Unity Faith and Order - Dialogues - Anglican Roman Catholic
The Church as Communion
SECOND ANGLICAN/ROMAN CATHOLIC INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION
During the past four years the members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic
International Commission have considered the mystery of communion which
is given and made visible in the Church. This has not been an easy task,
because of the inherent complexity and depth of the mystery. For the same
reason, our study cannot be complete or perfect. We have paid particular
attention to the sacramentality of the Church; that is to the Church as
a divine gift, grounded in Christ himself and embodied in human history,
through which the grace of Christ is mediated for the salvation of humankind.
In doing this, we believe that we have laid a necessary foundation for
further work on vital topics which were broached by our predecessors in
the first Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. In particular
we look forward to deeper study of the nature of the authority of Christ,
the living Word of God, over his Church, and of the means through which
he exercises that authority and his people respond to it. In considering
the Church as communion we have drawn upon thinking in both our churches
and in the dialogues with other Christian bodies in which both are engaged.
It is important always to understand that each dialogue is part of a larger
whole: all are part of a long process of doctrinal and spiritual reconciliation.
Accordingly we offer the outcome of our labors not only to our own respective
churches, but to all who are concerned with the common search for that
full ecclesial unity which we believe to be God's will for all his people.
We do this in the hope of study and response. The members of the Commission
have not only been engaged in theological dialogue. Their work and study
have been rooted in shared prayer and common life. This in itself has given
them a profound experience of communion in Christ: not indeed that full
sacramental communion which is our goal, but nevertheless a true foretaste
of that fullness of communion for which we pray and strive. We are painfully
aware of the difficulties which still lie in our way. Nevertheless, we
are heartened and encouraged by the words of Pope John Paul II and Archbishop
Robert Runcie in their Common Declaration of 2 October 1989: "Against
the background of human disunity the arduous journey to Christian unity
must be pursued with determination and vigor, whatever obstacles are perceived
to block the path. We here solemnly recommit ourselves and those we represent
to the restoration of visible unity and full ecclesial communion in the
confidence that to seek anything less would be to betray our Lord's intention
for the unity of his people". The Pope and the Archbishop also declared: "The
ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also
about the sharing of gifts." That indeed has been the experience of
the members of the Commission. In giving we receive. That is of the essence
of communion in Christ.
+ Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Dublin, September 1990
- Together with other Christians, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are committed
to the search for that unity in truth and love for which Christ prayed.
Within this context, the purpose of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International
Commission is to examine and try to resolve those doctrinal differences
which stand in the way of ecclesial communion between Anglicans and Roman
Catholics. The Final Report of ARCIC I and the publication of ARCIC II's
statement on Salvation and the Church have contributed to progress in mutual
understanding and growing awareness of the need for ecclesial communion.
We believe it is time now to reflect more explicitly upon the nature of
communion and its constitutive elements. This will enable us to meet the
requests that have been made for further clarification of the ecclesiological
basis of our work.
- This statement on communion differs from previous ARCIC reports in
that it does not focus specifically on doctrinal questions that have been
historically divisive. Nor does it seek to treat all the issues pertaining
to the doctrine of the Church. Its purpose is to give substance to the
affirmation that Anglicans and Roman Catholics are already in a real though
as yet imperfect communion and to enable us to recognize the degree of
communion that exists both within and between us.
Moreover, we believe that within the perspective of communion the outstanding
difficulties that remain between us will be more clearly understood and
are more likely to be resolved; thus we shall be helped to grow into a
more profound communion.
- There are advantages in adopting the theme of communion in an exploration
of the nature of the Church. Communion implies that the Church is a dynamic
reality moving towards its fulfilment. Communion embraces both the visible
gathering of God's people and its divine life-giving source. We are thus
directed to the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the life God
wills to share with all people. There is held before us the vision of God's
reign over the whole of creation, and of the Church as the firstfruits
of humankind which is drawn into that divine life through acceptance of
the redemption given in Jesus Christ.
Moreover this focus on communion enables us to affirm that which is already
realized in the Church, the eucharistic community. It enables us also to
acknowledge as a gift of God the good that is present in community life
in the world: communion involves rejoicing with those who rejoice and being
in solidarity with those who suffer and those who search for meaning in
life. To explore the meaning of communion is not only to speak of the Church
but also to address the world at the heart of its deepest need, for human
beings long for true community in freedom, justice and peace and for the
respect of human dignity.
- Furthermore to understand the Church in terms of communion confronts
Christians with the scandal of our divisions. Christian disunity obscures
God's invitation to communion for all humankind and makes the Gospel we
proclaim harder to hear. But the consideration of communion also enables
Christians to recognize that certain yet imperfect communion they already
share. Christians of many traditions are coming to acknowledge the central
place of communion in their understanding of the nature of the Church and
its unity and mission. This is the communion to the study of which our
paper is devoted.
- After a survey of how communion is unfolded in Scripture, we explore
the way in which the Church as communion is sacrament of the merciful grace
of God for all humankind. Then follows a treatment of the relationship
of communion to the apostolicity, catholicity and holiness of the Church
and a consideration of the necessary elements required for unity and ecclesial
communion. Finally, we affirm the existing communion between our two churches
and outline some of the remaining issues which continue to divide us.
I. Communion unfolded in scripture
- The relationship between God and his creation is the fundamental theme
of Holy Scripture. The drama of human existence, as expounded in Scripture,
consists in the formation, breakdown and renewal of this relationship.
The biblical story opens with God establishing this relationship by creating
human beings in his image and likeness; God blesses and honors them by
inviting them to live in communion both with him and with one another as
stewards of his creation. In the unfolding saga of Genesis the disobedience
of Adam and Eve undermines both their relation with God and their relation
with each other: they hide from God; Adam blames Eve; they are expelled
from the garden; their relationship with the rest of creation is distorted.
