This permanent link may be used to link to this document.
Status of agreed statements:
Agreed statements have been agreed by the dialogue members and submitted to the sponsoring churches for study. These texts express the careful considerations of the members of the dialogue but are not official statements of either of the churches.
Having met nineteen times over a twelve-year period, the national consultation of the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches in the U.S.A. now issues a report to its sponsoring communities. The report is both a summary of past work and a challenge for future cooperation. The Consultation believes it has discovered a significant and substantial unity of faith between the two Churches, a unity which demands visible expression and testimony now. At the same time, the Consultation honestly recognizes differences which continue to separate the two Churches. In the following pages we present, at this point in our work, conclusions and suggestions to our sponsoring bodies for evaluation, response, and action. We offer direction to the Churches which commission us, but we also seek direction and a continuing mandate from those Churches for the pursuit of the unity God wills for His church.
The Most Rev. Raymond W. Lessard, Bishop of Savannah, The Rt. Rev. Arthur A. Vogel, Bishop of West Missouri, co-chairmen.
Since 1965 the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been in officially sponsored dialogue. At the request of these Churches, these meetings have been conducted in this country by the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the USA (ARC), whose members have been jointly appointed by the authorities in both Churches. The purpose of these official consultations has been to aid both Churches in realizing together that unity for which Christ prayed.
After 12 years of study ARC finds that the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church agree at the level of faith on such topics as the Holy Eucharist, Priesthood and Ordination, theological methodology, and the nature and mission of the Church.1 Yet agreement on the level of faith is not always evident in visible expression. The Episcopal and the Roman Catholic Churches differ in their forms of worship, their traditions of spirituality, their styles of theological reflection, and in some of their organizational structures of church life. Despite these historically conditioned differences, however, ARC finds after 19 joint consultations that the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches share so profound an agreement on the level of faith that these Churches are in fact “sister Churches” in the one Communio which is the Church of Christ.2
How may this unity in faith be shown? We propose that such unity be given expression in an immediate responding together in the Spirit through Christ to the Father. In this report we suggest specific joint activities which can be undertaken by our two Churches, as well as indicating some areas which we think require further investigation.
A. Responding together in the Spirit through Christ to the Father
However, it is the conviction of both our Churches that the task of understanding the Bible and the biblical faith does not cease with the establishment of the historical context of a given text, section, or verse of the Bible. Biblical faith is a living response to the living God revealed in the Bible. Thus, appreciating how Scripture has been utilized to articulate the Church’s living faith in its worship, preaching, spirituality, and outreach is also part of the task of understanding the biblical message.
Over these past 12 years the agenda of ARC has tended to concentrate on those points of doctrine that have divided us in the past — the Eucharist, the ordained ministry, and the question of authority. But in the process of investigating our respective beliefs on these points, as well as in preparing our agreed statement on the Church’s purpose and mission, we have become increasingly conscious of the very great body of fundamental doctrine that our churches have inherited in common and still share with little or no divergence between us. We both affirm the Trinity of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. We both confess Jesus Christ as true God and true man in accord with the formula of Chalcedonian Christology.9 Much ecclesiology in both our churches is the same: the Church is the mystical body of Christ, its structure of authority is truly episcopal, and its purpose is proclamation, worship, and service.10 We both recognize Baptism and the Eucharist as the basic sacraments of Christian life, often called necessary to salvation. In both our traditions confirmation, penance, matrimony, orders, and the unction of the sick are also considered to be authentic sacramental means of grace, appropriate to specific situations in life.11 Further, the whole Christian view of the world may properly be called sacramental inasmuch as outward and material appearances conceal and at the same time reveal inward and spiritual realities visible to the eyes of faith. We also hold that faith is inseparable from the Christian hope, for which death itself is in the hands of a loving God and the final destiny of all human kind has already been anticipated in the resurrection of Christ. It is in this perspective that many of the faithful in our two Churches have found inspiration in countless holy men and women, among whom are the apostles and the martyrs, and chiefly the Virgin Mary, saints already sharing the divine glory in the Risen Christ.
