Independent Catholic News logo Welcome Visitor
Monday, February 27, 2017
Text: Bishop Hollis lecture on the Mississauga Initiative
Comment Email Print
 Bishop Crispian Hollis gave the following Fourth John Coventry memorial Lecture on Sunday. The Mississauga Initiative and its significance for the path of Roman Catholic and Anglican Unity. Introduction In my experience, communities and organisations often define themselves almost unconsciously by the ways in which they describe their view of their environment and the surroundings in which they live and work. The Association of Interchurch Families is no exception. I was particularly struck by the following words, which I found in the Preparatory paper, which is part of the documentation for your Congress in Rome later this year. "Interchurch families are by definition bridge-builders. They are concerned not to cause scandal (in the deepest sense of turning others from the way of faith), but to work in harmony with the ministers and congregations where they worship, in response to Christ's prayer that they all may be one. They often find themselves therefore in the tension between the 'already' of the unity of their domestic church and the 'not yet' of the continuing separation of the two church communities of which they are members." You see yourselves, rightly in my view, at the cutting edge of the ecumenical enterprise, driven by a holy impatience while, at the same time, living and experiencing in your own hearts that longing for unity, a unity, which deeply respects and values what the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs describes as "the dignity of difference." I am delighted to be with you today and I feel especially honoured that you should have invited me to give this 4th John Coventry Memorial Lecture. I did not know John well but I knew enough about him to know and appreciate what a significant contribution he made to the ecumenical debate in these islands and beyond, and I know, of course, of his particular commitment to the work of your Association. Some may have been tempted to think him something of a maverick or "loose canon". I prefer to think of him as something of a prophet. He was always deeply immersed in the Catholic tradition and he always called us to be faithful to our traditions and to our roots. At the same time, he probed and challenged all who would listen to question any interpretation of our tradition, which simply locked us into the past. He was a constant searcher for new and creative ways of recognising the fundamentals of our Christian faith, so many of which we share today. I believe that he would have warmly welcomed the Mississauga initiative of which I will be speaking to you today. He would have rejoiced to hear of what has been proposed and I suspect he would have badgered, pestered and challenged us to implement the hopes and proposals as fully and as quickly as we could. Mississauga and all that led up to it So, what then of Mississauga? Are its initiatives new? Is it advocating things of which we haven't heard before? I think not. The emphases may be new but the basic thrusts are ones with which our churches have been living and struggling for the last 40 or so years. Much of what Mississauga advocates is already to be found in the official record of the first post-Conciliar dialogue which took place between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church and which comes to us in the so-called Malta Report of 1968. And this, of course, did not come out of the blue but was a direct consequence of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism and a historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1966. Subsequent meetings of an Anglican-Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission took place in 1967, which in turn led to the Malta Report of 1968. This Report, built on the Common Declaration between Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI, affirmed "with great thankfulness our common faith in God our Father, in Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit; our common baptism in the one Church of God; our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the Chalcedonian definition and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many centuries with its living traditions of liturgy, theology, spirituality, Church order and mission." The Report went on to encourage joint meetings between Bishops, constant consultation concerning common problems, agreements over the sharing of facilities for theological education and the temporary exchange of students in formation for ordination. It spoke of the fostering of common prayer and the appropriate exchange of pulpits as well as joint or parallel statements from Church leaders on matters of common concern and witness. We are still struggling with many of these recommendations, not all of which have yet seen the light of day, but perhaps the most important outcome of Malta 1968 was the definitive establishment of the ARCIC process which has so enriched the dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church, a dialogue which has achieved much and which is still ongoing today. If Malta was sketching and outlining the future agenda for the dialogue, Mississauga has been able to draw on those forty rich years of growth, which have flowed from the initiatives it proposed. Like Malta, Mississauga is looking to the future but it does so in the light of much common endeavour, common prayer and richly developed and good relationships. Mississauga 2000 The Mississauga meeting took place in 2000 and was convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Cassidy, who was then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the Unity of Christians. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the current President of the Pontifical Council, was also present. Mississauga is near Toronto in Canada and the gathering was made up of Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops, paired and from 13 different countries. The meeting, as the official report describes it, "was grounded in prayer and marked by a profound atmosphere of friendship and spiritual communion." It was not my privilege to be a participant in the meeting but many of those with whom I am now involved in dialogue were and it is very clear that this occasion was both very moving for all who took part and full of significance for the future. The overriding purpose of the meeting was to address "the imperative for Christian reconciliation and healing, in a broken and divided world." There was a growing realisation of both the degree of spiritual communion uniting the participants and, conversely, the pain of being unable to share fully in the Eucharist. There was record of the immense amount of interchurch collaboration, which now exists, in particular in the field of common action for social justice and joint pastoral care. There was an even clearer recognition of the problems, caused by our disunity, to the mission of the Church and the proclamation of the Gospel. This led the participants to "feel compelled to affirm that our communion together is no longer to be viewed in minimal terms. We have been able to discern that it is not just formally established by our common baptism into Christ, but is even now a rich and life-giving, multifaceted communion." Whilst acknowledging that there are as yet many unresolved differences and challenges, which affect both Communions, the final document went on to say, "we believe these challenges are not to be compared with all that we hold in common. The communion constituted by what we already share has within it a dynamic which, animated by the Holy Spirit, impels us forward toward the overcoming of these differences. Indeed, we have become conscious that we have embraced what may be described, not only as a new era of friendship and co-operation, but also as a new stage of 'evangelical koinonia'. By this we mean a communion of joint commitment to our common mission in the world. The final communiqué then goes on to spell out the way ahead. "We believe that now is the appropriate time for the authorities of our two communions to recognise and endorse this new stage through the signing of a Joint Declaration of Agreement. This agreement would set out: our shared goal of visible unity; an acknowledgement of the consensus of faith we have reached, and a fresh commitment to share together in common life and witness. Our two Communions would be invited to celebrate this Agreement around the world." After Mississauga The recommendations that followed the final statement are now in process of being implemented. They include the establishment of a Joint Commission, of which I am now a member and which has given the world a new ecumenical acronym IARCCUM The International Anglican/Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. The work of this Commission is "to oversee the preparation of the Joint Declaration of Agreement, and promote and monitor the reception of the ARCIC agreements, as well as facilitate the development of strategies for translating the degree of spiritual communion that has been achieved into visible and practical outcomes. IARCCUM The IARCCUM Commission is made up of Bishops drawn from both Communions and appointed by the central authorities of both Communions. The co-chairs are Archbishop John Bathersby, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, and Bishop David Beetge, the Anglican Bishop of the Highveld in South Africa. There are four more Bishops on each side and they represent the worldwide nature of both communions, coming as they do from Australia, Nigeria, Hong Kong, the United States, Ireland and England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is represented as is also the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and there are expert theological consultants from both sides, including two women. The first meeting took place in November 2001. It started with a day of prayer at Lambeth Palace, combining with a meeting with Archbishop George Carey, after which we transferred to Rome to begin our discussions and meet with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Kasper. The Commission met again last November, appropriately in Malta, where we lodged in the same Retreat House Mount St Joseph's that hosted the meeting that produced the Malta Report of 1968. In line with the mandate we have been given by Mississauga, our work divides in three ways and we are grouped into three sub commissions. The Malta meeting saw the work of those three sub commissions beginning to emerge and take shape. One group, of which I am a member is concerning itself with the drafting of the Joint Declaration of Agreement we were particularly helped and encouraged by the assiduous and penetrating comments on our first draft by Cardinal Kasper who attended the Malta meeting for a couple of days. The second group is concerned with the reception, promotion and monitoring of the existing ARCIC documents and is responding to the feeling within the Commission that the focus at this stage should be on growth in mutual understanding and study, rather than the process of formal response. The third subgroup concentrated on visible and practical outcomes of spiritual communion with proposals for pastoral and practical strategies to help both Communions in the present stage of real but imperfect communion. This group also gave special attention to the question of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations in Africa where there are large numbers of both denominations. It is clear from what has been said to us by both Communions that IARCCUM is not a permanent Commission, at least not in its present form. It has a particular mandate, which I have already outlined and we have given ourselves a provisional timetable. As you will understand, much of the work goes on outside the plenary meetings, and all the subgroups will be hoping to be able to make substantial reports at the next plenary in Ireland in June of this year. The meeting after that will be held in Hong Kong in February 2004. The timetable Hopefully, the summer's work will produce a final draft of the Joint Declaration, which will need further fine tuning and further group meetings. Our dearest wish, however, is that the final final version will be ready for the Hong Kong meeting in February 