Catholic Theological Institute, Bomana 25th June 2010
“Anglican and Roman Catholic Relations – past, present and future”
The Rt Revd Peter Ramsden, Anglican Bishop of Port Moresby
Archbishop John and the CTI community, it is a great privilege to be standing before you today delivering the Sinkai Lecture. I thank Fr Valerian for his invitation to do so and Fr David and all of you for your warm welcome and generous hospitality – a true expression of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I wish you all a very happy CTI day!
Today is important for us all, as at this time of the year Anglicans and Roman Catholics share devotion to St Peter and St Paul, apostles and martyrs, whose teaching and witness inspires the universal church and is especially important, I believe, to those who are called to ordination. They are not only the patrons of CTI but also of the Anglican Cathedral of Dogura in Milne Bay Province, the site of the first landing by Anglican missionaries on St Lawrence’s Day 1891. This month has also seen the conclusion of the Year for Priests in the Catholic Church, so it is right to ask if we may be able to learn more together about priestly formation and practice, for we certainly face many similar challenges.
It is also a special day for me to be here with you saying these things because today is the 32nd anniversary of my own priestly ordination – but there is the problem, for Anglican Orders are not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1896 they were condemned in the apostolic letter of Pope Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae, as not just invalid but as “absolutely null and utterly void”. But here I am, your guest, an Anglican bishop confident in my orders in a country where ecumenism and in particular Anglican-Catholic relations have been historically positive and which resulted in 2003 in the signing of the Covenant between our communities – the first such agreement at the level of a Catholic Bishops’ Conference with an Anglican Province.
Since 1896 things have been moving in the rest of the world as well. The Second Vatican Council opened a new chapter and in the Decree on Ecumenism it was stated “Among those communions separated at the time of the Reformation from the Roman See in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place”(1). The publication in 2007 of the report “Growing Together in Unity and Mission” by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) marked 40 years of our international theological dialogue. My predecessor, Bishop Peter Fox, was a member of the commission, because they wanted to hear the ecumenical experience of Papua New Guinea. Last year there was another interesting development - the Vatican issued an Apostolic Constitution providing for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. This was a response to the unease felt by some Anglicans concerning recent developments in the Anglican Communion. Later this year, in September, Pope Benedict XVI will visit England and while there will canonize John Henry Newman, perhaps the most famous Anglican convert to Catholicism in the nineteenth century.
This is therefore a good time and an appropriate occasion to reflect on the past story of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, to see how these affect our life together in 2010 and to have a little speculation about the future prospects for that unity in truth for which Christ prayed. I hope you’ll be happy with that as a plan for the lecture and of course I’ll be happy to take your questions afterwards.
2. The Anglican story
Before I consider Anglican – Roman Catholic relations, I think it would be appropriate to spend some time saying something about Anglicanism, for it's always good to learn more about the self understanding of the people with whom you dialogue. I'll begin with this Anglican. I was born in England not far from Liverpool into an Anglican family. Anglicans in England belong to the Church of England, which makes up two of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion, which is the name given to the world wide Anglican family. The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea is another of those autonomous but interdependent Provinces.
So I grew up in the Church of England, was baptized at my local parish church when three months old and confirmed by the bishop when I was 14. In 1977 I was made a deacon and also was married to Susan. Ordained a priest in 1978 I served as a curate in two parishes before we first came to PNG in 1983. Our two sons were born here, in Goroka and Lae. I was a parish priest back in England from 1996. Ten years later I was elected by the Anglican Church of PNG to be the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Port Moresby and was episcopally ordained on the Feast of the Annunciation in 2007 at St Mary’s Gerehu. I was honoured on that occasion by the presence of ecumenical guests, including Archbishop Brian Barnes, Fr Nick de Groot and Fr Bill Fey, the Catholic Ecumenical Officer, whom I would like to warmly congratulate today on his appointment as Bishop of Kimbe.