We are painfully aware, of course, that no summary of the doctrine our Churches hold in common can be thoroughly adequate. The foregoing has been only a brief attempt to survey some of the highlights, and our Consultation stands prepared to investigate any other areas which may be of concern to our respective communities. We do both share the conviction that not all doctrinal truths are of the same order of importance,12 however, and although neither of us has yet spelled out this order with exact precision it is the firm belief of ARC that the doctrines of Trinity, Christology, sacraments, ecclesiology, and eschatology are of the highest order in the faith of each our Churches. To be sure, our verbal formulations of these doctrines may have differed from time to time over the centuries, but we in ARC judge that the methodological considerations already set forth in our agreed statement on “Doctrinal Agreement and Christian Unity” show that these differences are less important than what our Churches hold in common.13 The object of our faith is not the earthen vessels but the treasure which they contain, and we have become convinced from our papers, investigations, and conversations over the past 12 years that substantial agreement does exist between us at the level of faith and doctrine.
We do note, however, that beginning with the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, our two Churches placed differing emphases upon the expression and interpretation of this ministry of episcope. For Roman Catholics, this episcopal ministry was increasingly centered in the Bishop of Rome and its nature has appeared to be too authoritarian in the eyes of many Anglicans. For Anglicans, on the other hand, the ministry of bishops has been less centralized and the nature of their authority has appeared too vague and indefinite in the eyes of many Roman Catholics. At the same time, over the past few centuries each of our Churches has continued to grow and develop in its own separate way without the benefit of close contact or conversation with the other.
Yet in the last decade or so, thanks to a movement of change which we are entirely unable to explain apart from the providence of God, deeper understandings and fresh perspectives about the nature of episcope among both Anglicans and Roman Catholics have led many of us to suspect that perhaps we are not so far apart as we seemed and indeed that perhaps we are in fact growing closer together even on this very basic question. We do both affirm, after all, that the fundamental structure of the Church should be “episcopal.” In the past many Roman Catholics have seen an Anglican tendency to impose excessive constitutional limitations on the episcopal office. Many Anglicans in the past have seen a Roman Catholic tendency to impose excessive papal controls on the episcopal office. Yet both our structures are in their very nature vere episcopalis, that is, “truly episcopal.” Some Anglicans now seem increasingly convinced of the need for a greater degree of worldwide organization and focus, not only for the sake of doctrinal and liturgical cohesion but also in order to facilitate the Church’s work of evangelization and service. Some Roman Catholics seem increasingly concerned to recognize and indeed protect a greater degree of local self-government, individual expression, and plurality of theological affirmation within their various regions, episcopal conferences, and even dioceses and parishes. Neither of our Churches is entirely certain how these structures will appear in the future, but ARC-USA is convinced that an empathetic evaluation of our past histories and present situations, an effort to enter into the experience of the other Church and to understand what lies behind its formulations and customs, will enable us both to work together and learn from each other. Our joint statement on “Doctrinal Agreement and Christian Unity: Methodological Considerations” proposes some principles for such a serious effort towards mutual understanding.17
In particular, on the question of the way in which bishops in their individual dioceses serve and relate to the worldwide mission of the universal Church, ARC believes that a certain degree of convergence may be developing between Episcopalians and Roman Catholics about the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. It is a ministry of service to his fellow bishops as well as to other Christian churches.18 The “Synod of Bishops,” for example, is a structure of recent evolution in the Roman Catholic Church that encourages us to look at the papal ministry to and with other bishops in new perspectives as a “truly episcopal” office. Among the proposals for pastoral action concluding this report we suggest a study by ARC and also the naming of a joint task force of bishops to facilitate our greater cooperation and mutual understanding of the questions: What are the structures of episcopal ministry that will best enable our bishops to care for all the churches by teaching, leading, and serving the Church and peoples in the Christian life for our day?
The relation of bishops to one another and of the Bishop of Rome to other bishops, we may add, should in no way detract from the ministry bishops also share with priests, deacons, and lay people. The co-responsibility of all the people of God, both in the deliberations and in the decision-making process of the Church, which received renewed emphasis for Roman Catholics in the Second Vatican Council, has long been a concept of vital importance to Anglicans and is now another aspect of convergence that both our Churches share.