What ensues in Genesis illustrates this recurrent pattern in human history.
- In the variety of literary styles and theological traditions coming
from every period of the long history of the people of Abraham, the books
of the Old Testament bear witness to the fact that God wants his people
to be in communion with him and with each other. God's purpose is reaffirmed
in covenant with his people. Through Abraham God gives the promise of blessing
to all the nations (Gen 12:1-3). Through Moses God establishes a people
as his own possession, a community in a covenant relationship with him
(Ex 19:5ff). In the Promised Land the Temple becomes the place where God
chooses to set his name, where he dwells with his people (Deut 12:5). The
prophets consistently denounce the community's faithlessness as threatening
this relationship. Nevertheless, God's fidelity remains constant and he
promises through the prophets that his promise will be accomplished. Although
division and exile follow upon the sins of the chosen people, reconciliation
of the scattered people of God will spring from a radical transformation
within a new covenant (Jer 31:31). God will raise up a servant to fulfil
his purpose of communion and peace for his chosen people and also for all
the nations (Is 49:6; cf. also Mic 4:1-4).
- In the fullness of time, God sends his Son, born of a woman, to redeem
his people and bring them into a new relationship as his adopted children
(cf. Gal 4:4). When Jesus begins his ministry he calls together a band
of disciples with whom he shares his mission (Mk 3:14 cf. Jn 20:21). After
Easter they are to be witnesses to his life, teaching, death and resurrection.
In the power of the Spirit given at Pentecost they proclaim that God's
promises have been fulfilled in Christ. For the Apostolic community the
baptism of repentance and faith bestowed in this New Covenant does more
than restore that which was lost: by the Spirit believers enter Christ's
own communion with the Father (cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). In the eucharist,
the memorial of the New Covenant, believers participate in the body and
blood of Christ and are made one body in him (1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:23-27).
It is communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit which
constitutes the people of the New Covenant as the Church," a people
still linked by spiritual ties to the stock of Abraham".
- On Calvary the hideous nature of sin and evil is clearly exposed. In
the Cross are found God's judgement upon the world and his gift of reconciliation
(2 Cor 5:19). Through the Paschal victory all estrangement occasioned by
differences of culture, class, privilege and sex is overcome. All those
who are united with the death and resurrection of Christ have equal standing
before God. Moreover, because Christ is the one in whom and through whom
all things are created and reconciled, the proper relationship between
humanity and the rest of creation is restored and renewed in him (Col 1:
15-20; Gal 3:27-29; Col 3:11).
- However, the life of communion is still impaired by human sin (1 Cor
1:10ff). The failure of Christians to respond to the demands of the Gospel
gives rise to divisions among Christians which obscure the Church's witness.
The New Testament affirms that there is a constant need for recourse to
the repentance and reconciliation offered by Christ through the Church
(Mt 18:15-20; cf. 1 Jn 1:5-10).
- In the writings of the New Testament the failures of the disciples
and the divisions among them are fully recognized. Nevertheless the reign
of God is already described as a feast, "the wedding supper of the
Lamb" (Rev 19:9), a vivid image of communion deeply rooted in human
experience. This feast is spoken of by Jesus in the parables and foreshadowed
in the feeding of the multitudes (Mt 22:1-10; Jn 6). The celebration of
the eucharist prefigures and provides a foretaste of this messianic banquet
(Lk 22:30). In the world to come, such signs will cease since the sacramental
order will no longer be needed, for God will be immediately present to
his people. They will see him face to face and join in endless praise (Rev
22:3-4). This will be the perfection of communion.
- In the New Testament the word koinonia (often translated "communion" or "fellowship")
ties together a number of basic concepts such as unity, life together,
sharing and partaking. The basic verbal form means "to share", "to
participate", "to have part in", "to have something
in common" or "to act together". The noun can signify fellowship
or community. It usually signifies a relationship based on participation
in a shared reality (e.g. 1 Cor 10:16). This usage is most explicit in
the Johannine writings: "We proclaim to you what we have seen
and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship
is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:3; cf. 1 Jn 1:7).
- In the New Testament the idea of communion is conveyed in many ways.
A variety of words, expressions and images points to its reality; the people
of God (1 Pt 2:9-10); flock (Jn 10:14; Acts 20:28-29; 1 Pt 5:3,4); vine
(Jn 15:5); temple (1 Cor 3:16-17); bride (Rev 21:2); body of Christ (1
Cor 12:27; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Rom 12:4-5; Eph 1:22-23). All these express
a relationship with God and also imply a relationship among the members
of the community. The reality to which this variety of images refers is
communion, a shared life in Christ (1 Cor 10: 16-2 1; cf. Jn 17) which
no one image exhaustively describes. This communion is participation in
the life of God through Christ in the Holy Spirit, making Christians one
with each other.
- It is characteristic of the Apostle Paul to speak of the relationship
of believers to their Lord as being "in Christ" and of Christ
being in the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:1-11;
2 Cor 5:17; Col 1:27-28; Gal 2:20; cf. also Jn 15:1-11). This relationship
Paul also af firms in his description of the Church as the one body of
Christ. This description is integrally linked with the presence of Christ
in the eucharist. Those who share in the supper of the Lord are one body
in Christ because they all partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:16-17 and
12:23-30). This description underlines the intimate, organic relationship
which exists between the Risen Lord and all those who receive new life
through communion with him. Equally it emphasizes the organic relationship
thus established among the members of the one body, the Church. All who
share in the "holy things" of the sacramental life are made holy
through them: because they share in them together they are in communion
with each other.
- The New Testament reflects different dimensions of communion as experienced
in the life of the Church in apostolic times. At the center of this communion
is life with the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit. Through the sending
of his Son the living God has revealed that love is at the heart of the
divine life. Those who abide in love abide in God and God in them; if we,
in communion with him love one another, he abides in us and his love is
perfected in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-21). Through love God communicates his life.