Anglicans can seem a bit puzzling to other Christians. Our name doesn’t signify a doctrinal position, as the name “Baptist” might do, nor does it refer to a founder, as the name “Lutheran” does. Who are these Anglicans? Are they catholics or protestants? Where do they come from? To understand the Anglican story and thus our approach to ecumenism we have to look at the development of Christianity in England, for the Latin name Ecclesia Anglicana simply means the English Church.
When Christianity came to Britain is not known, although probably it was brought by Roman soldiers. The first English martyr was Alban in 250 and three bishops from England went to the Synod at Arles in 314. Saints of the British Isles: Patrick, Columba, Aidan, Cuthbert, David, Wilfrid, Bede, Hilda, Willibrord, Boniface with many others commemorated in Anglican and Catholic liturgical calendars are our common heritage. We must not forget that for 1500 of the last 2000 years we were not separated. Anglicans see their continuity with these ancient communities of British and Celtic Christians of the British Isles, the Roman mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great led by Augustine to Canterbury in 597 and the subsequent development of dioceses by Theodore after 699. It’s important for you to know that Anglicans don’t think of the Church of England as a new church which began in 1534 during the reign of King Henry VIII. We speak of a reformation not a repudiation of what went before. We see the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, as the 104th archbishop in an unbroken line from Augustine.
Where there was discontinuity at the Reformation was in the relationship between the English Church and the bishop of Rome. Rejection of the papacy was fundamental to the origin of the English Reformation, which sought to detach catholicity from communion with the see of Rome and in so doing purge itself from the worst excesses of the middle ages. There had often been very strained relations between the English Crown and the papacy, but the events of the 1530s led to a quite different conclusion, as stated later in the Articles of Religion of 1563: “The bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England”. You probably know that there had been a time when Henry VIII was a favourite of the Pope - Henry’s condemnation of Martin Luther and his defence of the seven sacraments in 1521 led to him receiving the title, Defender of the Faith. The initials FD (Fidei defensor) are still stamped on every British coin. But, of course it was the Pope’s refusal to accept Henry’s petition for annulment which provoked a new course of action – that of the Act of Supremacy of 1534 which united spiritual and temporal authority under the Crown. No Anglican has ever claimed that Henry was a humble man. He was a tyrant and a bully but he believed in the catholic faith, transubstantiation, clerical celibacy and he never in his life heard a mass other than in Latin.
Henry had six wives – one at a time you understand, he wasn’t a big-man from the highlands – Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine and Catherine. English school children learn a rough version of what happened to these six women by saying divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived! Henry had three children, who subsequently reigned as Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. This isn’t a seminar on the English Reformation – if it was it would go on all week - but you will know that under Edward the English Church was moved in a Protestant direction as was shown in the two English Prayer Books of Thomas Cranmer. Under Mary the English Church was reconciled to Rome and the Latin Mass was restored. Her tragedy was that she died childless and has been remembered as “Bloody Mary” for the hundreds burnt as heretics.
It was under Elizabeth that the shape of the Church of England was formed: no monasteries but new dioceses; no change to the orders of bishop, priest and deacon but an end to compulsory celibacy for the clergy; communion in both kinds for clergy and people at every eucharist; a Prayer Book and Bible in the English language; and the monarch as Supreme Governor. The Church in England had been transformed by political and theological ferment into the Church of England, a national church yet claiming to be part of the visible Church of Christ and defining itself as catholic and reformed, in continuity with the past by holding to the Creeds and Councils of the early church and faithfully administering word and sacraments, maintaining a continuity of pastoral and liturgical ministry together with an uninterrupted episcopal order. The irony is that this national Church of England turned into the worldwide Anglican Communion.