While the Roman Communion has given increased importance to national and regional councils of bishops, with other forms of decentralization, history has required Anglicanism to develop means of closer communication and cohesion as a world communion. In this further example of convergence, the two churches have moved toward each other from different starting points.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, during the world-wide expansion of the Anglican Communion in the nineteenth century, instituted, as primus inter pares, the custom of inviting his brother bishops to Lambeth Palace every ten years to take counsel together on matters of common concern in faith, morals, and the mission of the Church. The first such conference met in 1867.
Though the Lambeth Conferences do not claim synodical authority, they have had great influence on the life of the Communion. As the Anglican Communion grew and separate national churches were formed, more organized ways of maintaining relationships of mutual support and communication were needed. In 1968, 101 years after the first meeting, the Lambeth Conference created the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) to meet this need.
The ACC includes bishops from all the Anglican provinces and, recognizing that priests and lay people share the one ministry of Christ along with bishops, also includes representatives of these orders in its membership. Each province or national church is encouraged to identify the current goals of mission among its dioceses and to take counsel with representatives of other Anglican provinces for ways of mutual support, providing money and personnel from the stronger provinces for those that need help. These “Partners in Mission” conferences, as they are called, began in the younger churches and then expanded into similar conferences in the older churches concerning help they needed from the younger ones. Carrying out its assigned task of enabling Anglicans “to fulfill their common inter-Anglican and ecumenical responsibilities in promoting the unity, renewal, and mission of Christ’s Church,”19 the ACC assisted inter-Anglican communication among the churches on the question of ordination of women opened by the 1968 Lambeth Conference.
At its most recent meeting, in 1976, the ACC devoted much of its report to current trends in ecumenism. Such new terms as “visible unity” and “conciliarity” seem to be opening a way to a different idea of Christian unity from the older concept of one monolithic church in each city, province, and nation. This line of thought, the report noted,20 appeared to show convergence with Roman Catholic thinking on the communio model of church-to-church relationships.
The Christian witness of worship in the ‘Spirit through Christ to the Father involves the entire Church in a corporate response of love and service both to God and to the whole of humankind. Such response is sometimes simply called the “Christian life-style.”
The Christian life-style is based on the belief that the Triune God has redeemed all creation in Christ. Because God has first loved us, as a people as well as individually, so must we as Christians corporately and individually express our love for God and for each human being. Upon the corporate or social character of the Trinity’s redemptive action for the whole human family the morality of the Christian community is built. Christian life or the Christian life-style begins as a covenant response of a people witnessing to God’s love in Christ. Therefore in Christian ethics there is a primacy given to the social or corporate character of life in Christ.21
Episcopalians and Roman Catholics agree on the primacy given to the corporate witness of the Christian life-style. Both agree that the Church as Church has a responsibility of compassionate service to the whole of humankind, to manifest in the Spirit the Father’s love shown us in Christ Jesus. How the individual Christian appropriates to himself or herself what the Church proposes as the Christian life-style has been and is a source of tension between the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches.
Christians living in the world of today are confronted with a confusing array of philosophies and values. These touch upon what it means to be a human person. Consequently new questions have arisen in related areas such as human sexuality, marriage, and the family. In this kind of situation diversity in the manner of forming Christian conscience – a traditional difficulty between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians – is exacerbated as both Churches grapple separately to find what is the proper Christian response to the new questions. Though both Episcopalians and Roman Catholics hold that the ultimate subjective norm of morality is the properly informed individual conscience and therefore share the same solution to many moral problems, there is insufficient agreement as yet between them in facing the new and serious questions now before the Christian community. The initial studies made of these questions by Episcopal and Roman Catholic theologians indicate answers that are not in agreement with one another. In this situation for both our Churches pastoral responsibility is all the more arduous as Christians find it increasingly difficult to reach certitude among the conflicting answers suggested to these troubling questions. Thus dialogue between the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches is urgently required in this new area of growing disagreement.