He causes those who accept the light of the truth revealed in Christ rather
than the darkness of this world to become his children. This is the most
profound communion possible for any of his creatures.
Visibly, this communion is entered through baptism and nourished and expressed
in the celebration of the eucharist. All who are baptized in the one Spirit
into one body are united in the eucharist by this sacramental participation
in this same one body (1 Cor 10:16-17; 12:13). This community of the baptized,
devoted to the apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer
(Acts 2:42) finds its necessary expression in a visible human community.
It is a community which suffers with Christ in anticipation of the revelation
of his glory (Phil 3: 10; Col 1:24; 1 Pt 4:13; Rom 8:17). Those who are
in communion participate in one another's joys and sorrows (Heb 10:33;
2 Cor 1:6, 7); they serve one another in love (Gal 5:13) and share together
to meet the needs of one another and of the community as a whole. There
is a mutual giving and receiving of spiritual and material gifts, not only
between individuals but also between communities, on the basis of a fellowship
that already exists in Christ (Rom 15:26-27; 2 Cor 8:1-15). The integrity
and building up of that fellowship requires appropriate structure, order
and discipline (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34; and the Pastoral Epistles).
Communion will reach its fulfilment when God will be all in all (1 Cor
15:28). It is the will of God for the whole creation that all things should
be brought to ultimate unity and communion in Christ (Eph 1:10; Col 1:19-20).
Already in the New Testament these different dimensions of communion are
discernible, together with a striving towards their ever more faithful
II. COMMUNION: SACRAMENTALITY AND THE CHURCH
- God's purpose is to bring all people into communion with himself within
a transformed creation (cf. Rom 8:19-22). To accomplish this the eternal
Word became incarnate. The life and ministry of Jesus Christ definitively
manifested the restored humanity God intends. By, who he was, by what he
taught, and by what he accomplished through the Cross and resurrection,
he became the sign, the instrument and the firstfruits of God's purpose
for the whole of creation (Col 1:15-17). As the new Adam, the Risen Lord
is the beginning and guarantor of this transformation. Through this transformation
alienation is overcome by communion, both between human beings and above
all between them and God. These two dimensions of communion are inseparable.
This is the mystery of Christ (Eph 2:11?3:12).
- Communion with God through Christ is constantly established and renewed
through the power of the Holy Spirit. By the power of the Spirit, the incomparable
riches of God's grace are made present for all time through the Church.
Those who are reconciled to God form "one body in Christ and are individually
members one of another" (Rom 12:5). By the action of the same Spirit,
believers are baptized into the one Body (1 Cor 12:13) and in the breaking
of the bread they also participate in that one Body (1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:23-29).
Thus the Church "which is Christ's body, the fullness of him who fills
all in all", reveals and embodies "the mystery of Christ" (cf.
Eph 1:23; 3:4.8-11). It is therefore itself rightly described as a visible
sign which both points to and embodies our communion with God and with
one another; as an instrument through which God effects this communion;
and as a foretaste of the fullness of communion to be consummated when
Christ is all in all. It is a "mystery" or "sacrament".
- The Church as communion of believers with God and with each other is
a sign of the new humanity God is creating and a pledge of the continuing
work of the Holy Spirit. Its vocation is to embody and reveal the redemptive
power of the Gospel, signifying reconciliation received through faith and
participation in the new life in Christ. The Church is the sign of what
God has done in Christ, is continuing to do in those who serve him, and
wills to do for all humanity. It is the sign of God's abiding presence,
and of his eternal faithfulness to his promises, for in it Christ is ever
present and active through the Spirit. It is the community where the redemptive
work of Jesus Christ has been recognized and received, and is therefore
being made known to the world. Because Christ has overcome all the barriers
of division created by human sin, it is the mission of the Church as God's
servant to enter into the struggle to end those divisions (cf. Eph 2:14-18;
- The Holy Spirit uses the Church as the means through which the Word
of God is proclaimed afresh, the sacraments are celebrated, and the people
of God receive pastoral oversight, so that the life of the Gospel is manifested
in the life of its members. The Church is both the sign of salvation in
Christ, for to be saved is to be brought into communion with God through
Him, and at the same time the instrument of salvation, as the community
through which this salvation is offered and received. This is what is meant
when the Church is described as an "effective sign", given by
God in the face of human sinfulness, division and alienation.
- Human sinfulness and Christian division obscure this sign. However,
Christ's promise of his abiding presence in the midst of his people (Mt
18:20; 28:19-20) gives the assurance that the Church will not cease to
be this effective sign. In spite of the frailty and sinfulness of its members,
Christ promises that the powers of destruction will never prevail against
it (Mt 16:18).
- Paradoxically it is pre-eminently in its weakness, suffering and poverty
that the Church becomes the sign of the efficacy of God's grace (cf. 2
Cor 12:9; 4:7-12). It is also paradoxical that the quality of holiness
is rightly attributed to the Church, a community of sinners. The power
of God to sanctify the Church is revealed in the scandal of the Cross where
Christ in his love gave himself for the Church so that it might be presented
to him without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish (Eph 5:26-27). "God
was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" ... "making him
who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness
of God" (2 Cor 5:19; 8:21).
- The communion of the Church demonstrates that Christ has broken down
the dividing wall of hostility, so as to create a single new humanity reconciled
to God in one body by the cross (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Confessing that their
communion signifies God's purpose for the whole human race the members
of the Church are called to give themselves in loving witness and service
to their fellow human beings.
