image of God, but as objects to be exploited.

“Our response must begin on our knees in prayer and repentance. In calling on the God who blesses the broken, the reviled and those who mourn. In looking to God who transforms, redeems and reconciles.

“But our response does not end there. We are called to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, to live out the Beatitudes in big ways and small.”

During the Service of Reflection and Reconciliation, the congregation prayed for forgiveness and reflected on current examples of injustice.

The Bishop of Cape Coast, Victor Atta-Baffoe, prayed: “Loving Father, you forgive us when we turn to you. Help us to forgive ourselves and others. Help us not to hold grudges but to move forward with peace. Teach us to reach out to those in need and speak out against injustice. To build a world of equality and fairness in our own lives and for all people. Amen”

Inviting the congregation to reflect, Archbishop Howard Gregory said: “Our world can sometimes seem a very unjust place, where people with the loudest voices get the most attention. But Jesus describes a world turned upside down. A world where suffering people, the meek and those who act with justice, mercy and courage are blessed.

“Today is a chance for each of us to reflect on what type of world we are building. Let us reflect on the Beatitudes and think about our own actions and inactions.”

Today’s visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC follows the recent report published by the Church Commissioners of England into its endowment’s historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery. In response to the findings, the Church Commissioners have committed to £100 million of funding to a programme of impact investment, research and engagement. The impact investment fund will invest particularly in communities impacted by historic transatlantic slavery.

The Archbishop toured Cape Coast Castle with Archbishop Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, the Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of West Africa; Archbishop Howard Gregory, the Anglican Primate of the West Indies, and ordained and lay members of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) which is meeting in Accra this week.

ACC-18 welcomes exploration of “structure and decision-making” in the Anglican Communion

A proposal for a piece of work to “explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making [in the Anglican Communion] to help address our differences” has been welcomed by members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

Today (Tuesday 14 February), at their week-long meeting in Accra, Ghana, members of the ACC, gathered for their 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18), affirmed “the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully.”

The words were in a resolution proposed by IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. ACC members asked for proposals from IASCUFO “that may impact the ACC constitution” to be brought for full discussion to the next meeting of the ACC, which is expected to be hosted by the Church of Ireland in three years’ time. In the meantime, IASCUFO is asked to proceed with the work and report its progress to the Instruments of Communion.

The Chair of IASCUFO, the Right Revd Graham Tomlin from the Church of England, said that the resolution “comes in the particular context of the Anglican Communion right now”. He added: “We do face challenges, as we all know, as a Communion with the fractures that we experience, the impairment of our of our communion and highlighted by the recent discussion in the General Synod in the Church of England, but other wider issues as well.

“And therefore this is a new situation that we have to address in our communion that is even different from what it was 10, 15 years ago, let alone when the Instruments of Communion were put together and evolved in every instance.

“But I’d also want to set that in an even wider context, which is that we now live in a world which is much more unstable and fractured than it was when the Instruments of Communion evolved in their current form, and because we live in this very fast changing and really quite broken world, we do need to pay attention to our structures and are they fitted for the challenges we face as a communion, but even, more importantly, the challenges we face as a world community right now at the moment”

He said that the proposal would “explore structures we have as an Anglican Communion” and for “resolving some of our disputes, enabling us to live together despite our disagreements.”

He added: “One person said should this be called a unity project. In one sense, maybe yes, it should, because that is the goal of this project. The goal is not differentiation or divergences or splits. It is acknowledging the reality of a fractured, impaired communion but looking towards walking together, for a while maybe at a distance, but to that looking forward to that day when we will realise the full unity which is the gift and the invitation of Christ to us. . .

“The project is about how we learn to give each other space, not how we learn to force one another to do things that we don’t want to do, but to give each other space within a wider structure that holds together the whole of the Communion while we navigate these times that we’re in right now.”

The Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Maimbo Mndolwa, said that the term “differentiation” needed to be defined; and said that the member churches (provinces) of the Anglican Communion should have a say over any new structures.

The Revd Andrew Atherstone from the Church of England welcomed the proposal, and the way it was phrased, saying: “what it commits us to is to some hard thinking. It it commits us to that focus of exploration – exploration and thinking are really good things for us to be doing together.

“And it doesn’t take us further than that at this stage. If anything is to come out of that hard thinking, if there are viable proposals, they’ll come back to this group. We’ll have full conversations about them, so

I warmly support the initiative to get it all rolling.”