Because the human nature of Jesus is uniquely related to the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus is both true God and true man, “consubstantial” with the Father and “consubstantial” with us. The hypostatic union of the human nature of Christ and the Word or Logos in no way prevents Jesus’ experience of God from being truly human. It is Jesus’ relationship with God that the Christian religion seeks to convey to all human beings. “He became what we are in order that He might bring us to be even what He is.”22
Jesus’ relation with God the Father is communicated to Christians in many ways. Among these are the reading and study of Scripture, meditation on the mysteries of salvation, and the devotional exercises of the Christian life. The eucharistic liturgy, with its renewed emphasis on the proclamation of the word of God, and its celebration of the presence of Christ, is regarded in both our traditions as “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows.”23 It is in liturgical worship, and especially in the eucharistic celebration, that the Christian as a member of the community worshipping the transcendent and indwelling God can realize the deepest implications of what it is to be a person, find the impetus for ethical action in the Christian style, and learn the destiny to which one is called by God in Christ through the Spirit.
Human beings live in a world that is ever changing. Christian doctrine and the visible social structure of the Christian Church are therefore necessary in order for Christians living in a world of change to discern, communicate, adapt, and transmit through different times and cultures their historical identity in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Christians believe that this process of adaptive continuity springs from the Spirit’s abiding in the Church and from the charisms that the Spirit brings.
B. Conclusion: Pastoral Recommendations
Part I. Areas for Further Investigations ARC’s Proposals for Future Agenda
ARC asks of its sponsoring bodies whether it should study the following problem areas:
Part II. Joint Task Forces: ARC’s Proposals for Possible Action
ARC asks its sponsoring bodies whether ARC should now proceed to establish, with their authorization, any of the following:
August 12, 1977
1The major printed source for official documentation of ARC-USA and of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) is the series of three booklets entitled Documents on Anglican/Roman Catholic Relations (ARC/DOC I, II, and III), published in 1972, 1.973, and 1976 by the U.S. Catholic Conference, 1312 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20005. ARC’s “warm approval” of the 1971 ARCIC Windsor statement on the Eucharist is recorded in ARC/DOC II, pp. 54-56, and the statement itself is printed in ARC/DOC. I, pp. 47-50. ARC’s “substantial agreement” with the 1973 ARCIC Canterbury statement on Ministry and Ordination is recorded in ARC/DOC III, lap. 82-84, and the statement itself is printed on pp. 74-81. ARC’s own statement on theological methodology for use in ecumenical discussion (1972) is printed on pp. 49-53 of ARC/DOC II, and its statement on the nature and mission of the Church (1975) is on pp. 1-11 of ARC/DOC III. Much of this documentation is also published in Ecumenical Trends (Graymoor Ecumenical Institute, Garrison N.Y. 10524) and in the Ecumenical Bulletin (Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave., N.Y.C. 10017).
2Cf. Pope Paul VI, 25 October 1970 “There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church when the Roman Catholic Church – this humble ‘Servant of the servants of God’ – is able to embrace her ever beloved sister in the one authentic Communion of the family of Christ: a communion of origin and of faith, a communion of priesthood and of rule, a communion of the saints in the freedom of ‘Love of the spirit of Jesus.” (ARC/DOC I, pp. 42-43).
3ARC/DOC I, pp. 3-4.
4ARC/DOC II, pp. 54-56.
5ARC/DOC III, pp. 1-11.
6Cf. ARCIC 1976 Venice statement on Authority in the Church, para. 2.
7Vatican Council I?, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum) 12, ed. Abbott p. 120; Decree on Priestly Formation (Optatam totius) 16, ed. Abbott p. 451. Cf. Proposed Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal Church), pp. 853, 888 ff., 934 ff.
8ARCIC Venice statement, para. 15; 1972 ARC statement on Doctrinal Agreement and Christian Unity; Methodological Considerations, esp. paras. 2, 3, and 4 (ARC/DOC II, pp. 51-52).
