WASHINGTON (October 24, 2007)— Anglican and Catholic leaders in the United States met Oct. 18-20 in dialogue on the role of the Virgin Mary and the progress in ecumenical relations between the two church bodies.
The sixty-third meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation (ARCUSA) took place at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia. It was chaired jointly by Bishop Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., Episcopal Bishop of Kentucky, and Auxiliary Bishop Edward W. Clark of Los Angeles.
The meeting completed work on two documents. The first was a response to the 2004 “Seattle Document” of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, entitled “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ.” The response, which is both a commentary on the document and a meditation on the meaning of the Blessed Virgin for the faithful of the two churches, is attached below.
The second task was to finish drafting a Spanish-language pastoral tool to be used to clarify the distinctions between the two churches and illustrate progress that has been made in their ecumenical relationship in recent decades. The completed text will be submitted for consideration to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, as well as the relevant offices for Hispanic affairs of the two churches.
This meeting closed the current phase of the dialogue between the two churches. According to the plan adopted at the Consultation’s 2006 meeting, the dialogue will now meet in rounds, each to address a specific topic and include members from both sides with expertise on the question at hand. Made up of a smaller number of members from each church than in the past, each round will be flexible in length, ordinarily lasting approximately five years.
The current ARCUSA members also considered the theme of the next round, and recommended “A Study of Reception as Related to Moral Teaching about Sexuality.” The first meeting of the next round is foreseen to take place in 2008. Bishop Clark announced that he would not be continuing to serve as Roman Catholic Co-Chairman, and that Bishop Richard Sklba, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, had appointed Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, as his successor.
To commemorate the end of the current phase of the dialogue, a public event took place at Georgetown University on October 18. The theme for the event, which took place in St. William’s Chapel in Copley Hall, was “The Contributions of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States 1965-2007: Questions and Progress in Christian Unity.” Jesuit Father Francis A. Sullivan, of Boston College, and Rev. Dr. Ellen K. Wondra of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, both spoke about the achievements of the American dialogue from their own perspective. The evening concluded with a joint Vespers service in the chapel in memory of the late Assumptionist Father George Tavard, a long-time member of the Consultation who died this year, and a reception in the Hall of Cardinals in Georgetown’s Healy Hall.
During the meeting Eucharist was celebrated in both traditions in the seminary chapel. Morning Prayer and Compline were celebrated each morning and evening. The members participated in these services as allowed by the disciplines of their own churches.
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States was established in 1965 and has ordinarily met twice each year. In addition to Bishop Gulick, the Episcopal members are Bishop Barry Howe of West Missouri, Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Rev. Dr. Robert W. Prichard, Rev. Dr. Ellen Wondra, Dr Marsha Dutton, and Rev. Canon Dr. J. Robert Wright. Rev. Richard D. Visconti represented the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Inter-religious Officers. Bishop Christopher Epting and Rev. Dirk Reinken serve as staff.
Catholic members, in addition to Bishop Clark, include Auxiliary Bishop John C. Dunne of Rockville Centre, New York; Father Robert Imbelli, Ph.D.; Jon Nilson, Ph.D., Joanne Pierce, Ph.D., Jesuit Father Francis A. Sullivan; Msgr. Robert Trisco; and Father Vincent Heier represented the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Inter-religious Officers. Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson and Benjamin Brown serve as staff.
A complete list of the agreed statements released by the consultation as well as links to earlier press releases can be found on the USCCB website at www.usccb.org/committees/ecumenical-interreligious-affairs/ecumenical-documents-and-news-releases#tab–anglican