The first agreed statement by ARCIC III, Walking Together on the Way was completed at the 2017 meeting of the dialogue commission in Erfurt, Germany, and thus may be known as the Erfurt document. The current statement draws upon the image of “walking together”, as in the 2016 IARCCUM statement and in Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby‘s 2016 Common Declaration.
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.
By the Co-Chairs of ARCIC III
After centuries of living apart, the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church have been on pilgrimage together since the historic visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI in March 1966. The establishment of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), now in its third major phase of work, grew out of that visit as a tangible expression of the joint commitment to walk together the path of ecclesial conversion and renewal so that, as traditions, we might grow into the fullness of communion in Christ and the Spirit.
Two interrelated themes have had an abiding presence in the work of ARCIC since its inception in 1970: the question of authority and the ecclesiology of communion. This current document takes up these two themes again, and seeks to develop them in a new way. In doing so the Commission is responding to the 2006 Common Declaration of Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams, which identified two critical areas for our future ecumenical dialogue: ‘the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous’. Reflecting this, the Commission has been asked to examine ‘the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching’. Our current document addresses the first of these two themes.
Both of our traditions affirm that ecclesial communion is rooted in Word, sacrament, common creedal faith, and the episcopate (Lambeth Quadrilateral, from LC 1888, Resolution 11; and CN §11). Ecclesial communion requires that the structures and procedures which serve and express the bonds of communion are attended to with diligence and care. This document examines how well these instruments of communion serve us and maintain the unity in diversity that communion implies. This task requires frank assessment: the courage to look at ourselves honestly and to learn from the other. It is a task that resonates with Pope Francis‘s call for a fully synodal Church in accord with the vision of the Second Vatican Council, while Anglicans continue to explore the meaning and efficacy of synodality for its life in communion at all levels.
It is our hope that Walking Together on the Way: Learning to Be the Church—Local, Regional, Universal will be a part of this ongoing process of honest self-reflection and growth. In their 2016 Common Declaration, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby declared: ‘While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church.’
It is important to make clear that by ‘together’ the Commission envisages each communion attending to its own structures and instruments, but aided by the support and example provided by the other communion. The sense is of our two traditions each walking the pilgrim way in each other’s company: ‘pilgrim companions’, making their own journey of conversion into greater life but supported by the other as they do so. At times the Commission has chosen to represent this by presenting our respective Anglican and Roman Catholic analyses of our structures and their challenges in parallel columns. This allows us to recognize the similar but differentiated ways in which our respective structures seek to serve our communions. At other times, in order to avoid appearing to equate quite different processes, we use a sequential format, but with those paragraphs on the left-hand side of the page in an Anglican voice, and those on the right-hand side in a Roman Catholic voice. This side by side analysis of our structures allows us to identify what is challenged, what is graced, and what we may have to learn from our dialogue partner or pilgrim companion. The conviction is that by examining and reforming our respective instruments of communion alongside and in conversation with each other, we are also growing closer to each other and strengthening the imperfect communion that already exists between us.
When discussing our respective structures and their challenges at the local (Section IV), regional (Section V), and worldwide (Section VI) levels of our respective ecclesial lives, in each case the discussion moves through three phases: first, describing what currently is the case for each of our traditions at the level in view; second, identifying what respective tensions and difficulties are experienced at this level; and third, in relation to these tensions and difficulties, asking what possibilities there might be for transformative receptive learning from the other tradition. This task requires frank assessment, repentance, and the courage to look at ourselves honestly and learn from the other.
The work of ARCIC I and ARCIC II shows how the Commission has developed a range of Agreed Statements in response to its mandate, which have varied in length, style, method, structure, and intention. ARCIC III hopes that its fresh approach, chosen in response to its mandate, will enable and equip Anglicans and Catholics to learn from one another and grow together in fidelity to Christ’s will for the Church.
This Agreed Statement was concluded in Erfurt, Germany, where Martin Luther studied, took his vows as an Augustinian friar, was ordained, and taught before being called to Wittenberg in 1511. The Commission was privileged to undertake its work in Erfurt, under the hospitality of the Bildunghaus St Ursula, during the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, signalling the contribution of this dialogue to the wider ecumenical journey.
As Co-Chairs we are delighted to present this Agreed Statement to our respective authorities and the faithful of both of our traditions, in the sincere hope that our dialogue can contribute to the flourishing of each of our communions, both by modelling how such mutual learning can today be pursued and by acting as a means of grace through which each communion is more perfectly configured to the image of Christ. This task is always before the Church semper reformanda.
Erfurt, Germany, 2017
1. Pope Francis, ‘Address Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops’ (17 October 2015).
2. Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis, ‘Commissioning the IARCCUM Bishops‘ (5 October 2016), San Gregorio al Celio, Rome; also the IARCCUM Bishops begin their statement: ‘As shepherds of Christ’s flock we have come together from nineteen regions of the world, representing our churches, to take steps together as Anglicans and Roman Catholics along the pilgrimage to a common life and mission. We rejoice in the many fruits of our ecumenical journey so far’ (WT).
Abbreviations: (further abbreviations listed on pp. i-ii of the document)
CN = Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis Notio. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion (1992).
LC = Lambeth Conference
WT = IARCCUM, Walking Together: Common Service to the World and Witness to the Gospel (2016)