Not there yet, say authors of IARCCUM report

21 February 2007

by Bill Bowder

PRESS SPECULATION had, “sadly, much exaggerated” the significance of a report from the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), its co-chairmen said this week. The Archbishop of Canterbury said on Monday that the story had been “garbled”.

The ecumenical report Growing Together in Unity and Mission, by 20 bishops, clergy, and lay advisers from both Churches, had been heralded as a new bid for organic unity. This was “a really rather remarkably garbled version”, Dr Williams said. The report amounted to suggestions of what could be done “in pastoral practice”.

The co-chairmen of IARCCUM, the RC Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Revd John Bathersby, and the Anglican Bishop of the Highveld, in South Africa, the Rt Revd David Beetge, said that speculation about reunion under the papacy needed to be kept “in perspective”. “For 35 years this dialogue has addressed the questions of authority, including the papacy,” they said on Monday.

After reports by the Anglican- Roman Catholic International Commission, IARCCUM had been asked to find what agreement there was between the Churches which would “compel us towards joint witness and mission in the world”. The result was last week’s “call for action”.

“Despite our present ‘imperfect communion’, there is, we feel, enough common ground to take seriously how we work together,” the co-chairmen write in their introduction.

The commission found that the “fruits of dialogue over 40 years” constituted an exhortation to see how full, visible unity could be achieved. It applauded Anglicans for praying for the Pope, and called on RCs to start praying publicly for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It recommended that Anglican and RC churchgoers should share in study, pilgrimages, and good works. They should attend each other’s eucharists for spiritual communion and a blessing. The “inextricable link” between eucharist and ministry meant that, without recognition and reconciliation of ministries, there could not be full sacramental communion. But Anglicans and RCs should acknowledge “the fruitfulness of each other’s ordained ministries”.

The “fundamental obstacle” of RC recognition of Anglican orders remained. But there was evidence that the two Churches shared “a common intention”. “This awareness would have to be part of any fresh evaluation of Anglican orders,” the report said.

To show unity, parishes could get together at Pentecost to recite the creed. The Churches should consider joint Anglican-RC schools, shared teacher training, and a common religious curriculum. The Churches should send lay as well as clerical observers to each other’s synods. Anglican bishops could go with Roman Catholic colleagues on ad limina visits to Rome.

“We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion,” the report said.

Growing Together in Unity and Mission (SPCK, £7.99; 978-0-281-05939-3).


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