«The Vision Before Us Compiled and Edited by Sarah Rowland Jones The Vision Before Us The Kyoto Report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on ...»
This book offers a record of some of the ways in which the Anglican Communion has responded to this imperative through the work of the InterAnglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER), which met for a week or so annually from 2000 to 2008. It carries the texts of all major decisions, resolutions, recommendations, statements and other IASCER documents, within a narrative account of IASCER’s work that offers some broader analysis of, and reflection on, our methodology and achievements. While primarily a report to the ACC’s fourteenth meeting, in Jamaica in May 2009, it also aims to serve as a resource for all who are interested in the Anglican approach to ecumenical relations, whether Anglicans working at international, provincial, diocesan or local level, our partners in the ecumenical journey, academics, or indeed anyone else who shares ‘the vision that rises before us’ of full visible unity, in which ‘all the treasures of faith and order, bequeathed as a heritage by the past to the present, shall be possessed in common, and made serviceable to the whole Body of Christ’.2 This chapter covers the genesis of the Commission, and records the evolution of its working methodology, and how this led to the fruits that are harvested here.
While Commission members own jointly the IASCER resolutions and other texts recorded in this volume, the narrative commentary and the personal reflections are mine, and for them I take full responsibility.
The Origins of IASCER The genesis of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations lies in the Lambeth Conference of 1998 and, before that, the tenth Part One • The Work of IASCER meeting of the ACC in Panama, in October 1996, since the ACC has within its Constitution a specific responsibility for ecumenism.
The Ecumenical Advisory Group (IASCER’s precursor) submitted to the ACC its first draft of the Agros Report,3 summarising ‘the richness and diversity of ecumenical life in the Anglican Communion’ so that, revised in the light of the ACC’s comments, it could be forwarded as a resource to the 1998 Lambeth Conference. In this report, the Ecumenical Advisory Group proposed that the Group be replaced by a standing commission with a new
and fuller mandate. The ACC endorsed this recommendation:
ACC-10 Resolution 16: Agros Report:
Replacement of the Ecumenical Advisory Group by an Inter-Anglican Standing Commission Resolved that this ACC endorses the proposal contained in the Agros Report that the Ecumenical Advisory Group be replaced by an InterAnglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations following the
Lambeth Conference, whose tasks would be:
a) to monitor and enable Anglican participation in multilateral and bilateral dialogues;
b) to monitor and encourage the process of reception, response and decision;
c) to ensure theological consistency in dialogues and conversations by reviewing local, regional and provincial proposals with ecumenical partners and when an agreement affects the life of the Communion as a whole, to propose, after consultation with the ACC and the Primates' Meeting, that the matter be brought to the Lambeth Conference before the Province votes to enter the new relationship;
d) to address issues of terminology; and
e) to facilitate the circulation of documents and ecumenical resources throughout the Communion.
This report and resolution then came before Lambeth 1998, and contributed to the comprehensive review of Anglicanism’s ecumenical vocation conducted by Section IV of the Conference, under the heading Called to Be One.4 More than twenty resolutions were passed as a result of the Section’s work (some of which are referred to in later chapters). These included an affirmation of the proposed commission, together with a summary
description of the work which the commentary within Called to Be One
proposed it might address:
Lambeth Conference 1998: Resolution IV.3: An Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations This Conference
a) while noting that expense will be involved, endorses the proposal of the Ecumenical Advisory Group, endorsed by the ACC-10 in Panama (Resolution 16), that the EAG be replaced by an InterAnglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations; and
b) proposes that the tasks of this Commission should be:
i. to monitor and enable Anglican participation in multilateral and bilateral dialogues, both regional and international ii. to monitor and encourage the process of response, decision and reception iii. to ensure theological consistency in dialogues and conversations by reviewing regional and provincial proposals with ecumenical partners and, when an agreement affects the life of the Communion as a whole, after consultation with the ACC, to refer the matter to the Primates' Meeting, and only if that Meeting so determines, to the Lambeth Conference, before the Province enters the new relationship iv. to give particular attention to anomalies which arise in the context of ecumenical proposals with a view to discerning those anomalies which may be bearable in the light of progress towards an agreed goal of visible unity, and to suggest ways for resolving them v. to consider, when appropriate, if and how an agreement made in one region or Province can be adopted in other regions or Provinces vi. to address issues of terminology vii. to facilitate the circulation of documents and ecumenical resources throughout the Communion, as far as possible in the languages of the Communion.
As a result, in Nassau on Advent Sunday 2000, Archbishop Drexel Gomez (as Chair) and Canon David Hamid, the Anglican Communion’s Director of Part One • The Work of IASCER Ecumenical Affairs (Secretary) sat down for the first time with some 14 of 15 appointees, to begin the work of IASCER.
Our Context We began our work guided by IASCER’s mandate, and the bishops’ report Called to Be One, which contained the relevant Lambeth Conference resolutions. The report had particularly highlighted ‘Consistency and Coherence – Response and Reception’ as an overarching concern across the proliferating bilateral and multilateral networks of ecumenical encounter, internationally and regionally. The challenge had come in many forms, and not only faced Anglicans. Many terms, particularly those such as ‘communion’ and ‘full communion’, were not being used in a consistent way.
Differences in use of terminology were sometimes the result of divergent visions of the unity being sought, or sometimes the opposite was true – a shared vision differently described. For example, it was clear that Anglican Lutheran regional dialogues launched in the 1990s in Europe and the USA were using very different language: the Porvoo Common Statement described a goal of visible unity entailing ‘agreements in faith with the common celebration of the sacraments, supported by a united ministry and forms of collegial conciliar consultation in matters of faith, life and witness’;
while the Episcopal – Lutheran Concordat looked towards ‘full communion’.