By a show of hands, the members of ACC-18 approved the resolution:

The Anglican Consultative Council:

  1. Welcomes the proposal from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making to help address our differences in the Anglican Communion;
  2. Affirms the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully;
  3. Asks IASCUFO for any proposals that may impact the ACC constitution to be brought for full discussion to ACC-19; and
  4. asks IASCUFO to proceed with this work and report its progress to the Instruments of Communion.

ACC discusses ‘good differentiation’ amid divisions in Anglican Communion on human sexuality

The Episcopal Church’s representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council participated Feb. 14 in a discussion on the challenges of maintaining – and, in some ways, restoring – unity among the worldwide Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces at a time of stark divisions over human sexuality and marriage equality.

About 110 representatives from 39 of those provinces are in Accra, Ghana, this week for the 18th meeting of ACC, one of the Anglican Communion’s four Instruments of Communion and the only to include laity. The other three are the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, the Primates’ Meeting and the archbishop of Canterbury, an office known as the “focus of unity.”

During presentations originating from small table discussions about a report on unity, faith and order, Annette Buchanan, a lay leader from the Diocese of New Jersey, expressed concerns about the Anglican Communion’s structural power dynamic that gives greater weight to the voices of bishops and other clergy over lay voices.

“No one asked the laity when you were at Lambeth what issues would be the priority issues,” Buchanan said, addressing the two bishops who were leading the session.

“No one asked the laity whether or not gender-based issues or LGBTQ issues were the priority. … The voices of the majority are not being heard. Those who are in the hierarchy have instruments whereby they discuss issues with each other, and there is no input [from lay leaders]. And so, this becomes a matter of power, status, control.”

Buchanan’s reference to the Lambeth Conference connected the issue of lay priorities to the divisions that were on display at that conference held late last July and into early August in Canterbury, England. Some conservative bishops, mostly from provinces in Africa and Asia, sought to amplify their criticisms of The Episcopal Church and other provinces that have welcomed LGBTQ+ people more fully into the life of their churches, however, it was not evident that such criticisms reflected the daily concerns of the parishioners in the conservative bishops’ provinces.

Bishop Graham Tomlin of the Church of England, who serves as chair of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, thanked Buchanan for asserting the important role of lay leaders. “It’s a really helpful reminder to us to make sure that voice of the laity – which of course is here in the ACC but not in the other instruments – is heard in the bit of work that we do as well.”

The Anglican Communion is made up of autonomous, interdependent churches that all have historic roots in the Church of England. There is no central decision-making body in the Anglican Communion. Provinces retain authority to make decisions for themselves while coming together at ACC about every three years for prayer, worship and discussions on the future of the Anglican Communion.

Each Anglican province may appoint and send up to three members to ACC, typically a bishop, another clergy member and a lay person. Buchanan, a former Union of Black Episcopalians president, is joined in Ghana by Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton and the Rev. Ranjit Mathews, the Diocese of Connecticut’s canon for mission, advocacy, racial justice and reconciliation, representing The Episcopal Church.

Tomlin led the afternoon session Feb. 14 along with Bishop Paul Korir of Kenya. In presenting their report on behalf of the Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, Tomlin and Korir stressed that the structure of the Anglican Communion has evolved and may continue to evolve to accommodate differences among provinces while fostering unity around core faith beliefs.

The commission’s members, Korir said, “quickly agreed that all Anglicans, indeed all Christians, are called by God to consider carefully and prayerfully what communion, “koinonia,” means. That is to consider the nature of the fellowship that we share in Jesus Christ.” The commission’s report and recommendations included a proposal to study the Anglican Communion’s current structure and report back to ACC in three years on possible paths forward.

“We hope to be able to speak directly to some of the present impairments in the life of the Anglican Communion,” Korir said.

Such impaired relations were made plain at this in-person meeting by the absence of three Anglican provinces. Leaders of the provinces of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda have not participated in the Instruments of Communion for at least 15 years because of their objections to some provinces’ ordination of openly gay and lesbian clergy and adoption of marriage rites and blessings for same-sex couples.

Last week, the Church of England’s General Synod endorsed its own plan to bless same-sex unions for the first time while stopping short of condoning same-sex marriage. A group of conservative Anglican leaders known as the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches responded by saying that the Church of England’s actions call into question Welby’s ability to uphold the archbishop of Canterbury’s role as a “focus of unity.”