2004. I have no doubt that further fine-tuning will be required but we hope to have a document to present to both Communions for informal consultation by Easter of 2004. Once further revisions have been made, the final Joint Declaration will be formally presented to the highest consultative processes of both Communions. We have always kept the Lambeth Conference of 2008 as a very significant date and, who knows, that Conference might see the formal acceptance of the Joint Declaration, followed by its signing and celebration at the highest level within the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. We are under no illusions that the way to achieving and completing our mandate will be anything but slow and demanding. We hope to be able to produce quite precise expressions of agreement in major matters that we hold in common, but, at the same time, we will need to acknowledge those areas where there is still considerable work to be done. The group, which is working on the promotion and study of the already agreed statements of ARCIC I and II, is also facing a daunting task. It was noted that the experience of many of the bishops, who met at Mississauga, was that they were quite unfamiliar with the work of ARCIC and its achievements. If that is true for bishops, how much more will it be true for the faithful of both communions? "Reception" is therefore going to be a major challenge if the eventual Joint Declaration is to be in any way rooted in the life and practice of the Christian people who form our Communions. Prayer for Unity The whole process has to be accompanied by prayer because that goes hand in hand with the ongoing search for doctrinal unity. Ecumenical awareness and activity cannot be separated from prayer and ongoing conversion. It is difficult, therefore, to exaggerate the importance of the work of our third working group. As Cardinal Kasper has written, "pre-eminence among all ecumenical activities belongs to spiritual ecumenism." If the pace of the ecumenical movement seems to some to have slowed down, then it may be because we have ceased to hold on to the priority of prayer in our work of dialogue. The Cardinal writes, " we can say that it is not more ecumenical activism and action that is required but more ecumenical spirituality." He goes on to write in the same article that "we need new ecumenical enthusiasm. This does not mean devising unrealistic utopias of the future. Patience is the little sister of Christian hope. Instead of staring at the impossible and chafing against it, we have to live the already given and possible communion, and do what is possible today. By advancing in this way, step-by-step, with the help of God's Spirit, who is always ready with surprises, we will find the way towards a better future. In this sense, we hear again the Lord's invitation: 'Put out into deep waters!' (Luke 5:4) The way ahead Like the Malta Report of 1968, Mississauga proposed an action plan to move us on. The difference between the two lies in the fact that, whereas Malta came at the beginning of the formal ecumenical process between our two Communions, Mississauga comes on the back of and as a result of the considerable work of ARCIC I and II. As a result of that process of dialogue not yet finished - substantial agreement has been reached in crucial areas, such as the Eucharist, Ministry, Authority, the Moral Life, Justification and, still in the discussion and drafting stage, the place of Mary in our respective traditions. The Joint Declaration is going to be an important marker on our ecumenical journey, but we do not have to wait until it is signed and received by our Churches. Work can begin, or continue to flourish where it has already begun. Mississauga calls for joint meetings between bishops, for common prayer, for concerted joint initiatives in the world in the world of social action, justice and peace. We have a common view of the rights and dignity of the human person and we are united in the many areas of challenge that face us in public life today. It is not, therefore, a question of waiting for the Declaration to begin this process of convergence. The process is already at work and is moving forward. It now needs new impetus, new enthusiasm and new life. The following up and implementation of the work of Mississauga is what we need now to move us forward. None of this will necessarily be easy or straightforward. There is hard work, much prayer and an even greater commitment ahead of us if we are to play our proper part in the great ecumenical enterprise. It may come more quickly than we think and in unexpected ways, for as Cardinal Kasper suggested in his closing words at Mississauga, "in our ecumenical efforts, we should keep in mind that one day we will rub our eyes and be surprised by the new things that God has achieved in his Church." We have a vision of what can be; we know, without a shadow of doubt, what is the Lord's prayer for the company of His disciples; We hear His call to us to be one. Mississauga has been an important step in our ecumenical journey and it challenges both our Communions to renew our trust in God "whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen." Conclusion I simply want to end by saying that it has been an enormous privilege for me to be involved in this crucial dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. I was not part of the Mississauga process but the enthusiasm and commitment that flowed from that meeting has made its way very significantly into IARCCUM and it is infectious! I am optimistic about the outcome of our dialogue and I believe that, in God's time perhaps not ours the unity for which the Lord prayed so earnestly will come to pass. When that day comes, many like yourselves, who live in the midst of all the tensions and promise of the ecumenical journey, will be seen to have played a very important part. You, who have committed your Christian lives and work to the achieving of the unity of Christ's Church, will be richly rewarded. Never lose heart because the Lord is on our side and "if God is for us, who can be against us?"
Share:  Bookmark and Share
Tags: None

Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: