Dialogue with Roman Catholics focuses on authority in the church

April 2, 2002

The official dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholics, established in 1965, continued its discussion of authority in the church at its March 14-17 meeting in Menlo Park, California. It was hosted by Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco, Roman Catholic co-chair of the dialogue.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States (ARC-USA) discussed in detail the 1999 document “The Gift of Authority,” produced by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Members examined each paragraph of the document, identifying areas of progress and points that need further clarification. The document covers areas such as authoritative structures in the church, the role of bishops, clergy and laity in decision-making, and primacy.

Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church's deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations said, “We had a very candid discussion and were able to help our Roman Catholic colleagues appreciate even more fully the diversity within the Anglican Communion--and particularly the way authority is exercised communally in the Episcopal Church in somewhat different ways than in the Roman Catholic Church, or even the Church of England. This difference has a bearing on the way we approach certain sections of the document,” he said, adding that “we flagged certain areas for further exploration and dialogue.'

A session at the meeting looked at a progress report on the Eucharist and Ministry Project and the publication in the future of a study guide for use in both churches at the local level, prepared by Dr. Ruth Meyers and Prof. Joanne Pierce. The guide will outline the areas of agreement as well as areas of difference that need further discussion.

Participants also considered papers on inculturation and the American experience in relation to intermediate structures of authority in the two churches, with contributions by the Rev. George Tavard, the Rev. Michael Battle, the Rev. Robert Imbelli, and the Rev. Robert Prichard. Bishop Edwin Gulick, Episcopal co-chair of the consultation, reported on the first meeting of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission.

The September meeting of ARC-USA was cancelled because of the terrorist attacks but members expressed a determination to continue its dialogue work in the conviction that the most effective answer to terrorism is a united Christian witness in the service of peace and promotion of mutual respect and cooperation among the world’s religions.

The next meeting will be in Washington, DC, where the commission will continue its discussion of “The Gift of Authority,” as well as the Eucharist and Ministry Project and its study of inculturation.

Episcopal participants: Bishop Barry Howe, the Rev. Michael Battle, the Rev. Ruth Meyers, the Rev. Robert Prichard, the Rev. Ellen Wondra, Dr. Marsha Dutton, Dr. William Franklin and Prof. J. Robert Wright, serving as theological consultant. Staff in addition to Epting includes the Rev. Dirk Reinken, Sr. Sara Butler, Dr. Rozanne Elder, the Rev. Vince Heier and the Rev. David Veal.

'The Gift of Authority' is available on the web at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/office/ecumenical-and-interreligi...