John Twisleton reports on Zooming to this summer’s Petertide Seminars
The e mail was relayed to me by a priest friend in the Society of the Holy Cross. It contained an invitation from Archbishop Ian, Director of The Anglican Centre in Rome, to attend their Petertide online interactive course subdivided into three sessions on Ecumenism, examining the work of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). Consequently on three Monday afternoons I Zoomed to join 100 or so folk across the world to reflect on Anglican-RC relations and the roller coaster quest for visible unity.
ARCIC from the beginning
Session one, on the Feast of SS Peter & Paul itself, was on the history of ARCIC I and II and the Lambeth Conference of 1988 with Old Testament scholar and ARCIC expert Dame Mary Tanner and Bishop Christopher Hill, co-secretary of ARCIC from 1974-81. The Bishop traced Anglican-RC dialogue back to the Malines Conversations when Westminster Chapters knelt in silence at St Edwards’s Shrine, a time when spoken prayer together was impossible. Then came Pope John XXIII with his distinction between the substance of Faith and the way it is presented and Vatican II’s Constitution on Liturgy, Church, Ecumenism, Revelation and the Declaration on Religious Freedom. After meeting Anglican Metropolitans in Jerusalem, and a briefing by the illustrious Eric Mascall, Archbishop Michael Ramsey made his historic visit to Pope Paul VI 1966. The two established ‘a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth for which Christ prayed’. In added symbolism the Pope gave Ramsey his Milan episcopal ring now worn by successive Archbishops of Canterbury. There followed a Commission on mixed marriages and ARCIC. Evangelical John Stott was asked to serve but deferred recommending his Curate Julian Charnley who was to play a key role with Dominican Jean Tillard shaping the 1971 Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine. They helped centre thinking on the unique priesthood of Christ and the objective gift of his presence, not just for the believer but with the believer. Agreements on Ministry and Ordination (1973) and Authority in the Church (1976, 1981) followed with separate elucidations. These set authority within the communion of the churches and treated the emergence of primacy with the Petrine ministry, the complementarity of primacy and conciliarity. There were elucidations later on struggling with the Pope’s Infallibility and universal jurisdiction.
Having followed the story of ARCIC up to the Final Report (1982) with Bishop Hill and taken clarifications on his input from the worldwide audience, the broadcast switched to Mary Tanner who addressed the documents ‘reception’ linked to reform and renewal of ourselves as denominations. The 1980s were full of ecumenical conversations with Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry published by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches in Lima (1982). People expected the agreed documents would make a difference and pave the way to visible union. There was no agreement though on the forward process from the agreements. In that process churches learned about themselves as much as about the documents. At the 1988 Lambeth Conference Archbishop Runcie asked in his keynote whether his fellow bishops really wanted unity saying he did so himself. Fr Teilhard responded but there was no official RC response. The Conference welcomed the ARCIC proposals as ‘consonant in substance’ with the faith of Anglicans but there was no mention of concrete steps forward the need to weigh the ordination of women carefully in the light of ARCIC. At length the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome issued its heavy Observation in 1991 seeking more elucidation about eucharistic sacrifice, transubstantiation, the distinction between ministerial priesthood and that of the baptised and the need to agree fundamentals before looking at women’s ordination.
The second hour of each seminar involved participants engaging the speakers. It celebrated a movement of the Spirit through heartening stories of practical collaboration and raised much ecclesiology. Cardinal Cormac’s talk heading ‘Anglican-RC relations: dead in the water or money in the bank’ was recalled, it being recognised that these Petertide seminars at least were part of ‘spending the money’! Mary Tanner recalled the Gamaliel principle behind the 1988 Lambeth statement on female ordination, i.e. if it was of God it would prevail. I asked a question on the intra-Anglican divide on ordination between those who see it of the ‘esse’ of the Gospel and those who see it just as part of the practical ‘bene esse’. Bishop Hill pointed to the necessity for ordination being retained in the Prayer Book and the practical sorting irregular practice after the 17th century Commonwealth. He mentioned a surprising fluidity in RC understanding of ordination with quite recent decisions on the relation between the presbyterate and episcopate.
Anglican-RC relations – dead in the water or money in the bank?