It did so during the next 400 years as English pirates, adventurers, traders, soldiers, settlers and administrators claimed and developed overseas territories to form the British Empire. English Christianity in its Anglican form went with them. Colonial dioceses appeared, including Australia in 1836. In 1867 the Archbishop of Canterbury called the first Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops – ie those bishops in communion with the see of Canterbury. Since then there have been similar conferences about every ten years. In 1888 at the third Lambeth Conference there was agreed a framework for ecumenical conversations called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It was simply a statement of four Anglican essentials: bible, creeds, sacraments and bishops. Three years after that conference the first Anglican missionaries, Fr Albert Maclaren and Fr Copland King, landed at Dogura in present day Milne Bay Province so bringing the Anglican story to this land.
3. The Anglican Communion today
You don’t need me to tell you more of the spiritual and theological heritage of Anglicanism or the ecclesial history of England with its evangelical and Anglo-Catholic revivals, modern missionary endeavour and ecumenical conviction. Much of that story is next door in your library. There you will find writings from some of the classical Anglican authors - Jeremy Taylor and George Herbert from the seventeenth century, William Law and the Wesleys from the eighteenth century. You’ll find the Anglican John Henry Newman from the nineteenth century, and Michael Ramsey, Stephen Sykes, Stephen Neil and Paul Avis from twentieth century, the ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) documents and the accounts of Anglican Roman Catholic relations in PNG by Fr Theo Aerts and Bishop Paul Richardson.
Today the Anglican Communion consists of about 80 million Christians with about 800 bishops grouped in 38 provinces in over 160 countries. Despite its English roots and colonial history it’s said that the typical Anglican today is an African women in her twenties. In addition to the Lambeth Conference, there is the Anglican Consultative Council of bishops, clergy and laity representatives, which, though not a synod as such, reflects the Anglican tradition of involving laity in governance. An Anglican Communion Office in London seeks to coordinate the various inter-Anglican networks and commissions – for the environment, peace and justice, ecumenism, theological education and inter-faith. It also runs a website and news service at www.anglicancommunion.org
The Anglican Provinces, however, remain legally autonomous although bound together by their common heritage. Until the twentieth century that heritage included the Book of Common Prayer, the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible, whose 400th anniversary is next year, and mutual recognition of episcopal orders. Recent years have seen much more local variety in liturgical development and many different bible translations but critically the breaking of that mutual recognition. The two issues which have caused this so-called “impaired communion” are the ordination of women and the consecration of a partnered gay man as a bishop.
In the last 30 years some Anglican Provinces have opened the ordained ministry to women, where those in favour consider it a matter of justice and a release of women’s gifts for the church in a natural development whose time has come. Other provinces, often in developing countries, think this is a mistake for both cultural and theological reasons, not least because ordaining women changes the tradition of the universal Church and so slows down or endangers Christian unity. There were 24 women bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
Homosexuality is causing even more division for Anglicanism. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 reaffirmed the teaching of scripture and subsequent Christian tradition that homosexual behaviour is morally wrong. The liberal view is that the tradition can change and that it is a matter of justice that gay and lesbian Christians should have their love for each other blessed by the Church. The consecration in 2003 of Gene Robinson, a partnered American homosexual, caused sharp division. One result of this was that about 200 bishops from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Sydney refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The PNG bishops, who do not ordain women and who are against the blessing of homosexual unions and the consecration of homosexual bishops, did attend the conference to support the traditional teaching and those working for unity.
How have all these developments in Anglicanism affected ecumenical relations, particularly Anglican RC relations in PNG?
4. The Anglican Roman Catholic story in PNG
The missionary histories of our churches in PNG are well documented and throw up some intriguing ecumenical moments. In May 1890, the year before returning as the pioneer missionary, Fr Albert Maclaren was serving as the secretary to William MacGregor, the British Governor. He went to see Bishop Verjus MSC at Yule Island. The Anglo-Catholic Fr Albert reckoned that he was more catholic than the Roman Catholic bishop! The bishop gave Maclaren his photograph and asked for his prayers.