This service is focused principally in the proclaiming of the Gospel in
obedience to the command of Christ. Having received this call, the Church
has been entrusted with the stewardship of the means of grace and with
the message of salvation. In the power of Christ's presence through the
Spirit it is caught up in the saving mission of Christ. The mandate given
to the Church to bring salvation to all the nations constitutes its unique
mission. In this way the Church not only signifies the new humanity willed
by God and inaugurated by Christ. It is itself an instrument of the Holy
Spirit in the extension of salvation to all human beings in all their needs
and circumstances to the end of time. To speak of the Church as sacrament
is to affirm that in and through the communion of all those who confess
Jesus Christ and who live according to their confession, God realizes his
plan of salvation for all the world. This is not to say that God's saving
work is limited to those who confess Christ explicitly. By God's gift of
the same Spirit who was at work in the earthly ministry of Christ Jesus,
the Church plays its part in bringing his work to its fulfilment.
- To be united with Christ in the fulfilment of his ministry for the
salvation of the world is to share his will that the Church be one, not
only for the credibility of the Church's witness and for the effectiveness
of its mission, but supremely for the glorification of the Father. God
will be truly glorified when all peoples with their rich diversity will
be fully united in one communion of love. Our present communion with God
and with each other in the Holy Spirit is a pledge and foretaste here and
now of the ultimate fulfilment of God's purpose for all, as proclaimed
in the vision of "a great multitude which none could number, from
every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues... crying out with
a loud voice ‘salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne,
and to the Lamb!'" (Rev 7:9-10).
- The sacramental nature of the Church as sign, instrument and foretaste
of communion is especially manifest in the common celebration of the eucharist.
Here, celebrating the memorial of the Lord and partaking of his body and
blood, the Church points to the origin of its communion in Christ, himself
in communion with the Father; it experiences that communion in a visible
fellowship; it anticipates the fullness of the communion in the Kingdom;
it is sent out to realize, manifest and extend that communion in the world.
III. COMMUNION: APOSTOLICITY, CATHOLICITY AND HOLINESS
- The Church points to its source and mission when it confesses in the
Creed, "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church".
It is because the Church is built up by the Spirit upon the foundation
of the life, death and resurrection of Christ as these have been witnessed
and transmitted by the apostles that the Church is called apostolic. It
is also called apostolic because it is equipped for its mission by sharing
in the apostolic mandate.
- The content of the faith is the truth of Christ Jesus as it has been
transmitted through the apostles. This God-given deposit of faith cannot
be dissociated from the gift of the Holy Spirit. Central to the mission
of the Spirit is the safeguarding and quickening of the memory of the teaching
and work of Christ and of his exaltation, of which the apostolic community
was the first witness. To safeguard the authenticity of its memory the
Church was led to acknowledge the canon of Scripture as both test and norm.
But the quickening of its memory requires more than the repetition of the
words of Scripture. It is achieved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
by the unfolding of revealed truth as it is in Jesus Christ. According
to the Johannine gospel the mission of the Holy Spirit is intimately linked
with all that Christ Jesus said, did and accomplished. Christ promised
that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in his name to teach the disciples
all things and to bring to remembrance all that he has said (cf. Jn 14:26).
To keep alive the memory of Christ means to remain faithful to all that
we know of him through the apostolic community.
- Such faithfulness must be realized in daily life. Consequently in every
age and culture authentic faithfulness is expressed in new ways and by
fresh insights through which the understanding of the apostolic preaching
is enriched. Thus the gospel is not transmitted solely as a text. The living
Word of God, together with the Spirit, communicates God's invitation to
communion to the whole of his world in every age. This dynamic process
constitutes what is called the living Tradition, the living memory of the
Church. Without this the faithful transmission of the Gospel is impossible.
- The living memory of the mystery of Christ is present and active within
the Church as a whole; it is at work in the constant confession and celebration
of the apostolic faith and in the insights, emphases and perspectives of
faithful members of the Church. And since faith seeks understanding, this
includes an examination of the very foundations of faith. As the social
setting of the Christian community changes, so the questions and challenges
posed both from within and from without the Church are never entirely the
same. Even within the period covered by the New Testament this process
is evident when new images and fresh language are used to express the faith
as it is handed on in changing cultural contexts.
- If the Church is to remain faithfully rooted and grounded in the living
truth and is to confess it with relevance, then it will need to develop
new expressions of the faith. Diversity of cultures may often elicit a
diversity, in the expression of the one Gospel; within the same community
distinct perceptions and practices arise. Nevertheless these must remain
faithful to the tradition received from the apostles (cf. Jude 3). Since
the Holy Spirit is given to all the people of God, it is within the Church
as a whole, individuals as well as communities, that the living memory
of the faith is active. All authentic insights and perceptions, therefore,
have their place within the life and faith of the whole Church, the temple
of the Holy Spirit.
- Tensions inevitably appear. Some are creative of healthy development.
Some may, cause a loss of continuity with apostolic Tradition, disruption
within the community, estrangement from other parts of the Church. Within
the history of Christianity, some diversities have become differences that
have led to such conflict that ecclesial communion has been severed. Whenever
differences become embodied in separated ecclesial communities, so that
Christians are no longer able to receive and pass on the truth within the
one community of faith, communion is impoverished and the living memory
of the Church is affected. As Christians grow apart, complementary aspects
of the one truth are sometimes perceived as mutually incompatible. Nevertheless
the Church is sustained by, Christ's promise of its perseverance in the
truth (cf. Mt 16:18), even though its unity and peace are constantly vulnerable.
The ultimate God-given safeguard for this assurance is the action of the
Spirit in preserving the living memory of Christ.
- This memory, realised and freshly expressed in every age and culture,
constitutes the apostolic tradition of the Church. In recognizing the canon
of Scripture as the normative record of the revelation of God, the Church
sealed as authoritative its acceptance of the transmitted memory of the
apostolic community. This is summarized and embodied in the creeds. The
Holy Spirit makes this tradition a living reality which is perpetually
celebrated and proclaimed by word and sacrament, pre-eminently in the eucharistic
memorial of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, in which the Scriptures
have always been read. Thus the apostolic tradition is fundamental to the
Church's communion which spans time and space, linking the present to past
and future generations of Christians.
