From the Bishop of Wakefield
Sir, — The Dean of Westminster (Comment, 20 August) rightly points to the friendship and collaboration which has developed between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in this country since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1982.
Even more can be said. In 1990, new ecumenical instruments were created — Churches Together in England and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland — in which the Roman Catholic Church has been an equal and active partner with other Churches.
“County” (or “intermediate”) ecumenical bodies (such as the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council, to which the Wakefield diocese belongs) have emerged, not only as a support for local ecumenical partnerships, but also as a form of oversight of the social and community life of whole areas, and relating to their civil authorities. Bilateral relations flourish: my diocese and the Roman Catholic dioceses of Hallam and Leeds were pleased in 2009 to hold a historic joint assembly where we met for worship and to look to ways of working together in the future. Immediate fruits of this have been a joint Lent course planned for 2011, and a regular meeting of the bishops for prayer, discussion, and a common meal.
And, of course, in many towns and villages, Churches Together groupings foster relationships of respect and trust which are so natural as to go almost unnoticed and uncelebrated.
All this is very much in line with the aspirations of Growing Together in Unity and Mission, the Agreed Statement of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (2007). (There are further illustrations at www.AnglicanCentreinRome.org.)
We may pray that the visit of Pope Benedict will add impetus to our growing together. We might also pray that his experience next month of the English ecumenical scene, however brief, may energise him in the worldwide search for the unity of all Christian people.
Chairman of the Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Wakefield WF2 6JL
From Mr Patrick Boyle
Sir, — Is Clifford Longley (Letters, 20 August) suggesting that Vatican II has repudiated Boniface VIII’s bull Unam Sanctum?
No matter how the Decree on Ecumenism and the Declaration on Religious Liberty are expressed, the Roman Catholic Church does not give unqualified acceptance to the truth that salvation full and free outside of her claims is valid. Or am I in error in thinking this?
7 Garston Drive
Watford WD25 9LB
From Professor Allen Brent
Sir, — The present Anglican crisis is fundamentally neither about female ordination nor gay weddings nor any such substantive issue. It certainly is not about our unquestionably able and committed young women reading theology at our universities.
Rather, it is an issue of a coherent ecclesiological narrative that found expression at the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) in 1982. Here we agreed on the fundamental principle definitive of Catholic understanding of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ: in fundamental matters of faith and discipline, we would not do apart what we could not do together on any fundamental issue affecting the intercommunion of our bishops, and in consequence with clergy and laity within their communion.
We believed then that a papal ministry was somewhat superfluous. Fellowship (or koinonia) between the dioceses of the Anglican Communion would always be maintained by our bishops, whose unity would be guaranteed by the mutual recognition and maintenance of intercommunion of diocesan bishops.
We then violated the ARCIC agreement. Female ordination and the consecration of gay unions followed in the American Church, and individual diocesans simply proceeded to go their own way, with no concept of the mystical union of the body of Christ concretely expressed by the mutual recognition in life and doctrine of our bishops in intercommunion.
Without a Primate entrusted with the ministry of fostering the bonds of koinonia, the communion has now fallen apart, and Pope Benedict, exercising the ministry of Peter, has now opened his arms with a pastor’s care to the Anglican patrimony, and fulfilled the promise given to St Peter, to which ARCIC had pointed with great prescience.
It is not the sex of the American bishop nor her orientation that fundamentally is at issue, any more than that of a male bishop, but rather how he or she could accept such a position knowing the effect on the koinonia between the Anglican dioceses which this would have.
If someone will not accept my ministry as a priest, will not let me realise Christ to them, then I cannot be a priest to them. But what of a bishop who needs the freely given obedience of priests and laity within the diocese committed to that bishop? To be a bishop, you also need to be accepted by the other bishops within your communion throughout the world. Without such acceptance, you cannot perform your episcopal ministry of securing the unity of the Body of Christ. Instead of an icon of unity, you become the icon of dissolution and disintegration, such as is found in the Anglican Communion that is on the point of ceasing to exist.
We have claimed to give able women who believe that they are called to the ordained ministry everything, including mitres, but at the end we give them nothing but a disintegrating communion. My distress is about a narrative of unity of which I can make no sense in the present situation.
18 St Alban’s Road
From Mr Michael Scargill
Sir, — I fail to see how Roman rejection of the validity of Anglican ordained ministry also necessarily invalidates an Anglican understanding of sacramental assurance (Letters, 6 August). The sacramental assurance that is the concern here is clearly not based on a belief that only in, or through orders accepted by, the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches can such assurance be found.
Priests are ordained, in the Church of England, into the Church of God, and it is in that Church — the one (in belief, if not yet again in fact), holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church — that sacramental assurance subsists, and on which the Church of England’s ordained ministry is based. Whether or not we accept in our own Church the full ministry of ordained women priests (or bishops), it cannot be denied that an all-male ordained priesthood and episcopacy remains the continuing practice and belief of the overwhelming majority of that one Church in which, in the creeds, we all affirm our belief.
For that reason, I continue to believe that, if we are at all serious about our belief in the Church of England as being a part of that one Church, we have to recognise the genuineness and seriousness of the so-called traditionalists’ concern, and to do what we can to enable an ordained ministry to continue in our own Church which is consistent with that of the one Church of which we are but a part.
I do not think this is merely a concern for the “traditionalists”: I think this should equally be of concern to those who, like me, do not share their opposition to ordained women’s ministry, but nevertheless do take seriously our claim to be a part of the one holy Church of our creeds.
Mistley Lodge, New Road
Mistley, Essex CO11 2AQ
From Mr Brian Fish
Sir, — Worldwide Christianity has been critically tainted by sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. As time goes by, more and more evidence emerges, not only of the acts themselves, but also of the protection of the perpetrators.
So widespread has this wickedness been that it surely demands a communal penance. I suggest that this should take the form of the Roman Church’s swallowing its intellectual and theological pride and allowing intercommunion with all baptised members of good standing in Trinitarian Churches.
A lot to ask? Maybe, but there is a lot to forgive.
28 Mulberry Court, Stour Street
Canterbury CT1 2NT
From the Revd Peter Kettle
Sir, — I read that Pope Benedict XVI will be presented to members of the Chapter when he visits Westminster Abbey. Will this be the first time he has shaken hands with a woman priest?
46 Allenswood, Albert Drive
London SW19 6JX