The Rev. Joseph Bilal, an ACC member from South Sudan, rose to say that he thinks one of the roots of impairment is a breakdown in the ability of Anglicans to listen openly.

“In which way could we be able as [the] Anglican Communion to listen to one another and also act in a way that it doesn’t affect another?” Bilal said. That “is one of the biggest struggles that I have.”

Mathews, The Episcopal Church’s clergy member on ACC, said he appreciated Bilal’s point about the importance of listening.

“If we look around this room, this is the beauty of our communion, the diversity,” Mathews said. “Any sort of unity should not be weaponized or seen as coercive, but if we can live and truly be who we are and if the quality of our listening can go deeper, I think that’s the invitation and our vocation as the communion.”

Senzo Mbhele, the lay member from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, shared that his table’s discussion had focused on how core Christian beliefs transcend denominational, provincial and cultural differences.

“When we approach the throne of heaven one day, there’s no way God is going to say, ‘well done, my good and faithful Anglican.’ He will say, ‘well done, my good and faithful servants.’ And he will not differentiate between black or white, Global South or North,” Mbhele said.

At the same time, he warned that the work toward unity through faith may not overcome existing power imbalances. “The more we work together with different people, one of the dangers is that the more powerful will then suppress the cultures that are weaker, in whatever sense.”

The Rev. Andrew Atherstone, an ACC member from the Church of England, echoed such concerns while turning the focus on his own province.

“England always likes to think of itself as first … sort of first among equals,” Atherstone said. “Is that really appropriate in the new communion or whatever shape it might be? Some work on that from your group would be appreciated.” (The archbishop of Canterbury, who also heads the Church of England, often is considered the historic “first among equals” in the Anglican tradition.)

Tomlin acknowledged that his commission will have to consider the future of “the Anglican Communion in a post-colonial world.”

Actions of ACC are not binding on the member provinces, though Tomlin said in his introductory remarks that the provinces may better serve their shared mission by joining together.

“When we serve others in the name of Christ together, that is so much more powerful as a witness than when we do it alone,” he said.

Later in the day, ACC members considered their first set of resolutions, including the one on “good differentiation” submitted by the Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. The resolution “affirms the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully,” and it tasks the commission with developing proposals for the ACC to review.

After additional discussion by ACC members, the resolution passed with a show of hands.

Archbishop of Canterbury addresses concern over global Anglican structures

In a post-colonial world, the Church must find ways of demonstrating unity without one powerful group imposing its values on another, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today.

In a presidential address to the 18th plenary meeting of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), gathered in Accra, Ghana, Archbishop Justin said that “no one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse.”

He made the comments in a section of his speech talking about the instruments of communion – the four bodies that hold the Anglican Communion together: the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said that when times change so must the Instruments of Communion.

Leading up to his remarks about the Instruments, the Archbishop spoke of the significance of intentional discipleship and noted that it is “lived differently because of different cultures, for we are not the same, although we are one. That is one of the basic reasons why as well as being interdependent we are also autonomous as Provinces.

“There is no reason why one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse. Money, power, access to resources should never call the tune, yet such is the lust for power in all human beings – and I include myself, for I sin like everyone else – that one group always seeks to tell another what to do.

“That is why, in a post-colonial world, where every day we face more attacks on Christian faith and Christian churches, we have to find marks and signs that show we are one, and yet do not result in the imposition of one powerful group’s values on another. It does not matter whether it calls itself the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity and an instrument of Communion, the Primates’ meeting, the Lambeth Conference, or any other: any submission to the will of those outside our own Province must be voluntary, never compelled.

He challenged the ACC members to consider how to bridge the gap between interdependence and autonomy without abuse of power. He told the meeting that the Chicago Lambeth quadrilateral from the 1880s sets out what guides the belief of Anglicans and that the five Marks of Mission (the theme of ACC-18) are what Anglicans do.

The Instruments of Communion he indicated set out how we are organised and are brought together.

The Archbishop shared a brief history of each of the instruments and then continued, “The Instruments have grown and changed over the years. They have responded to changes caused by wars, colonialism, decolonising, corruption and failure, heresies and schisms, technological and scientific advances. They have never had either doctrinal or ethical authority, but they have moral force.”

Archbishop Justin spoke of the many changes the world has and continues to face and that the instruments must be “the way forward in mutual help where country comes after obedience to God.”