- Responsibility for the maintenance of the apostolic faith is shared
by the whole people of God. Every Christian has a part in this responsibility.
The task of those entrusted with oversight, acting in the name of Christ,
is to foster the promptings of the Spirit and to keep the community within
the bounds of the apostolic faith, to sustain and promote the Church's
mission, by preaching, explaining and applying its truth. In responding
to the insights of the community, and of the individual Christian, whose
conscience is also molded by the same Spirit, those exercising oversight
seek to discern what is the mind of Christ. Discernment involves both heeding
and sifting in order to assist the people of God in understanding, articulating
and applying their faith. Sometimes an authoritative expression has to
be given to the insights and convictions of the faithful. The community
actively responds to the teaching of the ordained ministry, and when, under
the guidance of the Spirit, it recognizes the apostolic faith, it assimilates
its content into its life.
- Succession in the episcopal ministry is intended to assure each community
that its faith is indeed the apostolic faith, received and transmitted
from apostolic times. Further, by means of the communion among those entrusted
with the episcopal ministry, the whole Church is made aware of the perceptions
and concerns of the local churches: at the same time the local churches
are enabled to maintain their place and particular character within the
communion of all the churches.
- In the creeds the Church has always confessed its catholicity "I
believe in... the holy catholic Church". It gets this title from the
fact that by its nature it is to be scattered throughout the world, from
one end of the earth to the other, from one age to the next. The Church
is also catholic because its mission is to teach universally and without
omission all that has been revealed by God for the salvation and fulfilment
of humankind; and also because its vocation is to unite in one eucharistic
fellowship men and women of every race, culture and social condition in
every generation. Because it is the fruit of the work of Christ upon the
cross, destroying all barriers of division, making, Jews and Gentiles one
holy people, both having access to the one Father by the one Spirit (cf.
Eph 2:14-18), the Church is catholic.
- In the mystery of his will God intends the Church to be the re-creation
in Christ Jesus of all the richness of human diversity that sin turns into
division and strife (cf. Eph 1:9,10). Insofar as this re-creation is authentically
demonstrated in its life, the Church is a sign of hope to a divided world
that longs for peace and harmony. It is the grace and Gospel of God that
brings together this human diversity without stifling or destroying it;
the Church's catholicity expresses the depth of the wisdom of the Creator.
Human beings were created by God in his love with such diversity in order
that they might participate in that love by sharing with one another both
what they have and what they are, thus enriching each other in their mutual
- Throughout its history the Church has been called to demonstrate that
salvation is not restricted to particular cultures. This is evident in
the variety of liturgies and forms of spirituality, in the variety of disciplines
and ways of exercising authority, in the variety of theological approaches,
and even in the variety of theological expressions of the same doctrine.
These varieties complement one another, showing that, as the result of
communion with God in Christ, diversity does not lead to division; on the
contrary, it serves to bring glory to God for the munificence of his gifts.
Thus the Church in its catholicity is the place where God brings glory
to his name through the communion of those he created in his own image
and likeness, so diverse yet profoundly one. At every eucharistic celebration
of Christian communities dispersed throughout the world, in their variety
of cultures, languages, social and political contexts, it is the same,
one and indivisible body of Christ reconciling divided humanity that is
offered to believers. In this way the eucharist is the sacrament of the
Church's catholicity in which God is glorified.
- In the eucharist the Church also manifests its solidarity with the
whole of humanity. This is given expression in intercession and thanksgiving,
and in the sending out of the people of God to serve and to proclaim the
message of salvation to the world. The Church's concern for the poor and
oppressed is not peripheral but belongs to the very heart of its mission
(cf. 2 Cor 8:1-9).
Moreover, for the Church effectively to carry out its ministry of reconciliation,
it is necessary that its members and communities display in their common
life the fruits of Christ's reconciling work. As long as Christians are
divided, they do not fully manifest the catholic nature of the Church.
- Catholicity is inseparable from holiness, as is evident from the early
liturgical traditions which often speak of "the holy catholic church" and
from early forms of the creed which include the words "We believe
in the Holy Spirit in the holy Catholic Church". The Church is holy
because it is "God's special possession", endowed with his Spirit
(cf. 1 Pt 2:9-10; Eph 2:21-22), and it is his special possession since
it is there that "the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure" is
realized, "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under
one head, Christ" (Eph 1:9, 10).
Being set apart as God's special possession means that the Church is the
communion of those who seek to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect
(Mt 5:48). This implies a life in communion with Christ, a life of compassion,
love and righteousness. The holiness of the Church does not mean that it
is to be cut off from the world (in 17:14ff). Its vocation is to be, through
its holiness, salt of the earth, light to the world (Mt 5:13 and 16). In
this way the Church declares the praises of him who called his people out
of darkness into his marvelous light (cf. 1 Pt 2:9).
- The catholicity of God's purpose requires that all the diverse gifts
and graces given by God to sanctify his people should find their proper
place in the Church. Every Christian is called to be consecrated to the
life and service of the communion (Acts 2:42; 1 Pt 4: 10ff; 1 Cor 12:4f
f). And what is true of the individual is equally true of the local churches.
Communion with other local churches is essential to the integrity of the
self-understanding of each local church, precisely because of its catholicity.
Life in self-sufficient isolation, which rejects the enrichment coming
from other local churches as well as the sharing with them of gifts and
resources, spiritual as well as material, is the denial of its very being.
It is the particular ministry of oversight to affirm and order the diverse
gifts and graces of individuals and communities; to effect and embody the
unity of the local church and its unity with the wider communion of the
churches. By the example of their lives those who bear oversight are to
witness to the holiness of the Church and in their ministry foster holiness
amongst its members.