Bishop de Boismenu MSC had cordial relations with our second bishop, Gerald Sharp. He wrote to his sister, “During my last trip I nearly made another friend in the person of my Anglican colleague, the Bishop of New Guinea. We spent together some very pleasant hours .. God works through these good people … they are so near, so near to us!”(2) He continued good relations with our third bishop, Henry Newton, who, unlike the Methodist leaders, supported Catholic missionary expansion, and in 1936 de Boismenu knelt for the episcopal blessing of the fourth bishop, Philip Strong. Fr Theo Aerts suggests that these early contacts were a kind of pre-ecumenism which were based not only on good personal relations but also an early generous recognition that somehow we were sister-churches.
In 1966 Catholic dioceses were established corresponding to the civil provinces, with one exception – Oro Province – the traditional centre of Anglicanism around Popondetta. In 1971 the RC Church joined the Anglicans on the Melanesian Council of Churches and by then both churches were part of the Melanesian Association of Theological Schools and the Melanesian Institute. It was at this time that Bishop David Hand invited the Catholic Bishops Conference to join the Anglicans in theological conversations. A Joint Commission was established and its agenda reflected that established by ARCIC – eucharist, ministry and authority.
It was the positive PNG Anglican bishops’ response in 1986 to the ARCIC Final Report which also set a new agenda. They wrote: “We would like to ask the Anglican Consultative Council to give us guidance about the direction that local initiatives in unity might take. We are aware of the fact that in some provinces there remain obstacles to any form of corporate reunion, but we believe that in our province there is such a measure of unity in matters of faith and doctrine between Anglicans and Roman Catholics that important steps towards unity could well be taken. We are firmly convinced of the need for Anglicans and Roman Catholics to present a common mission to the people of our country. We would like to know how the ACC would view an attempt by the Anglican Church of PNG to enter into communion with the Roman Catholic Church before moves towards corporate reunion are possible elsewhere in the world”.
The PNG Joint Commission reconvened with an ACC representative at one meeting and two RC consultants at another. Their suggestion was that the PNG bishops work out a joint statement of faith. Throughout the 1990s there was also official contact with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) who visited PNG in 1993. I met him in Rome in 1994 and Fr Theo Aerts corresponded with him right up until he left PNG. After the statement of faith we followed up PCPCU’s suggestion and demonstrated how all the PNG Anglican bishops were in succession to those who had Old Catholic bishops as co-consecrators at their Episcopal ordination. Then we demonstrated support for our Anglican RC agenda at all five of our Diocesan Synods, which of course include clergy and laity. And in a series of four booklets called “Studies and Statements” Fr Theo and I looked at our shared spirituality including sacramental confession and the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Looking back at those days my conclusion is that neither the Anglican Consultative Council nor the more formal PCPCU really knew what to make of the requests from the bishops of PNG. We were pressing for some sort of regional resolution to centuries of division. The one thing the Anglicans wanted – recognition of Anglican Orders – and the one thing that Rome required – acceptance of the universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Papacy – were not going to be possible overnight. Our requests for a step by step approach including intercommunion were rejected, but we were being made to think about what exactly we wanted and what was realistic. By 1996 we had decided that the way forward was to prepare a Covenant which would state what we could affirm and resolve to continue the theological dialogue and our work together. We could thus at least talk of our engagement if not our marriage!
Meanwhile in that decade for evangelization there were also international ecumenical setbacks and recoveries: women were ordained priests in England but in his encyclical letter “Ut Unum Sint” Pope John Paul II called for a dialogue with other Christians about the Papacy, which you may remember Pope Paul VI had once acknowledged as probably the biggest obstacle to Christian unity. At the end of the decade the meeting of Anglican and RC bishops at Mississauga in Canada led eventually to the publication of “Growing Together in Mission and Unity” but yet another storm blew up over “Dominus Iesus”, which said that churches with their roots in the Reformation are not proper churches at all. Well, actually Anglicans have only ever claimed to be part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, so that didn’t bother me, but Anglicans do remain sensitive about the Reformation. As I explained earlier we prefer to talk of a hermeneutic of continuity!
