BUILDING ON FORTY YEARS OF DIALOGUE

The New York Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue, with participants from the Archdiocese of New York and the Episcopal Diocese of New York, has chosen as its dialogue topic for 2012, the International Anglican-Roman-Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission report Growing Together in Unity and Mission: Building on 40 Years of Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue. It is an agreed statement by IARCCUM published on October 6, 2006 with an introduction of its co-chairs Archbishop John Bathersby (Roman Catholic from Brisbane) and Bishop David Beetge (Anglican from Highveld, South Africa).

After the conclusion of the work of ARCIC I (Final Report) and ARCIC II (Other Issues), IARCCUM believed and expressed a desire to spell out the new level of understanding and communion which had been achieved by the churches during the forty years since the first meeting of the dialogue at Malta in 1970.

Unfortunately, IARCCUM had to confess that because of matters which had intervened in recent years, including the ordination of women as bishops in the Church of England and some Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and the ordination of a practicing homosexual to the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in the United States, IARCCUM did not judge it appropriate to declare the “new level of communion” at this time.

The document begins with a summary of the achievements of the ARCIC Dialogues and where the churches are today. Using the methodology of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), prepared by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic International Dialogue, IARCCUM states the points of agreement on matters of doctrine, and in “boxes” it gives Anglican and Roman Catholic positions which differ and will therefore require further work and study for consensus.

The New York dialogue believes this is an excellent document, much like the Harvesting of Fruits of Cardinal Walter Kasper which it studied previously. ARCNY is hoping to make a report and suggestions to the respective authorities at the conclusion of its work during this calendar year.

The Good News
The good news about the International Report and the status of the churches is that the dialogue continues and the goal of full communion remains the goal of the work at hand. The realistic picture (the bad news, if you prefer) is that obstacles preventing further progress are very real and dialogue will be both necessary and difficult. Paul D. Murray, a participant in the newly formed ARCIC III indicated in his article in One in Christ, a British ecumenical publication (sub-titled: The Need for a Gear-Change) that participants agree “receptive ecumenism”, i.e. seeking to learn what we can from each other rather than the more academic approach which led to the JDDJ document, would be more productive. This would suggest that each side try to learn from each other’s experience.

Work and Prayer
Again, the need for prayer, work and willingness to walk together seeking God’s will and God’s way becomes imperative. There is no easy way of building trust and respect for others and to earn it from them. And yet without an honest exchange of views and an effort to move to common ground and a new direction on all sides, there may be many words but little forward movement.

(This article appeared in the Parish Bulletin of St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church, New York, NY on April 1, 2012.)