Amid all the diversity that the catholicity intended by God implies, the
Church's unity and coherence are maintained by the common confession of
the one apostolic faith, a shared sacramental life, a common ministry of
oversight and joint ways of reaching decisions and giving authoritative
- The catholicity of the Church is threatened, in the first place, when
the apostolic faith is distorted or denied within the community. It is
also threatened whenever the faith is obscured by attitudes and behavior
in the Church which are not in accord with its calling to be the holy people
of God, drawn together by the Spirit to live in communion. Just as the
Church has to distinguish between tolerable and intolerable diversity in
the expression of the apostolic faith, so in the area of life and practice
the Church has to discover what is constructive and what is disruptive
of its own communion. Catholicity and holiness are also impaired when the
Church fails to confront the causes of injustice and oppression which tear
humanity apart or when it fails to hear the cries of those calling for
sustenance, respect, peace and freedom.
- When the Creed speaks of the Church as holy, catholic and apostolic,
it does not mean that these attributes are distinct and unrelated. On the
contrary, they are so interwoven that there cannot be one without the others.
The holiness of the Church reflects the mission of the Spirit of God in
Christ, the Holy One of God, made known to all the world through the apostolic
teaching. Catholicity is the realization of the Church's proclamation of
the fullness of the Gospel to every nation throughout the ages.
Apostolicity unites the Church of all generations and in every place with
the once-for-all sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, where God's holy
love was supremely demonstrated.
IV. UNITY AND ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
- The Church, since apostolic times, has always included belief in its
unity among the articles of faith (e.g. 1 Cor 12:12ff; Eph 4:f). Because
there is only, one Lord, with whom we are called to have communion in the
one Spirit, God has given his Church one gospel, one faith, one baptism,
one eucharist, and one apostolic ministry through which Christ continues
to feed and guide his flock.
- For a Christian the life of communion means sharing in the divine life,
being united with the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, and
consequently to be in fellowship with all those who share in the same gift
of eternal life. This is a spiritual communion in which the reality of
the life of the world to come is already present. But it is inadequate
to speak only of an invisible spiritual unity as the fulfilment of Christ's
will for the Church; the profound communion fashioned by the Spirit requires
visible expression. The purpose of the visible ecclesial community is to
embody and promote this spiritual communion with God (cf. ?? 17-25).
For a local community to be a communion means that it is a gathering of
the baptized brought together by the Apostolic preaching, confessing the
one faith, celebrating the one eucharist, and led an apostolic ministry.
This implies that this local church is in communion with all Christian
communities in which the essential constitutive elements of ecclesial life
For all the local churches to be together in communion, the one visible
communion God wills, it is required that all the essential constitutive
elements of ecclesial communion are present and mutually recognized in
each of them. Thus the visible communion between these churches is complete
and their ministers are in communion with each other. This does not necessitate
precisely the same canonical ordering: diversity of canonical structure
is part of the acceptable diversity which enriches the one communion of
all the churches.
- The constitutive elements essential for the visible communion of the
Church are derived from and subordinate to the common confession of Jesus
Christ as Lord. In the picture of the Jerusalem church in the Acts of the
Apostles we can already see in nascent form certain necessary elements
of ecclesial communion which must be present in the Church in every age
(cf. ? 15).
- In the light of all that we have said about communion it is now possible
to describe what constitutes ecclesial communion. It is rooted in the confession
of the one apostolic faith, revealed in the Scriptures, and set forth in
the Creeds. It is founded upon one baptism. The one celebration of the
eucharist is its pre-eminent expression and focus. It necessarily finds
expression in shared commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his
Church. It is a life of shared concern for one another in mutual forbearance,
submission, gentleness and love; in the placing of the interests of others
above the interests of self; in making room for each other in the body
of Christ; in solidarity with the poor and the powerless; and in the sharing
of gifts both material and spiritual (cf. Acts 2:44). Also constitutive
of life in communion is acceptance of the same basic moral values, the
sharing of the same vision of humanity created in the image of God and
recreated in Christ and the common confession of the one hope in the final
consummation of the Kingdom of God.
For the nurture and growth of this communion, Christ the Lord has provided
a ministry of oversight, the fullness of which is entrusted to the episcopate,
which has the responsibility of maintaining and expressing the unity of
the churches (cf. ?? 33 & 39; Final Report, Ministry and Ordination).
By shepherding, teaching and the celebration of the sacraments, especially
the eucharist, this ministry holds believers together in the communion
of the local church and in the wider communion of all the churches (cf.
? 39). This ministry of oversight has both collegial and primatial dimensions.
It is grounded in the life of the community and is open to the community's
participation in the discovery of God's will. It is exercised so that unity
and communion are expressed, preserved and fostered at every level ? locally,
regionally and universally. In the context of the communion of all the
churches the episcopal ministry of a universal primate finds its role as
the visible focus of unity.
Throughout history different means have been used to express, preserve
and foster this communion between bishops: the participation of bishops
of neighboring sees in episcopal ordinations; prayer for bishops of other
dioceses in the liturgy; exchanges of episcopal letters. Local churches
recognized the necessity of maintaining communion with the principal sees,
particularly with the See of Rome. The practice of holding synods or councils,
local, provincial, ecumenical, arose from the need to maintain unity in
the one apostolic faith. (cf. ARCIC I, Final Report, Authority in the Church
- All these inter-related elements and facets belong to the visible communion
of the universal Church. Although their possession cannot guarantee the
constant fidelity of Christians, neither can the Church dispense with them.
They need to be present in order for one local church to recognize another
canonically. This does not mean that a community in which they are present
expresses them fully in its life.
- Christians can never acquiesce with complacency in disunity without
impairing further their communion with God. As separated churches grow
towards ecclesial communion it is essential to recognize the profound measure
of communion they already share through participation in spiritual communion
with God and through those elements of a visible communion of shared faith
and sacramental life they can already recognize in one another. If some
element or important facet of visible communion is judged to be lacking,
the communion between them, though it may be real, is incomplete.