2003 saw both the biggest crisis in internal Anglican relations and the biggest step forward ecumenically in PNG. It was the year of the consecration of the openly practicing gay bishop and the year of the Anglican/Catholic Covenant in PNG, which was signed by Archbishop James Ayong and Bishop John Ribat. Since then we have added a Pastoral Letter on Marriage and most recently an Agreed Statement on Marriage signed in September 2009. One month later Catholic/Anglican relations made international news.
5. Is an Anglican Ordinariate a solution for PNG?
On 20th October 2009 the Vatican announced the publication of an Apostolic Constitution providing for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. It took everyone by surprise including the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, who only had a few weeks notice and had not been consulted. “An historic moment for Catholics and Anglicans” said The Tablet. “Vatican moves to poach traditional Anglicans” said The Times and added that “there is increasing speculation that Papua New Guinea might go to Rome as an entire province”. Well, that isn’t likely to happen. The background to the Ordinariate is that for the last twenty years or so, particularly in North America and Australia because of the divisions I've mentioned, various Anglicans have left our Communion and formed separate bodies – the TAC (Traditional Anglican Communion) is the largest grouping. These people have been in communication over a number of years with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. So the Ordinariate is actually a response to those people who have already left the Anglican Communion.
On 1st December last year the PNG Anglican bishops met and issued a statement. We wanted to show that we were not only committed to ecumenism and our unique Anglican/Catholic covenant but also committed to working for unity within the Anglican Communion. We acknowledged the Ordinariate as a generous offer to other Anglicans around the world who wished to take it up but said that we wished to continue our current dialogue “to seek how Anglicans and Roman Catholics can creatively share our common concern for unity and mission in PNG. This remains our task and prayer.” Sadly, the Post Courier reported that as "Anglicans oppose ‘unity’"!
The Ordinariate would, I think, present some major difficulties to Anglicans and perhaps also to Catholics in PNG. The Ordinary who has jurisdiction over the Ordinariate, if a bishop, must be celibate. All the Anglican bishops here are married. If re-ordained as priests, we would be allowed to use Episcopal insignia like a mitre, but not be in Episcopal orders. I don’t think that would be either sensible or understandable to anyone. All our clergy (over 90% of whom are married) would have to be re-ordained, having applied and been considered on an individual basis. Similarly the laity would have to express their desire individually in writing to become members of the Ordinariate and then receive the sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church – not baptism but confession before reception into full communion, then confirmation and the eucharist. Probably in order to achieve this all the priests would need to join first.
I see the prospect of a great deal of confusion and resentment here – especially in the need for people to be re-confirmed (possibly by the same person, who would dress like a bishop but not be one) and the clergy to be re-ordained. Fr Joseph Vnuk OP shared his ideas and saw both positives and negatives in the proposal: the healing of the pain and scandal of division but the need for a massive awareness programme which for a union on such a large scale would be something that would take years, even decades, to achieve. In a country where we still face huge misunderstandings about ecumenism – that it is the work of the antichrist and the road to one world government – I think Fr Vnuk’s talk of decades would be the minimum required.
The Ordinariate proposal, nevertheless, is very interesting and a new initiate from Rome. One aspect of note is that it talks of an Anglican patrimony - liturgical, pastoral and spiritual - which would be preserved. There is now much speculation as to what exactly that patrimony is. My understanding is that it would be those gifts received by the Anglicans which could be shared with the wider Church. This idea is very positive but my concern would be that these gifts need to be recognized in our mainstream ecumenical conversations rather than being preserved by a small group who wish to hang onto some Anglican traditions within the Ordinariate. The Ordinariate cannot be an alternative to the long-term vision of unity and full visible communion between our two churches, indeed many people already find it unhelpful. Writing in The Tablet, Robert Mickens concluded; “It is hard to see how this new development will do anything but further sow division in the Anglican Communion and confusion among Catholics who have long been committed to the work of ecumenism” (3).
