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Conscious, therefore, of the ongoing work on the nature of communion as shared by Anglicans, and the continuing development of a draft Anglican Covenant, IASCER did not attempt definitive recommendations in many of the areas outlined above. Rather the aim became to bring greater clarity from
Part Two - Communion
an ecumenical perspective to the underlying questions and to the issues at stake within them, and to draw these to the attention of those concerned with the debate within Anglicanism. Through this IASCER hoped to share insights that might be of value and ensure that wider understandings of the nature of communion within the whole Body of Christ were appropriately taken into account in internal Anglican debate (see also Chapter 12, on Developments within the Anglican Communion).
In attempting to consider the fundamental issues around ‘communion’ in relation to our ecumenical vocation it is helpful to begin with Principle 94 of The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican
Principle 94: Ecclesial communion
1. Ecclesial communion between two or more churches exists when a relationship is established in which each church believes the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith and recognises the apostolicity of the other.
2. Full communion involves the recognition of unity in faith, sacramental sharing, the mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries, and the reciprocal enjoyment of shared spiritual, pastoral, liturgical and collegial resources.
3. Inter-communion is an ecclesial relationship in which at least one but not all of the elements of full communion is present.
4. Churches in communion become interdependent but remain autonomous.
5. The relationship of communion does not require the acceptance of all theological opinion, sacramental devotion or liturgical practice characteristic of another church.
This reflects the dominant historic usage of these terms. Those wanting to enter into new agreements, and desiring to refer in some way to ‘communion’ should be guided by these principles, though they should also recognise that terms such as ‘inter-communion’ are rarely used today. Furthermore, within recent agreements, IASCER encouraged references to communion to be contextualised by acknowledgements that full visible unity of the Church remains the goal of ecumenical endeavours, and that this still remains to be further pursued.
The Waterloo Declaration, between Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada (text available through www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/ecumenical/) is a good
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example of such language, as is the Porvoo Declaration, between Anglicans and Lutherans in Northern Europe.
Where agreements give rise to a relationship of [full] communion, care should still be taken in the use of language. IASCER members expressed unhappiness at the tendency of some to speak of ‘the Porvoo Communion’, rather than ‘the Porvoo Churches’, as a loose shorthand for the relationship under this Agreement. The degree of interdependent autonomy between these partners (as in The Principles of Canon Law 94:4) is far greater than that between member Churches of the Anglican Communion.
Historically it has generally been assumed that in order to be in communion with the entire Anglican Communion it was sufficient to be in communion with the See of Canterbury. Yet in Resolution 67 of the 1948 Lambeth Conference, the 1931 agreement in Bonn ‘between representatives of the Anglican Communion and of the Old Catholic Churches’ is recorded as having ‘resulted in the establishment of a state of intercommunion between the Old Catholic Churches and certain Churches of the Anglican Communion’. The Conference recommended ‘that this agreement be considered by those Churches of the Anglican Communion which have not yet considered it’. Evidently, the situation then was already more complex than before. As Called to Be One pointed out, it is now the case that ‘the juridical autonomy of the Churches of the Anglican Communion means that each Church has finally to make its own decisions about entering into a relationship of communion’. (The difficulties of taking decisions ‘as the Anglican Communion’, that are implicit here, are considered further in Chapter 6, Reception.) The consequence of this appears to be that for any church to come into communion with the whole Anglican Communion would require a separate decision from each Anglican member Church. If a partner wished actually to join the Anglican Communion, then it would be necessary as a minimum to take into account the Constitution of the ACC, and its schedule of membership, amendment of which requires assent of two thirds of the Primates (Article 3.a). But whether more is required in terms of agreement from each member Church of the Communion is unclear.
This is an area requiring more work than IASCER was able to complete during its mandate. It might prove illuminating to research the details of how each of those ecclesial partners known as the Churches in Communion were deemed to have acquired such a status, and to compare this with what may be parallel, if distinct, processes, by which the Spanish Reformed Episcopal
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Church and the Lusitanian Church in Portugal came into membership of the Communion.
The Principles of Canon Law sheds limited light on the ambiguities between how a relationship of communion and membership of the Communion is seen in canon law. Principle 10.4, on the Fellowship of the Anglican Communion, says ‘The relationship of ecclesial communion within the Anglican Communion is based on the communion of a church with one or more of the following: (a) the See of Canterbury; (b) the Church of England; (c) all the Churches of the Anglican Communion; (d) all churches in communion with the See of Canterbury; or (e) all churches which profess the apostolic faith as received within the Anglican tradition.’ Yet it is possible to fulfill all these criteria, as the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht did (prior to the Porvoo Agreement, which then excluded (d)), and not be a member of the Communion itself.
Where an ecumenical partner does come into a relationship of communion with one or more member Churches of the Communion, various anomalies arise.
First, as the bishops of the 1998 Lambeth Conference noted, given our particular self-understanding as a family of Churches, it is anomalous for other churches to be in communion with some Provinces but not others.