- Within the pilgrim Church on earth, even when it enjoys complete ecclesial
communion, Christians will be obliged to seek even deeper communion with
God and one another. This is also expressed through faith in the "Communion
of Saints", whereby the Church declares its conviction that the eucharistic
community on earth is itself a participation in a larger communion which
includes the martyrs and confessors and all who have fallen asleep in Christ
throughout the ages. The perfection of full communion will only be reached
in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
V. COMMUNION BETWEEN ANGLICANS AND ROMAN CATHOLICS
- The convictions which this Commission believes that Anglicans and Roman
Catholics share concerning the nature of communion challenge both our churches
to move forward together towards visible unity and ecclesial communion.
Progress in mutual understanding has been achieved. There exists a significant
degree of doctrinal agreement between our two communions even upon subjects
which previously divided us. In spite of past estrangements, Anglicans
and Roman Catholics now enjoy a better understanding of their long-standing
shared inheritance. This new understanding enables them to recognize in
each other's churches a true affinity.
- Thus we already share in the communion founded upon the saving life
and work of Christ and his continuing presence through the Holy Spirit.
This was acknowledged jointly in the Common Declaration of Pope John Paul
II and Arch bishop Robert Runcie of 2 October 1989.
We also urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that
certain yet im perfect communion we already share. This communion already
shared is grounded in faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ,
and in the Holy Spirit; our common baptism into Christ; our sharing of
the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds; the Chalcedonian
definition and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance
for many centuries. This communion should be cherished and guarded as we
seek to grow into the fuller communion Christ wills. Even in the years
of our separation we have been able to recognize gifts of the Spirit in
each other. The ecumenical journey is not only about removal of obstacles
but also about the sharing of gifts.
- One of the most important ways in which there has already been a sharing
of gifts is in spirituality and worship. Roman Catholics and Anglicans
now frequently pray together. Alongside common participation in public
worship and in private prayer, members of both churches draw from a common
treasury of spiritual writing and direction. There has been a notable convergence
in our patterns of liturgy, especially in that of the eucharist. The same
lectionary is used by both churches in many countries. We now agree on
the use of the vernacular language in public worship. We agree also that
communion in both kinds is the appropriate mode of administration of the
eucharist. In some circumstances, buildings are shared.
- In some areas there is collaboration in Christian education and in
service to local communities. For a number of years, Roman Catholic and
Anglican scholars have worked together in universities and other academic
institutions. There is closer co-operation in ministerial formation and
between parochial clergy and religious communities. The responsibility
for the pastoral care of inter-church families is now increasingly entrusted
to both churches. Meetings of Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops are becoming
customary, engendering mutual understanding and confidence. This often
results in joint witness, practical action and common statements on social
and moral issues. The growing measure of ecclesial communion experienced
in these ways is the fruit of the communion we share with the Father, through
the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
- We cannot, however, ignore the effects of our centuries of separation.
Such separation has inevitably led to the growth of divergent patterns
of authority accompanied by changes in perceptions and practices. The differences
between us are not only theological. Anglicans and Roman Catholics have
now inherited different cultural traditions. Such differences in communities
which have become isolated from one another have sometimes led to distortions
in the popular perceptions which members of one church have of the other.
As a result visible unity may be viewed as undesirable or even unattainable.
However, a closer examination of the developments which have taken place
in our different communities shows that these developments when held in
complementarity can contribute to a fuller understanding of communion.
- In recent years each communion has learnt from its own and each other's
experiences, as well as through contact with other churches. Since the
Second Vatican Council, the principle of collegiality and the need to adapt
to local cultural conditions have been more clearly recognized by the Roman
Catholic Church than before. Developing liturgical diversity, the increasing
exercise of provincial autonomy and the growing appreciation of the universal
nature of the Church have led Anglicans to develop organs of consultation
and unity within their own communion. These developments remind us of the
significance of mutual support and criticism, as together we seek to understand
ecclesial communion and to achieve it.
- Developments in the understanding of the theology of communion in each
of our churches have provided the background for the Commission's reflections
on the nature of communion. This Statement intends to be faithful to the
doctrinal formulations to which Anglicans and Roman Catholics are each
committed without providing an exhaustive treatment of the doctrine of
- Grave obstacles from the past and of recent origin must not lead us
into thinking that there is no further room for growth towards fuller communion.
It is clear to the Commission as we conclude this document, that, despite
continuing obstacles, our two Communions agree in their understanding of
the Church as communion. Despite our distinct historical experiences, this
firm basis should encourage us to proceed to examine our continuing differences.
- Our approach to the unresolved matters we must now face together will
be shaped by the agreed understanding of communion we have elaborated.
An appreciation both of the existing degree of communion between Anglicans
and Roman Catholics as well as the complete ecclesial communion to which
we are called will provide a context for the discussion of the long-standing
problem of the reconciliation of ministries which forms part of ARCIC II's
mandate. This will build upon ARCIC I's work on Ministry and Ordination,
which provides a new context for discussion of the consequences of the
Bull Apostolicae Curae (1896).
In the light of our agreement we must also address the present and future
implications of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate
in those Anglican provinces which consider this to be a legitimate development
within the catholic and apostolic tradition. The Lambeth Conference of
1988, while resolving that "each Province respect the decision and
attitudes of other Provinces in the ordination or consecration of women
to the episcopate", also stressed the importance of "maintaining
the highest possible degree of communion with the Provinces that differ" (Resolution
Writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury shortly after the Lambeth Conference,
Pope John Paul II said of the ordination of women that "The
Catholic Church, like the Orthodox Church and the Ancient Oriental Churches
is firmly opposed to this development, viewing it as a break with Tradition
of a kind we have no competence to authorize". Referring to ARCIC's
work in the reconciliation of ministries the Pope said "the ordination
of women to the episcopacy appears to preempt this study and effectively
block the path to the mutual recognition of ministries" (Letter of
Pope John Paul II to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 8th December 1988).