6. What is the future?
So if the Ordinariate is not the future for us in PNG or for the Anglican Communion what is? The announcement by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury only a few weeks after the news of the Ordinariate of a third series of ARCIC conversations confirms, despite the many obstacles which Anglicans themselves have thrown up in recent years, that the international conversations will continue. ARCIC III will focus on the Church as communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church can discern right ethical teaching.
At the Lambeth Conference in 2008 we had a number of Roman Catholic guests and speakers including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the PCPCU. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor asked if the results of 40 years of Anglican RC dialogue were “Dead in the water or money in the bank”? He concluded that it was indeed an investment which one day might bear fruit. Cardinal Kasper, while criticizing (rightly in my view) the way Anglicans had moved forward on the ordination of women and gays without taking sufficient notice of Catholic concerns, nevertheless said “your problems are our problems”. By that I take it that he meant that these difficult subjects are ones that the Catholic Church will also have to consider and not try to ignore and that division in one part of the Christian community affects the life of the rest of the Christian community.
This reminds me of the need to share gifts. Anglicans need to be reminded of the gift of the papacy and the benefits of the ministry of a universal pastor for the Christian flock. The ARCIC report of 1998 “The Gift of Authority” accepted this while acknowledging Anglican reservations about how that authority is formulated and exercised. Roman Catholics perhaps need to be reminded of the teaching of “Lumen gentium” that the unique Church of Church “subsists in” and is not identical with the Roman Catholic Church - in other words that there are gifts outside the present structure that could be received with thanks. At the Reformation we moved to the vernacular in worship, we moved to communion in both kinds, we accepted married priests – 500 years later all of these are now present in modern Roman Catholicism, indeed my eldest son was taught at primary school in England by the wife of a Catholic priest, who was a convert from the Methodist Church. Deciding which gifts are the genuine article and which developments are false roads is of course the question, but the principle is surely that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are needed to be shared by all Christ’s people. After all this is hardly a new concept – it was known and lived by your patrons Peter and Paul. In his first letter St Peter wrote: “Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God” (1 Peter 4.10). St Paul wrote to the Romans: “For I want very much to see you, in order to share a spiritual blessing with you to make you strong. What I mean is that both you and I will be helped at the same time, you by my faith and I by yours” (Romans 1.11-12).
In PNG we also need to remember that our ecumenism is bigger than just Anglican Roman Catholic dialogue – if Anglicans and Roman Catholics could receive the sacrament of holy communion together we would still be incomplete Christians. Our membership of the PNG Council of Churches reminds us of other brothers and sisters in Christ who are our allies in the struggles and challenges we face together in a rapidly changing society. We also find ourselves working alongside the many and varied evangelical and Pentecostal churches. I doubt if Christians in PNG would be divided in our opposition to corruption and domestic violence or in our concern for good governance and protection of the environment. Differences remain, however, not least concerning sexual ethics and the right approach to the prevention of HIVAIDS.
What we had to realize back in the 1990’s is that there is unlikely to be a PNG solution to the question of the validity of Anglican Orders. The situation remains that Rome will not accept the orders of one Anglican Province in isolation and worldwide we are growing further apart after the ordination of women and those in active homosexual relationships.
All the more reason to be sharing gifts locally, especially where we already share common concerns. When I attended the Catholic Bishops’ Conference earlier this year I was struck how their debates about priesthood reflected our own. There was a great concern about personal discipline, about the transition from seminary to parish, about the formation of the priestly character. At the end of the Year for Priests what have you learnt? What insights could you share with us to help our own men who are preparing for ordination? We would welcome your help as we seek to strengthen our theological education links in order to provide for the needs of our people.
PNG Anglicans and Roman Catholics continue in faith and hope: our Covenant is in place, which binds us to our dialogue and desire to work together, whatever is going on around the world. Our theological commission will continue to meet twice a year and continue to study the IARCCUM document, but I hope too there will be more progress at the grass roots level – bishops can always meet and talk politely, but what of Anglicans and Roman Catholics living side by side in Popondetta or in Wewak, or in 6 Mile or 9 Mile, and what about mixed marriages? This is why our latest Agreed Statement on marriage includes study questions – I wonder if you have considered them here at CTI?