“My desire is to see Christ glorified in truth, and in my heart of hearts, I can say with truth that is what I aim for. I may well get things wrong but let me be clear – before other people outside this room gather to tell me what I must do – I will not cling to place or position as an Instrument of Communion provided the other Instruments choose a new way. The Instruments are just what their name suggests, they exist to serve the call of Christ.” (more…)

Arms trade is a ‘plague,’ pope says on flight back from Juba

Pope Francis asked the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland to join him for his usual post-trip news conference on their flight back to Rome from Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 5.

At the end of six days in African countries bloodied by war and conflict, Pope Francis said that “the biggest plague” afflicting the world today is the weapons trade.

Tribalism with its ancient rivalries is a problem, he told reporters Feb. 5, “but it is also true that the violence is provoked” by the ready supply of weapons and that making it easier for people to kill each other just to make money “is diabolical — I have no other word for it.”

Pope Francis told reporters returning to Rome with him from South Sudan that since the visit was an ecumenical one, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, would join him for the airborne news conference.

The pope had visited Congo Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before joining the other church leaders in South Sudan Feb. 3-5 to press the government to implement peace agreements, to console victims of the conflict and to encourage the country’s Christians to do their part.

Over the course of almost one hour, the three made opening remarks and responded to questions on topics ranging from violence in Africa to the criminalization of homosexuality and from the war in Ukraine to future papal travel, including the possibility of other ecumenical trips.

Pope Francis also was asked if his job had become more difficult since the death Dec. 31 of Pope Benedict XVI and the publication of various books and articles portraying the late pope as critical of Pope Francis.

“I was able to talk about everything with Pope Benedict and change opinions,” Pope Francis said. “He was always at my side, supportive, and if I had some difficulty, I would tell him, and we would talk.”

As an example, Pope Francis said that when he had said in an interview that for the Catholic Church marriage could be only between a man and a woman, but the church could accept civil union legislation providing legal protections to gay couples, a theologian went to “Pope Benedict and denounced me.”

“Benedict was not frightened,” he simply called “four cardinals who were first-class theologians” and asked for their opinions, which they gave, the pope said. “The story ended there.”

Stories that “Benedict was embittered by this or that decision” of Pope Francis have no foundation, he said. “I think the death of Benedict has been instrumentalized by people who want ‘to bring water to their own mill,'” meaning they want to reinforce their own position even if it harms another.

“People who would use a person who was so good, so godly” have no ethics, the pope said. They are not defending Pope Benedict but their own ideologies.

“I wanted to say clearly who Pope Benedict was. He was not bitter,” the pope said.

Asked about his health and future trips, the pope said his knee is still painful, but since “weeds never die,” he hopes to continue traveling. He plans to go to Lisbon in early August for World Youth Day and then to Marseille, France, Sept. 23 for a meeting about the church and society on the shores of the Mediterranean, a theme that obviously includes migration.

“And there is a possibility that from Marseille we will fly to Mongolia,” the pope said. For 2024, he added, a trip to India is being studied.

Pope Francis also was asked about telling the Associated Press in January that he believed it was an injustice to criminalize homosexuality; it is illegal in South Sudan while in Congo many LGBTQ young people are thrown out of their families.

The pope said he had discussed homosexuality with reporters on several occasions. The first time, he said, was flying back from Brazil in 2013, “when I said that if a person with a homosexual tendency is a believer and is seeking God, who am I to judge him?”

Returning to Rome from the World Meeting of Families in 2018, he said, he also spoke about it although the news conference was “a bit problematic because that day the letter of that boy came out,” using the Italian term “ragazzo” to refer to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who accused Pope Francis of ignoring the serial abuse carried out by Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, and demanding he resign.

Anyway, he said, during that news conference he told parents it was wrong to kick children out of the house or shun them because they are gay.

Those with a homosexual orientation “are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them,” the pope said.

Archbishop Welby, whose Church of England is having tense debates about blessings for same sex couples, told the reporters, “I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said there.”

The archbishop had said in January that he personally would not use his church’s new “Prayers of Love and Faith,” which bless, but do not confer the status of matrimony on same-sex unions. The archbishop said that as an “instrument of communion” among Anglicans worldwide, he would not offer the blessings that so many Anglican bishops, including in South Sudan, find objectionable.

Rev. Greenshields said he only wanted to make “a very short observation: There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away. There is nowhere in the four Gospels that I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whoever he meets.”

Both Archbishop Welby and Greenshields said they would be “delighted” to join the pope on another ecumenical pilgrimage.