There needed to be clarity both over what we were seeking, and the language we used to express it.
Ensuring consistency between dialogues proved to be a challenge in other ways. Our relationships with each of our partners have a range of histories, some easier than others. Our partners also have their own particular characteristics, self-understandings, priorities and practices, and their own emphases in matters of faith and order. We needed to consider how far it was possible for the methodologies and focuses legitimately to vary among bilateral encounters, and how careful attention to context could help ensure underlying consistency. Similar close attention would also be required in the cross-reference to multilateral fora, for example where the World Council of Churches (WCC) had developed its own particular methodologies and language of operation.
Alongside these, there was a deeper challenge to Anglicans to consider consistency and coherence in the way we speak to our various partners. As recent years have shown, there are both strengths and weaknesses in the breadth of diversity that has characterised Anglicanism. On the plus side, this has enabled individual Anglicans to develop close affinities across almost the entire span of the global Christian family. (In one multilateral gathering, Part One • The Work of IASCER Anglicanism was described as ‘jam that holds the ecumenical sandwich together’.) However, while some might be on a close wavelength to the Roman Catholic Church, and others to Pentecostals, we needed to ask whether the two Anglican channels were compatible. We needed to ensure that in essence, the same message was being conveyed, even if through very different media.
Addressing our Ecumenical Life We began our first meeting with a long and thorough review of every Anglican bilateral international dialogue: its history, its achievements, its current state, its aspirations. We also reviewed dialogues with Churches in Communion, multilateral dialogues, regional dialogues, local ecumenical initiatives and relationships with Continuing Churches. We looked at what work might be required from IASCER to support and encourage a dialogue or relationship, or to further the reception of its achievements through the Communion. We considered what advice we might give, or what note of caution we needed to sound.
Alongside this review we began to develop lists of overarching issues to which we realised we needed to pay particular attention. Many of these became lasting themes running through the entire life of the Commission.
While, over subsequent years, we devoted the bulk of our time to the continuing review of dialogues (recorded in Chapters 7 to 10), it was the ongoing thematic work that prompted some of our deepest and most substantial reflection, much of which we attempted to summarise in various documents.
Themes in Ecumenism At the end of our first meeting we identified four key areas around which we needed to focus work, which, apart from minor amendment and change of emphasis, remained largely unaltered.
The first was the question of communion with and within the Anglican Communion, embracing such aspects as how one comes into communion with the Communion; the ability of the Communion as a whole to take decisions on ecumenical matters; the question of whether a relationship of communion of one Province had implications for other Provinces – the concept of ‘transitivity’, and the anomaly of parallel jurisdictions.
Part One • The Work of IASCER
Second was a related set of issues around communion and relationship, including the breadth of terminologies of full, partial and impaired communion.
A third cluster of concerns related to Holy Orders, including coherence in the expression of our understanding of ordination and of the three-fold ministry and, within this, particularly the nature of episcopacy and episcope, and of the diaconate.
Fourth came broad questions of Anglican identity and coherence of Anglican engagement in our ecumenical encounters (as well as coherence within other families of churches), and their implication for relations at international level as well as nationally or regionally.
Other, often related, thematic issues arose in subsequent meetings. Together they evolved into the four overarching topics which are addressed in Chapters 3 to 6: Communion, Baptism and Eucharist, Holy Orders, and Reception. ‘Reception’ refers to the broad area that is encapsulated in questions of how, as Anglicans, we pursue our ecumenical vocation as a worldwide Communion, and how we corporately take account of our ecumenical encounters and incorporate their fruits into our common life.
Anglican Identity Lying even more deeply than these themes was the question of what it is to be Anglican. If Anglicans were to talk with others, we realised that we needed a sense of clarity and confidence in our own identity and our own vocation as Anglicans. Ultimately, consistency and coherence with this selfunderstanding were required, even if we believed that Anglicanism in and of itself has no eschatological destiny other than being found within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. Nonetheless, we concluded that there is a distinctiveness and authenticity about our character which bears some reflection of the true Body of Christ, and which we would want to uphold and preserve of itself and in our relations with others – even if it given expression through the multiplicity of contexts in which Anglicans find themselves.
In 2003, the implications of Anglican diversity for ecumenical dialogue came more starkly into focus following the election and consecration as bishop in the Episcopal Church (TEC) of a priest in a committed same sex relationship.
IASCER’s membership ranged from those who were supportive of the consecration to others who were highly critical. The IASCER meeting that followed a few weeks after the consecration was particularly fraught with
Part One • The Work of IASCER
tensions that then ebbed and flowed through subsequent years, even as we negotiated ways of working together in and through our differences.
There were of course significant ecumenical consequences from the consecration (and it was generally to this, rather than to developments in Canada, that partners referred). Elements of these are considered in Chapter 12 together with the Anglican Covenant proposals and the Canon Law project.
Unity, Faith and Order In responding to ecumenical concerns, we found ourselves required to consider at an even more fundamental level the nature of Anglican identity.
Questions about whether we were a reliable and consistent partner overlay more basic doubts. As one ecumenical partner put it, ‘We no longer knew to whom we were speaking’. Beyond human sexuality, there were matters of ecclesiology and authority which became the primary issue in many of our relationships, and to which we also had to give consideration.