Session two, on ARCIC II and III and the shifts in tensions and ecumenical mood, was led 13 July by Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey and Mgr Mark Langham, former official of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian unity. Professor Sagovsky identified five ongoing issues: Anglican-RC marriages, Anglican orders, ordination of women as priests in the Anglican Communion, consecration of a gay man with a partner as bishop and the consecration of women bishops. Are we Anglican priests and bishops just seen as laity by the RCs? Despite honours given to Anglican clerics, like the stole given to Henry Chadwick by Pope John Paul II, the same Pope presided over the 1998 reiteration of Apostolicae Curae (1896) pronouncing the invalidity of Anglican orders. ARCIC, with its agreement on many aspects of the nature of Ministry, seemed to exist in a parallel universe. John Paul II stopped RC participation in ecumenical debate about the ordination of women which he saw as schismatic compared to how many Anglicans see it as a Gospel imperative. Intra-Anglican splits on female ordination and same sex marriage have made Anglican-RC debate much harder as RCs wonder who speaks for the Anglican tradition. Nevertheless none of our disagreements stop us saying the Nicene Creed together, or our having the same scriptures and baptism. In points of clarification admission of the non-baptised to the eucharist in the Diocese of New Westminster, Vancouver linked to Lutheran understanding was raised as yet another stumbling block for RC-Anglican relations.
Monsignor Mark Langham continued with informal heading ‘Behind the statements, the role of instinct and nuance in receiving ARCIC’. He mentioned recent images of Archbishops Justin and Vincent kneeling in prayer in Westminster Cathedral and Abbey on the day the buildings were reopened as part of lifting lockdown due to COVID-19. In lockdown the Church of England announced churches would be closed even for clergy, contrasting with the RC Church saying priests would continue in church. The decision to abandon sacred buildings is more unthinkable in RC circles showing differences about our sense of the sacred. ARCIC stresses what unites us is greater than what divides and sets forth common faith empowering us towards visible union. RC-Orthodox dialogue seems strangely more difficult. There has been an unlearning of erroneous assumptions over the last 20 years with growth in camaraderie which has left some dialogue leaders suspected by their own constituency eg betrayal on authority and Mary have been claimed in General Synod debate. Getting behind entrenched attitudes is difficult and the ARCIC process has reached a degree of self-awareness here. Meanwhile the refusal of bishops to celebrate with one another at Lambeth 2008 weakens capacity for ecumenical dialogue. In 2015 two bishops ordained separately within a week, male traditionalist and female, were photographed together illustrating a difficult ambiguity. Recent Anglican-Methodist dialogue seems vague about the continuity of episcopal ordination. RC thinking of the church also has its tensions between licit local variations and the universal aspiration to be the sacrament of salvation for all. Post Vatican II emotive blog posts with papal tiaras, ostrich feathers etc and those pushing for women’s ordination show RCs need to agree to disagree more amicably. Anglicans might need to see the limitations of magnanimity and comprehensiveness. We are invited to listen to our fears about one another, heeding instinctive visceral reactions as over Pope and Mary, to get to know one another better beyond grand gestures by leaders. Supporting ARCIC is going on a journey in which you do not leave your Anglicanism or Catholicism behind but see them enriched, even if people see you differently. The documents are good enough, rich enough in their thinking, to face long term scrutiny and they have had as yet brief attention by few people.
These were some points raised in the second hour of the seminar: The theological method of ARCIC is alien to both bodies. ARCIC is forced to proceed in a theological fashion but being international has not been good at picking up on local dialogues and concerns and has no mechanism for doing so. Powerful gestures do energise the ecumenical venture – archbishops praying together, sharing of stoles. So does joint evangelisation – there is an ecumenism of necessity since witness is weakened by our standing apart. Pope Francis is attempting decentralisation with a move towards Anglican synodality yet there is an imbalance between RC unity and doctrine commissions. Francis calling himself Bishop of Rome is a welcome gesture to Anglicans. Re-read ‘The Gift of Authority’ and you see Pope Francis fitting the bill and also fulfilling Pope John Paul II Ut Unum Sint’s invitation for ideas on renewing papal ministry. On Intercommunion, the RC view of Communion is a declaration of both who I am and what I think the Church is. Saying Amen in receiving means I affirm belonging to this communion of faith, the whole body of Catholic doctrine. Anglicans do not realise how strong Communion is for RCs. Behind receiving is the acceptance of a whole way of being a Christian. Reception of ARCIC links to other bilateral or multilateral dialogues. When something is not part of my daily experience should I fear it or welcome its possibility for enrichment – this is why the ARCIC title was The Gift of Authority. Understanding visceral attitudes: ‘the only metaphysical doctrine the English have ever invented is no-Popery!’ (Norman St John Stevas). Might this have converted into Brexit since underneath Brexit is an echo of the Reformation, Self-awareness of the British: we are a great nation because we stand alone. Pope Francis is picking up language on Synodality from Anglicanism with planned 2022 gathering on that theme. Yet RC centralising movement to guarantee doctrine and dogma is very real.
Looking forward with IARCCUM
Session three on 27 July on the establishment of International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) was led by its co-presidents RC Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Canada and Anglican Bishop David Hamid, fellow Canadian, suffragan bishop in Europe.
Bishop Hamid described the origin of IARCCUM with its telling logo of a Rome mosaic of two birds gathered at a pool of water viz two churches seeking renewal of the grace of baptism. Besides the theological (ARCIC) and practical marriage commissions there has been closer collaboration between bishops since Archbishop Carey and Pope John Paul II met in 1996. This led to the birth of IARCCUM in 2001 with a public signing planned to affirm a new ‘plateau’ being reached after the churches had walked together over 30 years. There was an issue about who would sign for Anglicans – all 38 Primates? In the event this signing was abandoned in the wake of the ordination of Gene Robinson, bishop in a same sex union which has stalled liaison. Not wanting to lose good work done Growing Together in Unity and Mission (2007) was published by IARCCUM setting forth clear agreement of faith with grey boxes about further work needed eg The Conception and Dormition of BVM common statement with boxes detailing the RC dogmas. The Church of England’s opening the episcopate to women put IARCCUM further on hold until a 2012 restart led by Bishop David and Archbishop Don.
Archbishop Don Bolen sees IARCCUM born out of both the success of ARCIC and the failure of its documents to release their transformative power. Acting together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel us to act separately RCs and Anglicans continue to follow the Lund principle affirmed by the 1952 Faith and Order Conference of the World Council of Churches held at Lund, Sweden. Something new is being born though about the reception of ARCIC. Item 7 & 10 of Growing Together mention working together for unity is not appropriate. The 2012 mandate goes beyond documents into practicalities about letting the work of ARCIC transform our churches. IARCCUM is monitoring reception of ARCIC, looking at local and national reception and establishing dialogues where they do not already exist. Provinces and Episcopal Conferences are liaising and we are seeking champions/promoters. IARCCUM.org website was set up in 2014 on occasion of Archbishop Justin’s visit to the Pope to make the content of ARCIC agreements accessible to scholars. It contains official responses, minutes etc and details of work on the ordination of women difficulty. In 2016 the Pope and Archbishop held a week’s conference with Anglican-RC Bishop pairs committed to be pilgrim companions, handing on peace, mercy and justice. The bishops prayed Vespers together and received Lampedusa Crosses built from wood from refugee boats landing on Lampedusa island with joint commitment to listening together to the wounds of the world and rendering common service to those wounds. Archbishop Bolen commended ‘Walking Together: Common Service to the World and Witness to the Gospel – An appeal from the IARCCUM bishops to the bishops and the people of the Anglican and Catholic communities’. This celebrates real but incomplete communion, ecumenism at the foot of the cross to bind us as we respond to the pain of the world. IARCCUM has created IARCCUM companions after 1970s model of Sheppard & Worlock and invited the audience to become as such.
In the plenary there were many points made along the lines that the value of personal relationships never grows old especially when there are institutional divergences. The level of agreement we have in faith compels us forward. The Pope sending a pastoral staff linked to St Gregory the Great to Archbishop Welby who uses it in Canterbury Cathedral is significant. Covenants eg that of the Australia Council of Churches can be multilateral but with bilateral sub-sections to give impetus to Anglican-RC engagement. IARCCUM is a gift to the process of reception of ARCIC in both churches especially to the global south through the pairing of bishops. Divisions are European based historically and the global south wants prophetic action. I invited comment on how over the period served by IARCCUM an Anglican Ordinariate has emerged. Though this represents significant division over ordination it has some encouraging evidence of RC acceptance of Anglicanism. Both speakers saw the Ordinariate with its mixed reception being based on ARCIC and evidence of the surprising itinerary of the Spirit. IARCCUM bishop pairs are set to meet again in 2021.
I apologise for the length of notes on a full six hours of engagement across the world sponsored by the Anglican Centre in Rome. In the spirit of IARCCUM I wanted to bring New Directions readers up to date on this important development, a refreshing of Anglican-RC partnership made possible by online engagement of substance in the Petertide seminars. Many are impatient with the failure of the Anglican Church to live true to the faith of the church through the ages. The work and resource website of IARCCUM provides ammunition to wage war against the parochialism in ecclesiology that now operates in our church even if we ourselves get labelled small minded by fellow Anglicans more ready to go with the enticing flow of the 21st century. Recovery of the Anglican-RC partnership has potential to hold Anglicans to account and bring the best gifts of Anglicanism to our sister church.
Canon Dr John Twisleton ministers in the Diocese of Chichester