However, it is a consequence of provincial juridical autonomy that there is in these circumstances no ‘transitivity’ (as IASCER has come to term it). This has, for example, given rise to various incongruities in relations between Anglicans and Lutherans around the world. Thus, while it would be possible for a Lutheran presbyter from the Church in Sweden to be licensed to the Church of England's Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, that person's ministry would not be accepted by the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, even though the Convocation would accept a presbyter from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). An ELCA presbyter, in turn, would not be recognised by the Church of England. Anglicans and Lutherans in other parts of the world have also expressed frustration that they cannot directly benefit from agreements reached elsewhere by better resourced Provinces, but are expected to pursue their own local dialogues. This is an area requiring further consideration.
A second anomaly results from the parallel jurisdiction of bishops that arises where coterminous churches come into relationships of communion. This is, strictly speaking, incompatible with our understanding that the full visible unity of the Church will find expression through all the people of God in one place gathered round their bishop in one eucharistic fellowship (see the first
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Principle of Anglican Engagement in Ecumenism, Chapter 2). This is already a longstanding challenge within the Anglican Communion in places like mainland Europe where there are bishops of the Church of England, the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, the Lusitanian Church in Portugal and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church. Ecumenical agreements further complicate the picture. Thus, through the Bonn Agreement, all these Anglican jurisdictions are fully in communion with the bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. Now, through the Porvoo Agreement, there is additional overlapping jurisdiction between its Lutheran members and the Church of England bishops. The same is true elsewhere where there are agreements of ‘full communion’. This shows how such reconciled diversity can only be a temporary step on the journey to greater unity. Where it is unclear that there is a commitment to move forward in this way, the bearability of the anomaly is brought into question.
The concept of transitivity raises other ecumenical questions. IASCER had to consider whether, where one partner has a relationship of communion with a second, who in turn has a similar relationship with a third, there are any implications for relations directly between the first and third partners. In general IASCER tended to conclude that there is no such transitivity, but nonetheless recommended sensitive handling. When Canon David Hamid, the Anglican Communion Office’s former Director of Ecumenical Relations, was consecrated as a suffragan bishop in the Church of England’s Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, the Old Catholic Churches, in accordance with longstanding practice, were invited to send a bishop to participate – but so too were the Lutheran partner churches of the recent Porvoo Agreement. Yet the Old Catholics were not in communion with these Lutherans, and did not recognise their episcopal ministry, and so were faced with the question of whether participation might imply some tacit recognition. After some discussion, it was felt that there was no element of transitivity, and all participated together.
That said, presuming a lack of transitivity requires that we should still strive for coherence between the various relationships into which we enter.
IASCER was strongly of the view that commitments made to one partner must be compatible with commitments made to others, and commended that care be taken with the increase in potential complications as the number of agreements of ‘communion’ grew.
Different aspects of transitivity are pertinent where a church is invited to align itself with some form of agreement already reached between other parties. Sometimes it is clear within the shared text that, for example, a relationship of communion can be extended to include others (as has been Part Two • Communion done with the Porvoo Agreement and the Anglican Churches of the Iberian peninsula). Alternatively, it may be that an agreement has been reached as the result of a very particular process of reconciliation and, where others have not been party either to the historic differences or to the journey of healing, assenting to shared conclusions may not always be appropriate. (In this way, as recorded in Chapter 8, IASCER felt it was appropriate that Anglicans should welcome the Lutheran - Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and affirm its substance, but not ‘sign up’ to it.) Other aspects of our koinonia within the Body of Christ remain on the table for further consideration. IASCER’s work on Holy Orders, particularly the episcopate, underlines the importance of communion in time, as well as space. We should not forget the diachronic as well as synchronic dimension.
Other issues arise. One is what IASCER termed ‘ecclesial density’, that is, the extent to which a Christian community possesses sufficient characteristics, or ‘critical mass’, to be regarded as a fully-fledged church, and as a partner in ecumenical dialogue. While not attempting to define this closely, IASCER noted the importance of the marks indicated in the ChicagoLambeth Quadrilateral, or, at least, commitment to the common faith of the historic Church, a rule of faith, an established ordained ministry, and willingness and intentionality to move towards the full visible unity of the Church. Size and geographical presence may also be significant when it comes to deciding the level and nature of a dialogue. In this way, for example, the Anglican Communion has looked to the Anglican Church in Southern Africa to take the lead in conversations with the Ethiopian Episcopal Church.
It is evident that much work remains to be done in this complex area. Setting faith and order alongside church unity within a single mandate should allow IASCUFO to conduct a mutually beneficial dialogue between what it means to live in communion with one another in the Anglican Communion, and our exploration of the challenge of this vocation within the wider Body of Christ.
4. Baptism and Eucharist The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, in its third point, underlines the importance of ‘the two Sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of our Lord – ministered with the unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him’ as one of the bases upon which we can build ecumenical relations and pursue Christian unity (see Chapter 2).
Both Baptism and Eucharist have been at the heart of important IASCER discussions. Resolution 3.08 reaffirmed the Quadrilateral’s insistence that Baptism be unfailingly administered ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. As noted in Chapter 2, this is vital not only in itself, but in that mutual recognition of Baptism is the fundamental first step of mutual recognition within the Body of Christ. While it may be acceptable in certain other circumstances to use alternative trinitarian formulae (such as ‘in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer’), such substitution is not acceptable within the context of Baptism. The Quadrilateral similarly upholds the unfailing use in the Eucharist of the elements ordained by Christ.
IASCER addressed the discussion on this within the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation in its Decision 17.01 and Resolution 11.06 - see Chapter 11.