9Common Declaration of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed in Rome, 29 April 1977, para. 2 (published, among other places, in the Ecumenical Bulletin no. 24 (July-August 1977), p. 9). For the Chalcedonian text, cf. Proposed Book of Common Prayer, p. 864. lt is acknowledged that some theologians of both our Churches, as well as others, are calling for restatement, reformulation, reinterpretation, or, in some cases, even rejection of the Chalcedonian terminology. For some Roman Catholic views, see W. Kasper, Jesus the Christ; Hans Kung, On Being a Christian; Gerald O’Collins, S.J., What are They Saying about Jesus; K. Rahner, various articles on Christology in Theological Investigations vols. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10; P. Schoonenberg, The Christ; B. Vawter, This Man Jesus. For some Anglican views, see William Temple, Christus Veritas; Richard A. Norris, “Towards a Contemporary Interpretation of the Chalcedonian Definition,” in Lux in Lumine: Essays to Honor W. Norman Pittenger; E.R. Hardy, “Chalcedon in the Anglican Tradition,” and David Jenkins, “‘The Bearing of Chalcedon upon the Modern Discussions about the ‘Humanum’ and the Secular,” both in The Ecumenical Review xxii:4 ;Oct. 1970); Maurice Wiles, The Remaking of Christian Doctrine; J.A.T. Robinson, The Human Face of God; John Hick, ed., The Myth of God Incarnate.
10ARC 1975 statement on the Purpose of the Church, paras. 10-16 (ARC/DOC III, pp. 4-8).
11Proposed Book of Common Prayer, pp. 860-861; Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium) 59-82, ed. Abbott pp. 158-163. See also the study entitled Subscription and Assent to the Thirty-nine Articles (London, 1968), prepared for the Tenth Lambeth Conference by the Commission on Doctrine appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
12Cf. Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratío) 11, ed. Abbott p. 354: “When comparing doctrines, Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenical dialogue should remember that in Catholic teaching there exists an order or ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith.”
13ARC/DOC II, pp. 49-53.
14ARC/DOC I, pp. 47-50.
15Cf. I Timothy 321; ARCIC Canterbury statement, para. 9; Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 299; G.W.H. Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon, p. 532.
16ARC/DOC III, pp. 82-84.
17ARC/DOC II, pp. 49-53.
18See the ecumenical study Peter in the New Testament, ed. Raymond 1. Brown, Karl P. Donfried, and John Reumann (1973).
19Lambeth Conference 1968, Reports and Resolutions, p. 145 and cf. pp. 46-49.
20Anglican Consultative Council, Report of the Third Meeting: Trinidad 1976, p. 16.
21Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) 47-93, ed. Abbott pp. 249-308, and Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium) 11, ed. Abbott p. 29; cf. Lambeth Conference 1968, Reports and Resolutions, pp. 78-81.
22Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book V, preface; cf. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54.
23Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium) 10, ed. Abbott p. 142.
24Cf. E. McLaughlin, “Christ My Mother: Feminine Naming and Metaphor in Medieval Spirituality,” Nashotah Review xv (1975), and F. Jelly, ?.?., “Marian Dogmas within Vatican AI‘s Hierarchy of Truths,” Marian Studies xxvii (1976).
25Common Declaration of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed in Rome, 29 April 1977; Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) 13, ed. Abbott p. 356; Pope Paul VI, statement quoted in note 2 above; Annual Report, Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers, 1976 survey of diocesan ecumenical priorities, showed Anglican/Roman Catholic relations “an overwhelming priority in interest and effectiveness” (p. 1).
26For a survey of these up through 1974 see N. Ehrenstrom and G. Gassmann, Confessions in Dialogue, third ed., Geneva 1975. The survey of “Bilateral Conversations between the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.A. and other Christian Communities” published in the 1972 Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America (vol. 27) is now being updated, and a similar survey is under way for the Episcopal Church under the sponsorship of its Standing Ecumenical Commission.
27Common Declaration, 29 April 1977, para. 9: “Our divisions hinder this witness, hinder the work of Christ, but they do not close all roads we may travel together. In a spirit of prayer and of submission to God’s will we must collaborate more earnestly in a ‘greater comm?n witness to Christ before the world in the very work of evangelisation.’ It is our desire that the means of this collaboration be sought: the increasing spiritual hunger in all parts of God’s world invites us to such a common pilgrimage. This collaboration pursued to the limit allowed by truth and loyalty will create the climate in which dialogue and doctrinal convergence can bear fruit.”
28General Convention of the Episcopal Church 1973, definition of evangelism.
29For specific examples, see ARC/DOC III, pp. 36-58.