Two of the six ecumenical guests attending the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting here said that tension over defining the Anglican Communion are not unexpected, are similar to challenges they face and do not threaten their partnerships with Anglicans.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse told reporters on May 9 that "the strains and stresses that you are experiencing in the communion" are not damaging to Anglicans' relationship with the Lutheran World Federation, which he represents.
"Most of us that are engaged ecumenically recognize that many of those issues are being experienced and struggled with right across the spectrum," he said. "This is not a debate that is particularly Anglican. All Christian communities are dealing with these issues. I think an honest recognition [of that] is something that we need.â
Orthodox Metropolitan Nikitas told reporters at the same briefing that "tension is not always bad," invoking the arguments in the Acts of the Apostles during which Peter and Paul initially differ on how to determine the ground rules for admitting Gentiles into the church. "It brought about results and answers to the questions of the church," he said.
Pryse said that the Lutheran federation "is going through a very similar process of trying to define what it means to be churches in communion with one another."
Lutheran and Anglicans share much common history, theology and liturgy, Pryse said. "I recognize a great deal of likeness in terms of the issues that are being discussed, the challenges that are being faced," he added.
"I believe that all efforts to bring God's people together are God-pleasing, and certainly the Anglican Communion has shown great, great leadership in doing that and we as Lutherans have benefited very much from the life of the communion."
Nikitas said that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whom he represented at the meeting, "believes that the Anglicans must work out their own issues and while they may look to us for some hints and some guidance and, perhaps, some understanding on some levels, that the Anglicans -- amongst themselves -- must come to a complete and full understanding of who they are and what is best for them."
Being in partnership means accepting diversity, Nikitas said. "Partners are not always the same. They have their expressions, their own understandings, perhaps even a different vision at times, but a partnership is a relationship of building," he said.
"When you suffer, when you are wounded, we bleed," he said. "It is not only you who suffer and you who are wounded and you who bleed; the rest of us who are part of the Christian kingdom -- the church -- also suffer and bleed with you, because we want to see a body that is healed, a body that is whole and, of course, a body that is one."
As part of the result of a number of sessions spent discussing ecumenical issues, the ACC passed a resolution on May 11 that
- endorsed the four principles of Anglican engagement in ecumenism as outlined [details below] in the 256-page "The Vision Before Us" report of the Anglican Communion's ecumenical work by hearing a summary of the report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER);
- welcomed the report's resolutions about baptism and Eucharist [details below], and urges their adoption throughout the communion;
- reaffirmed the report's guidelines for ecumenical participation in ordinations;
- requested that the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the primates commission a review of the processes for receiving ecumenical texts (which often outline common understandings of sacraments and other aspects of theology);
- welcomed the continuing dialogues with Old Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist entities;
- looked forward to the commissioning of the next phase of Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), and the resumption the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) and the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue (ICAOTD);
- urged resumption of the work of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission; and
- commended to the communion's provinces for study and response ICAOTD's "The Church of the Triune God" and "Growing Together in Unity and Mission" from IARCCUM, asking for a response by June 2010 for consideration by the subsequent meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order.
The summary of the four principles of Anglican engagement in ecumenism included in the resolution is:
- The Goal: the full organic unity of the church;
- The Task: recognizing and receiving the church in one another;
- The Process: unity by stages; and
- The Content: common faith, sacraments and ministry.
Resolutions on baptism and Eucharist in "The Vision Before Us" include ones that:
- note "with grave concern" the practice of inviting non-baptized persons, "including members of non-Christian traditions," to take communion, saying that the practice violates the canons of the provinces and undermines ecumenical dialogues; and
- criticize the proposed practice in the Diocese of Sydney to allow lay people and deacons to preside at Eucharist, saying that the practice "would be departing from the doctrine of the ministry as Anglicans have recognized it, and from the practice of the undivided church."
In addition to Nikitas and Pryse, four other ecumenical representatives participated in most of the sessions of the ACC's May 2-12 meeting, including Monsignor Mark Langham of the Roman Catholic Church, Harald Rein of the Old Catholics, the Rev. Dr. John Gibaut and Paul Gardner of the World Council of Churches. Following a trend begun at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, ecumenical partners have been invited to the ACC not as guests but as members who are able to participate in Bible studies, prayer, worship and speak on the matters before the council.
The 40-year-old ACC is the communion's most representative decision-making body and includes bishops, clergy and laity. While it has no jurisdiction over the provinces of the communion, it makes policy, approves the Anglican Communion Office's budget and encourages the communion's members to engage together in mission and ministry. The Anglican Communion is made up of around 77 million members in 44 regional and national churches around the globe in 164 countries.
Previous ENS coverage of the ACC meeting is available here.
Video clips from the meeting can be found here.