Instead of asking what other denominations might learn from our beliefs, we must begin to ask how we might receive practical wisdom from the way other denominations have faced difficulties within their communions.
Receptive ecumenism was the over-riding theme of discussion at the latest meeting of the Anglican Roman Catholic Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand (AARCANZ), held at Mercy Centre on 4-6 October.
Roman Catholic priest and long-time member of the conference, Fr. Paul Williamson SM, explained that because of confusion surrounding the study, even abuse, of Scripture, a Synod of Bishops gathered to consider the Word in the liturgy and life of the Church which was later published by Benedict XVI as the Apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini.
Anglican Archbishop David Moxon recognized Verbum Domini as an opportunity for receptive ecumenism. He spoke of Anglicanism’s own challenges with interpreting the Scriptures relating to major decision-making over several contemporary questions, including human sexuality, which has prompted an Anglican international study of The Bible in the Life of the Church. As chair of that project and as co-chair, with Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, of the third Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III), Archbishop Moxon will propose that the two documents be studied side by side.
Ecumenism may have begun in the 1960s and 70s with unrealistic aspirations of hastened structural unity, the members of ARCCANZ agreed, but the present-day ecumenical winter of decreased interest and commitment need not be the last word.
The parallel study of Catholicism’s Verbum Domini and Anglicanism’s The Bible in the Life of the Church may well be a model of a new receptive ecumenism, of how each communion can learn from the other.
A report back on ARCIC III and a renewed interest by both communions in the Lectio divina and will be the themes of the next bi-annual meeting of ARCCANZ to be held at the Anglican retreat center of Vaughan Park on 9-10 March 2012.
While a student at Oxford University in the late 1970s, David J. Moxon visited a chapel service and asked a fellow student, Bernard Longley, for directions.
Now David J. Moxon, one of three archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Bernard Longley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, England, are co-chairmen of the Anglican-Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).
Moxon said he and Archbishop Longley see a contemporary message in that memory from their college years: In ecumenism, two great communions of the Church offer mutual guidance to each other.
Pope John Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey established ARCIC with a joint statement in 1967. ARCIC’s first two rounds of work occurred in 1970-81 and 1983-2005. The commission began its third round of meetings at the Monastery of Bose, Italy, May 17-27.
The commission issued a communiqué May 27 that said its future work will be guided by “receptive ecumenism,” a concept discussed in the book Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism (2008), edited by ARCIC member and Durham University theology professor Paul D. Murray.
“This is ecumenism not primarily as a task of convincing the other; but as a task of conversion; a task of asking how in the face of the other we are being called to conversion out of ways that are frustrating our flourishing, and into a deeper abundance of life, a deeper quality of catholicity,” Murray told Anglican Communion News Service.
“We’re basically saying that what unites us is greater than what divides us,” Archbishop Moxon said in an interview with THE LIVING CHURCH.
The archbishop said the commission held an informal discussion about the Ordinariate, which members regard as a pastoral response to requests made of the Vatican for 40 years. The commission also held an informal, information-sharing session about the proposed Anglican Covenant.
“It was cautiously hopeful,” the archbishop said about the early phase of the meeting. “We didn’t know what to expect of each other. We didn’t know what we would achieve.”
The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of the Anglican Communion Office’s Department of Unity, Faith, and Order, said that meeting at the monastery enhanced the commisson’s work.
“It’s wonderful to be held in prayer by a community, and in this case it was an ecumenical community,” she told TLC.
“There was joy and a little trepidation, I think,” she said about the beginning of the meeting. “Some members of the commission are new to ecumenical discussion. I was delighted with how closely the commission members come to work with each other in a very short period of time.”
Archbishop Moxon said the meeting demonstrated that commission members will not allow their differences to eclipse what they have in common.
“We were looking for the high common ground we have, and what new common ground we can find,” he said. “We’ve given each other a lot of work to do between now and next May,” when the commission meets again.
This article is as printed in THE LIVING CHURCH –June 2011.
“While our Anglican – Roman Catholic dialogue has led to significant agreement on the understanding of ministry, the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican Orders by the Catholic Church.”
Thus did Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones remind the 14 clergy and lay members of the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission of Aotearoa New Zealand (ARCCANZ) in its recent meeting of 21 – 23 October 2008 at the Catholic Mercy Spiritual Life Centre in Epsom. He was quoting Cardinal Walter Kasper’s address to the Anglican Communion’s recent world-wide gathering of bishops at Lambeth, England.
Anglican Archbishop David Moxon of Hamilton replied that Cardinal Kasper also noted that, though full visible communion as the aim of dialogue has receded further, it has not disappeared. He added that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor further reminded the Lambeth conferees that the path to Anglican – Roman Catholic unity is a road with no exit, because unity is Christ’s will, however long it may take.Over twenty years of semi-annual, two-day meetings between Anglicans and Roman Catholics here in New Zealand have built up enough trust and friendship that such frank, courteous discussion is possible.As well as the Lambeth conference, dialogue during the most recent ARCCANZ centered on John Paul II’s Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Fr. Paul Williamson, SM, offered the Catholic perspective; the Rev. Rob McKay the Anglican response. The ensuing discussion, as usual, tended toward the scholarly, both sides again conscious of Cardinal Kasper’s advice that ecumenism is synonymous with neither kindly humanism nor ecclesiological relativism.Such honest dialogue over the years has borne fruit in the pastoral realm as well. For several years ARCCANZ has fostered shared Ash Wednesday services. During this most recent gathering, it worked on an ecumenical advent wreath celebration and a Lenten discussion resource on Church as Communion.Archbishop Moxon, heavily involved in the international Anglican-Catholic Dialogue, stated that New Zealand, with its ongoing commission, prayer in common and even shared church buildings and facilities, has become a model for ecumenism world wide.As is its custom, the commission prayed together throughout the conference. On the last day, it was the Catholics’ turn to celebrate the Mass. The Anglicans attended, coming forward for a blessing at communion.The converse will happen at the next meeting of ARCCANZ in March at the Anglican Retreat Centre in Long Bay. There dialogue will turn on the theme of Biblical hermeneutics – interpretation of Scripture. There will be an evaluation of the shared Advent wreath liturgies. And on the last day, an Anglican will preside at liturgy; the Catholics will receive a blessing.
News Report on "significant understanding of Ministry."
A pastoral letter from all the bishops of the Anglican church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia November 2004
Anglican tributes to Pope John Paul II April 2005
Archbishop - Pope's last days a 'lived sermon' April 2005
Communiqu— from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations January 2005