Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in U.S. Releases Statement on the Church

July 1, 2003

(ENS) The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the USA issued on November 15 its thirteenth joint statement, an Agreed Report on the Local/Universal Church. The report is a review of the status of the discussion between Anglicans and Catholics on the general topic of authority in the church and specifically in regard to the exercise of authority in the church.

In June 1996, ARC-USA agreed to begin a lengthy study of the church on how authority in exercised in both the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. In four subsequent meetings, members of the U. S. dialogue prepared this agreed report to serve as an initial statement in their study.

ARC-USA's last meeting was in Baltimore, March 11-14, 1999, at which time members had agreed to specific revisions of their common text. A draft was then circulated by mail, and members had a final opportunity to suggest changes.

In the report the members of the dialogue agree on the definitions of the key terms of the study, summarize the current Anglican-Roman Catholic consensus on the relationship between the local church and the universal church, and then list areas where more discussion is needed, namely, the requirements for full communion, primacy and the bishop of Rome, the balance between the local and the universal church, and episcopacy and apostolicity.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics most often use the term "diocese" to refer to the local church, and that is how ARC-USA uses the term in this report. Anglicans and Roman Catholics also agree that the universal church is more than an aggregate of local churches, that the local church and the universal church are fully interdependent, and that proper balance between the two is necessary. It is on the question of "balance" between the local church and the universal church that differences arise between Anglicans and Catholics, and these need to be explored further.

ARC-USA will begin to take up these differences at its next meeting in January at Marywood Center in Jacksonville. They will begin with the relationships between the Anglican Communion and the independent provinces-for example the Episcopal Church- which constitute that communion, and the relationship between national Catholic episcopal conferences, one expression of collegiality among bishops in the Roman Catholic Church, and the universal church.

At their January meeting they will also begin their study of the recently released agreed statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, The Gift of Authority. This statement, also titled "Authority III," referring back to two previous agreed statements of ARCIC, also takes up the topic of the exercise of the authority in the church and concludes by naming certain "advances in agreement" and raises specific issues facing Anglicans and Catholics.

"The report of ARC-USA represents a placeholder for us on our dialogue with the Episcopal Church from which we can measure our understandings of full communion and the exercise of authority in the church," stated Bishop John J. Snyder of St. Augustine, Catholic Co-Chairman of the dialogue. Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky is the Anglican Co-Chairman.

"We know that the general topic of authority is the remaining one from the original three areas (Eucharist and Ministry and Ordination), identified by those who planned the formal dialogues, where consensus has yet to be achieved; and our statement is a first step for the dialogue in the United States and should be studied also in light of The Gift of Authority," Bishop Snyder said.

ARC-USA was founded in 1965 and is co-sponsored by the Standing Commission for Ecumenical Relations of the Episcopal Church and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Two volumes of ARC-USA agreements and other ARC agreed texts, including those of the international commission, have been published: Called to Full Unity: Documents on Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations 1966-1983 (1986) and Common Witness to the Gospel: Documents on Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations 1983-1995 (1997).