Episcopalians and Roman Catholics continue ecumenical dialogue

April 5, 2004

A meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA) was held at St. Paul's College in Washington, D.C., March 25-28, 2004. Roman Catholic Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco and Episcopal Bishop Ted Gulick of Kentucky co-chaired the official commission, which consists of scholars and ecumenically-committed clergy and laypersons, and meets twice each year.

After updates from the two communions, including discussions about the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and tensions in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion over the ordination of an openly gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire, the dialogue focused its attention on two ongoing projects--one on "Eucharist and Ministry" and the other on "Intermediate Levels of Authority" in the two churches.

The first, presented by Dr. Ruth Meyers from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and Professor Joanne Pierce from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, involved presenting the current draft of "God's Gift of Unity: A Study Guide for Episcopalians and Roman Catholics." The guide is designed to deepen understanding of shared faith traditions and denominational differences between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

It consists of five sessions, each 1 to 2 hours in length, including liturgical worship and Bible reflection, leading into discussions based on the participants' experiences of worship and study of particular rites and texts, including agreed statements from official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues. After further revision, the study guide will be tested in several local settings and then be made available, perhaps in 2005, for use in Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches.

The second ongoing project consists of a study of "Authority" in the two churches. Following an agreed statement on "Local and Universal Authority," the dialogue partners have turned their attention to focus on "Intermediate" (or "Regional") levels of authority. Dr. Ellen Wondra of Bexley Hall Seminary in Rochester, New York, and Professor Jon Nilson from Loyola University in Chicago are the primary drafters of the text. It treats, among other things, the provincial autonomy of the Anglican Communion and the centralized role of the Vatican in the Roman Catholic Church. Both structures involve tensions of various kinds, and participants said the mutual learning resulting from comparing and contrasting the two traditions has been extremely fruitful.

The 20-member commission gathered together for daily morning and evening prayer and the Eucharist celebrated each day, alternating the two traditions' rites. The next meeting is set for September 16-19, 2004 in Kansas City, Missouri.