Another area which the Commission is currently engaged in studying is that
of moral issues. Our distinct cultural inheritances have sometimes led
us to treat of moral questions in different ways. Our study will explore
the moral dimension of Christian life and seek to explain and assess its
significance for communion as well as the importance of agreement or difference
on particular moral questions.
It is evident that the above issues are closely connected with the question
of authority. We continue to believe that an agreed understanding of the
Church as communion is the appropriate context in which to continue the
study of authority in the Church begun by ARCIC I. Further study will be
needed of episcopal authority, particularly of universal primacy, and of
the office of the Bishop of Rome; of the question of provincial autonomy
in the Anglican Communion; and the role of the laity in decision-making
within the Church. This work will take into account the response of the
Lambeth Conference 1988 and the response of the Roman Catholic Church to
the Final Report of ARCIC I.
- Serious as these remaining obstacles may seem, we should not overlook
the extent of the communion already existing between our two churches,
which we have described in the last part of this Statement. Indeed, awareness
of this fact will help us to bear the pain of our differences without complacency
or despair. It should encourage Anglicans and Roman Catholics locally to
search for further steps by which concrete expression can be given to this
communion which we share. Paradoxically the closer we draw together the
more acutely we feel those differences which remain. The forbearance and
generosity with which we seek to resolve these remaining differences will
testify to the character of the fuller communion for which we strive. Together
with all Christians, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are called by God to
continue to pursue the goal of complete communion of faith and sacramental
life. This call we must obey until all come into the fullness of that Divine
Presence, to whom Father, Son and Holy Spirit be ascribed all honour, thanksgiving
and praise to the ages of ages.
Members of the Commission
The Rt Revd Mark Santer, Bishop of Birmingham, UK (Co-Chairman)
The Rt Revd John Baycroft, Suffragan Bishop of Ottawa, Canada
The Rt Revd E.D. Cameron, Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Sydney, Australia
The Revd Professor Henry Chadwick, Master, Peterhouse, Cambridge, UK (until
The Revd Julian Charley, Vicar of Great Malvern Priory, UK
The Revd Dr Kortright Davis, Professor of Theology, Howard University Divinity
School, Washington, DC, USA
The Rt Revd Dr David M. Gitari, Bishop of Mount Kenya East, Kenya (until
The Revd Canon Christopher Hill, Canon Residentiary of St. Paul's Cathedral,
London, UK (from 1990, previously Anglican Co-Secretary)
The Revd Professor Oliver O'Donovan, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral
Theology, University of Oxford, UK
The Revd Professor John Pobee, Programme on Ecumenical Theological Education,
World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland
Dr Mary Tanner, Deputy Secretary, Board for Mission and Unity of the General
Synod of the Church of England, London, UK
The Rt Revd Arthur A. Vogel, Retired Bishop of West Missouri, USA
The Revd Professor J. Robert Wright, Professor of Church History, General
Theological Seminary, New York, USA
The Revd Canon Stephen Platten, Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for
Ecumenical Affairs, London, UK (from 1990)
Roman Catholic Members
The Rt Revd Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, UK
The Revd Fr Abraham. Adappur, SJ, Staff Member, Lumen Institute, Cochin,
India (until 1988)
The Revd Fr Peter Damian Akpunonu, Rector, Catholic Institute of West Africa,
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Sister Dr Mary Cecily Boulding, OP, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Ushaw
College, Durham, UK
The Most Revd Peter Butelezi, OMI, Archbishop of Bloemfontein, South Africa
The Rt Revd Pierre Duprey, Titular Bishop of Thibare, Secretary, Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City
The Rt Revd Raymond W. Lessard, Bishop of Savannah, USA
The Revd Brendan Soane, Spiritual Director, Pontifical Beda College, Rome,
The Revd Fr John Thornhill, SM, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Catholic
Theological Union, Hunters Hill, NSW, Australia
The Revd Fr Jean M.R. Tillard, OP, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Dominican
Faculty of Theology, Ottawa, Canada
The Most Revd Bernard J. Wallace, Bishop of Rockhampton, Australia (from
Revd. Dr. Edward Yarnold, SJ, Tutor in Theology, Campion Hall, Oxford,
The Very Revd Mgr Kevin McDonald, Pontifical Council for Promoting Chrisitan
Unity, Vatican City
World Council of Churches Observer
The Revd. Dr. G. Gassmann, Director, Faith and Order Commission, WCC, Geneva,
1. Cf. Common
Declaration, Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert
Runcie, 2 October 1989.
2. Second Vatican
Council, Nostra Aetate, 4.
has been treated in many ecumenical documents including the Final Report
of ARCIC I (Introduction). Cf. also Communion-Koinonia: A Study by the
Institute for Ecumenical Research, Strasbourg, 1990.
4. The language
of "effective sign" and "instrument" is known to Anglicans
in the Cathechism of the Book of Common Prayer and in the Articles of Religion
in which baptism and the eucharist are said to be "not only a sign...
but rather... a sacrament", "sure witnesses, and effectual signs
of grace" whereby we receive grace "as a means" or "as
by an instrument", and which "be effectual because of Christ's
institution and promise" (The Catechism; Articles 25, 26, 27, 28).
For the Roman Catholic Church, similarly, instrumental language was largely
developed in relation to the sacraments rather than the Church. But reflection
on the mystery of Christ and the Church led to the development of its self-understanding
in terms of itself being, "in Christ... in the nature of sacrament ‘ a
sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among
all people", and "as the universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen
Gentium 1 and 48).