Above all our attention must be fixed on the one who calls us, our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m reminded of the words of George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited PNG for our centenary in 1991: “Looking down over steep hills, I could see the paths leading from village to village. So God must see that we are like travellers trying to reach one another. We walk by different tracks over the steep mountains until we meet at a bridge over a deep gorge. The bridge is the person of the Lord: he it is who holds both sides together; in him we can be united and walk together”. (4)
Anglicans and Roman Catholics must remain committed to the ecumenical vision, which of course is simply seeking to be faithful to Our Lord’s prayer that we may be one so that the world will believe. Here are recent wise words of Cardinal Kasper to remind us of this priority in our lives and of where we both fall short:
“There is not an ecclesial vacuum outside the Catholic Church, but there we find ecclesial communion in different decrees. ‘In different degrees’ means there are deficits in the other Churches. Yet on another level there are deficits, or rather, wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin, also in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not perfect and is in need of constant renewal. Herein lies the importance of ecumenical dialogue, which calls for such a renewal and helps it. Through dialogue, or rather through the exchange of gifts, all the churches learn to grow and mature in their faithfulness to Christ. The path to full communion is not a one-way movement. All the parts must move. All the parts are in need of repentance and renewal. Thus, dialogue does not take place only through negotiations among the Churches, but primarily through a more intensive participation in what is holy, that is, in Christ and the Holy Spirit. The ecumenical goal cannot be achieved by a return to the past, but rather through a forward-moving ecumenism, through a spiritual dynamic of growth towards the fullness of Christ.” (5)
We can’t return to the past nor can we change it. The past, with all its deficits, divisions and sins is what has brought us here, but God has also graciously given us those gifts we can share as we move forward in faith. Ironically, it is John Henry Newman who is credited with coining the term “Anglicanism” in 1837 to describe the religion of the seventeenth and eighteenth century Anglican fathers, which, at the time, he saw as a via media between “Romanism” and “Popular Protestantism”.
A modern definition of Anglicanism was shared at the last Lambeth Conference: “The Anglican Way is a particular expression of being the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It is formed and rooted in Scripture, shaped by its worship, ordered for communion, and directed in faithfulness to God’s mission in the world. In diverse global situations Anglican life and ministry witnesses to the incarnate, crucified and risen Lord, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Together with all Christians, Anglicans hope, pray and work for the coming of the reign of God.” (6)
Whether or not that would have satisfied Cardinal Newman is an open question but it is a reasonable description of a body of Christians in the world and in Papua New Guinea who seek to be faithful to Christ and open to his call to unity and truth.When Pope Benedict visits England in September there will be an ecumenical gathering in Westminster Abbey, one of the major Anglican churches in the heart of London. What you may not know is that within that one thousand year old building there are the tombs of the two English Queens of the turbulent sixteenth century, the half sisters Mary and Elizabeth, separated in life by division in the Church but buried side by side. I see that as a vivid reminder that we need each other in the pilgrimage of faith and that at its end, by God’s grace, we will be united in truth. Before those tombs the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury will pray for unity. Our task as Anglicans and Catholics in Papua New Guinea is to pay attention to God and to listen out for the way he wants us in our life and witness to be a part of his answer to their prayer.
(1) Unitatis Redintegratio, n.13 in Vatican Council II: the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, A Flannery Ed, Dominican Publications, Dublin, 1975.
(2) Delbos G, The Mustard Seed, Institute of PNG Studies, Port Moresby 1985 p9
(3) The Tablet 24th October 2009 p 5.
(4) The Times of PNG 15th August 1992
(5) The Tablet 13 February 2010 p9.
(6) The Anglican Way: Signposts on a Common Journey ACO 2008 p2