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Lambeth Calls: Christian Unity

by
19 August 2022

Read the full Call and how it was received at the Lambeth Conference

Nigel Vigers/Lambeth Palace

Church Unity: the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Revd Anne Burghardt; Commissioner Jane Paone of the Salvation Army; and the Bishop of Brixworth, the Rt Revd John Holbrook

Church Unity: the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Revd Anne Burghardt; Commissioner Jane Paone of the Salvation Army; and the ...

Affirmation

OUR Anglican Commitment 2.1 Beginning with the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1886/1888), there have been many definitions of the goal of full, visible unity. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-14, 2009) adopted the following four principles of ecumenism :

  • The goal: the full organic unity of the Church;
  • The task: recognising and receiving the Church in one another;
  • The process: unity by stages;
  • The content: common faith, sacraments, and ministry.

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Communion, now reaffirm our commitment to seeking the unity of Christ’s body, the Church. In our study of the first Epistle of Peter, we have been reminded that the Church is God’s creation, established on the one foundation stone, which is Jesus Christ. In God’s vocation, the Church is one “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”, called to “declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2.9).

 

We therefore affirm:

  1. That the Churches of the Anglican Communion are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church;
  2. That the vocation of the Anglican Communion includes a commitment to seek the visible unity of Christ’s Church;
  3. That, despite our divisions, we recognise in other Christian Churches the fruitfulness of the work of the Holy Spirit, commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel and loyalty to Jesus’s institution of the Sacraments that we cherish in our own lives;
  4. That Anglican Churches can learn from other Churches, communions, and traditions and, in learning, receive gifts of grace;
  5. That Anglicans should work together in mission and ministry with other Churches wherever possible, on the way to the full visible unity which is God’s will and our calling.

 

A Call to Action

We call upon the Instruments of Communion, the Churches, and the people of the Anglican Communion:

  1. To renew their commitment to an urgent search for the full visible unity of the Church;
  2. To receive and carry forward the fruits of our ecumenical relationships;
  3. To build strong, close relationships with the other Churches in their Provinces;
  4. To work with our brothers and sisters in other Churches in the mission of proclaiming the good news of Christ and responding to the needs of the world;
  5. To speak out with, for, and on behalf of brothers and sisters who are persecuted; for when one part of the body suffers all suffer with it;
  6. To see what is best in the other and to seek what we might receive from the riches of traditions that are not our own;
  7. To seek opportunities for dialogue to overcome those theological and ecclesiological differences that remain as barriers to the full, visible communion of Christ’s Church at local, regional, and worldwide levels;
  8. To establish relationships of communion with other Churches and work towards the goal of full, organic unity.

 

An Ecumenical Invitation

The Faith and Order document The Church: Towards a common vision describes ecumenical work as a call to the Churches towards “unity in faith, unity in sacramental life, and unity in service” (para. 67). In this spirit, we invite our ecumenical partners:

  1. To assist us in understanding the depth and diversity of life in Christ, and what may be learned from one another;
  2. To invite their neighbouring Anglican Churches to share with them in local initiatives to proclaim the gospel, to renew the life of the Church, and to serve society for the common good;
  3. To work with us in sharing the riches of our common inheritance of faith, and those distinct gifts which God has bestowed on us in our separated histories and experiences (cf. 1 Peter 4.10);
  4. To join with us in pursuing the steps leading to full, organic unity.

In giving thanks for the achievements of the ecumenical movement, we urge one another to take ecumenical endeavour seriously in our lives and ministries, recalling at all times our Lord’s own prayer that all should be one (John 17.20).

 

Implementation: The Anglican Consultative Council

The task of encouraging and monitoring the implementation of this call within the member Churches and the Instruments of Communion lies principally with the Anglican Consultative Council, working through the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), and the Anglican Communion Office;

We call upon the ACC and the Secretary General to ensure that adequate resources are available to enable this task;

We invite IASCUFO to monitor and oversee progress and to report regularly to the ACC;

We invite Member Churches to report regularly to IASCUFO, via the ACO’s Department of Unity, Faith and Order, on developments and challenges in this area.

 

‘What unity do you want?’

DIFFERING conceptions of church unity were on show at the Lambeth Conference, as the Anglican bishops listened to a panel of speakers from other traditions, writes Paul Handley.

The session was chaired by the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Most Revd Ian Ernest, a former Primate of the Indian Ocean.

The first speaker, the Revd Anthony Currer, representing the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch, is well used to interpreting the Roman Catholic approach to ecumenism to Anglicans. He quoted from former ecumenical statements to show that, although all were agreed on the necessity of unity, there had always been differences about what kind of unity was desirable.

In recent years, the Churches had embraced the possibility of horizontal unity as well as vertical, structural unity. Their discussions, however, ought now to be seen in the light of the new post-modern thinking, which saw a benefit in pluralism. Many now saw the existence of multiple Churches as a positive thing. The phrase “reconciled diversity” was used with approval.

In the light of this, it was all the more necessary for Christians to ask themselves: “How much unity is necessary? How much diversity is possible?” There needed to be a middle way between dictatorship and anarchy, he suggested.

The General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Revd Anne Burghardt, also recalled ecumenical history. Anglicans and Lutherans had been able to journey together for many decades, she said. But it was necessary for each of the world’s Christian communions to ask afresh how unity might be defined. Were they prepared to change, she asked. “Or do we simply fall back, and expect the other to look like us?”

The object was not necessarily structural unity. She quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The future of the Church is in prayer and action.” There was now a library of joint work and statements by Anglicans, Lutherans, and others which ought to inform prayer and action together. The theological work that the two Churches had done was valuable, she said. Using the old terms: how might faith and order, and life and work, mesh together, she asked.

Unlike Fr Currer, however, she said that she was not afraid of pluralism or post-Modernism. The post-modern world had much to share: it helped Christians to engage in a critique of all systems that regarded themselves as self-contained. The process of deconstruction should be welcomed by Churches as well as other political and secular structures.

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