Ecumenical Greeting Delivered by the Representative of the Churches of the Union of Utrecht, The Revd Canon W.B. Van Der Velde, on behalf of the Archbishop of Utrect, Dr Joris A.O.L Vercammen, to the 13th ACC Meeting
Dear Sisters and Brothers
When in 1871, the Church Congress of the Church of England met here in Nottingham, it adopted a vote of sympathy with the young Old Catholic movement in Central Europe. The resolution affirmed, among other things, the Church of England’s concern to maintain the catholic faith as it is expressed by the Ecumenical Councils of the Universal Church and to be united upon those principles (…) in the bonds of brotherly love with all churches in Europe. There was clearly a recognition between the Old Catholic Movement and the Anglican longing for unity among the churches. Both were convinced that only the strong fundaments of the Ecumenical Councils would offer the opportunities to grow in unity.
But the Anglican and the Old Catholic churches are not only partners on this point of view. Both traditions did face the modern developments as they influenced western society since the Age of the Enlightment. Anglicans and Old Catholics are holders of “fellow-traditions” since both have opened themselves to the challenge of secularization. Both are rooted in the confrontation between reason and belief.
Therefore, thinking about Anglicans and Old Catholics, one of the most important characteristics that comes into our mind, is that we both are Bridge-churches. Our churches built bridges between modern secularized culture and Christian belief. They want to build bridges between the great Christian traditions. And, since both are convinced religion should contribute to peace, both want to build bridges between the religions that are seen as – to some extent – bearers to human wisdom and divine inspiration.
We want to express our gratitude towards the Anglican Consultative Council for all the work that is already done by it in respect to build bridges among all those aspects of our world, we mentioned above. We want to encourage the Council and to express our hope that it will become more and more that opportunity for exchange and reflection that will enable all of us to grow in Unity.
This Unity is a condition for the reliability of the churches and their witness in our societies.
Encouraged by – among others – your council, next year we will celebrate the 75 th Anniversary of the Agreement of full communion between the Anglican and the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht. In the resolution of the previous meeting of your Council, that agreement is called a milestone in our ecumenical relations. To put it that way, expresses precisely our great esteem for the agreement that was certainly trendsetting in a time that ecumenical contacts were just beginning.
We will celebrate the Bonn Agreement, as our agreement of full communion is called because of the place where it came into being, during the next Old Catholic Congress that will be held in Freiburg (Germany) from August 7 th until 11 th 2006. The theme of the congress has to do with Anglicans and Old Catholics together on the way in Europe. We are very grateful that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury plans to attend the celebration during the congress Wednesday the 9 th. He will be invited to address the congress as well. We do hope a lot of Anglicans will not only attend the celebration with the Archbishop, but will also stay for the whole of the congress.
Anglicans and Old Catholics have some important work to do on the European Continent as well. Nevertheless our agreement of full communion, Anglicans and Old Catholics built their own ecclesiastical structures on the continent. There is a clear lack of links between those. In addition there is still the problem of the overlapping jurisdiction as a crucial point within the challenge of organizing our common witness. We do hope this Council will support our efforts to solve this anomaly in our ecclesiastical structure.
Concluding this short address, we again want to express our gratitude for the opportunities for collaboration already created by the Anglican Communion and we do hope and wish the sisterhood between our communions will be strong enough to witness of the hope our world is waiting for.
God bless you all!
Dr Joris A.O.L. Vercammen
Archbishop of Utrecht
Utrecht, 21 June 2005