Saturday, May 28, 2011

ARCIC III and "Receptive Ecuminism"

Anglican Archbishop David Moxon and Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued the following communique yesterday:

The Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission has completed the first meeting of its new phase (ARCIC III) at the Monastery of Bose in northern Italy (May 17-27, 2011). The Commission, chaired by the Most Reverend David Moxon (Anglican Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses) and the Most Reverend Bernard Longley (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham) comprises eighteen theologians from a wide range of backgrounds across the world1. In response to the Programme set forth by Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams in their 2006 Common Declaration, discussions have focussed on the interrelated issues: the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching. The Programme also required the Commission to re-examine how the "commitment to the common goal of the restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life"2 is to be understood and pursued today, and to present the work of ARCIC II in its entirety with appropriate commentaries to assist its reception.

In addressing these issues, the Commission has devoted time to introducing its new members to the history and achievements of ARCIC, and has benefited from the shared experience of those who were members of previous phases. Members have worked both in plenary sessions and in small groups, developing plans to address the tasks that derive from its mandate.

Over the coming years, the Commission will examine how the abiding goal of the dialogues is currently perceived and understood, and how that goal will inform the entire dialogue process.

In considering the method that ARCIC III will use, the Commission was particularly helped by the approach of ‘receptive ecumenism’3, which seeks to make ecumenical progress by learning from our partner, rather than simply asking our partner to learn from us. Receptive ecumenism is more about self-examination and inner conversion than convincing the other; Anglicans and Roman Catholics can help each other grow in faith, life and witness to Christ if they are open to being transformed by God’s grace mediated through each other.

ARCIC is committed to modelling the receptive ecumenism it advocates. It intends to find ways to consult with the members of its churches at many levels as its work matures.

ARCIC III will present all the documents of ARCIC II, together with elucidations based upon responses already received, for reception by the relevant authorities of both communions, and for study at all levels of the churches’ life.

ARCIC III has decided that it will address the two principal topics together in a single document. It has drawn up a plan for its work that views the Church above all in the light of its rootedness in Christ through the Paschal Mystery. This focus on Jesus Christ, human and divine, gives the Commission a creative way to view the relationship between the local and universal in communion. The Commission will seek to develop a theological understanding of the human person, human society, and the new life of grace in Christ. This will provide a basis from which to explore how right ethical teaching is determined at universal and local levels. ARCIC will base this study firmly in scripture, tradition and reason, and draw on the previous work of the Commission. It will analyze some particular questions to elucidate how our two Communions approach moral decision making, and how areas of tension for Anglicans and Roman Catholics might be resolved by learning from the other. ARCIC III does this conscious of the fact that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

The work of the Commission members has been enriched by sharing in the liturgical and spiritual life of the sisters and brothers of the Monastery of Bose, whose ecumenical mission and constant prayer have provided a supportive context for ARCIC. They were encouraged by visits from the bishop of the local diocese and by the bishop responsible for ecumenism for the northern Italian dioceses. The Commission will now organize papers and continue its work along the lines it has proposed, in preparation for its next meeting in 2012.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, England
The Most Reverend David Moxon, Bishop of Waikato and Archbishop of the Dioceses of New Zealand
Roman Catholics
The Reverend Robert Christian OP, Angelicum University, Rome
The Most Reverend Arthur Kennedy, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Professor Paul D. Murray, Durham University, England
Professor Janet E. Smith, Sacred Heart Major Seminary Detroit, Michigan, USA
The Reverend Vimal Tirimanna CSsR, Alphonsianum University, Rome
The Very Reverend Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, Ampleforth Abbey, England
Sister Teresa Okure SHCJ, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
The Reverend Adelbert Denaux, Dean; Tilburg School of Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Dr Paula Gooder, Birmingham, England
The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, England
The Reverend Mark McIntosh, University of Durham, England.
The Right Reverend Nkosinathi Ndwandwe, Bishop Suffragan of Natal, Southern Area,
South Africa
The Right Reverend Linda Nicholls, Area Bishop for Trent-Durham, Diocese of Toronto,
The Reverend Michael Poon, Trinity Theological College, Singapore (unable to attend)
The Reverend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky, London, England
The Reverend Peter Sedgwick, St Michael’s College, Llandaff, Wales
The Reverend Charles Sherlock (consultant), Bendigo, Australia.
The work of the Commission is supported by the Co-Secretaries, Monsignor Mark Langham (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan (Anglican Communion Office) and by Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs.
1 For a list of members, see appendix.
2 1996 Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.
3 cf Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic learning: Exploring a way for Contemporary Ecumenism., ed. Paul D. Murray., OUP 2008
[00827-02.01] [Original text: English]
I have no doubt that dialogue is a good thing.

As for the first topic - the Church as Communion, local and universal - I think Pope Benedict has himself given leadership in this matter in the erection of an ecclesiastical structure (the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham) to assist those who hold the Catholic faith come into full communion with the universal and local Church.

As for the second - how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching - perhaps the answer to the solution lies in the title itself. Right ethical teaching can only be discerned when all are "in communion." It is therefore the search for ways of restoring communion that is most urgent.

I am interested in the notion of "receptive ecumenism" and can readily admit that there is much to learn from listening to one another. Now I know we can distinguish between ethics and morality but the two are closely linked. Even sacramentality and morality are tied in together. I note there is a woman bishop amongst the members. There is a question of morality (from a sacramental theological point of view)- right or wrong behaviour - in the very notion of a female bishop. Communion will inevitably entail the renunciation of any priestly or episcopal ambitions on the part of women.

We are constantly reminded in the ecumenical discourse that "what unites us is greater than what divides us." I'm sure this is true in a certain sense, but in another sense it is far from true, for what divides us - common faith in the Eucharist, Apostolic Succession, Priesthood and Sacrifice - are ultimately the source and summit of the Church's life from which the Church finds its strength. "The Church draws her life from the Eucharist." (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Encylical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 17th April 2003, 1)

Also, the Catholic Church has a most comprehensive body of Social Teaching and is the de facto conscience of the world - oftentimes rejected - on the major ethical questions of the day. I suppose that if Anglicans and Catholics could unite on issues of life, sexuality, peace, justice, economics, it would be a major blessing for the world at large. I pray that the "self-examination and inner conversion" will bear fruit.

1 comment:

  1. Well said by you, Father, if I may say.


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