Report Number: 006 document 8
The members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue of Canada (ARC) are grateful for the publication of The Gift of Authority: Authority in the Church III by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II).[i] We welcome it as an important expression of growth in our common understanding of the Church, of the charism of pastoral authority, and the fundamental character of its exercise in service to our communion with God and to the unity in faith and charity among the people of God. We believe this document represents a significant contribution toward the resolution of the central issue over which our two communions divided - the primacy of the Bishop of Rome - and establishes a new context of theological consensus within which to consider this ministry to the communion of the churches. It is our firm hope that the significant level of consensus achieved to date will lead Anglicans and Roman Catholics to the establishment of concrete and stable forms of shared ecclesial life that will express the genuine communion in faith that we share.
We shall consider the overall context of our continuing dialogue on the exercise of pastoral authority in the life of the Church and explore the advances in agreement achieved by The Gift of Authority. Following that we wish to bring a number of more critical observations to ARCIC’s attention and consider some ways of moving forward in our continuing dialogue concerning the structures and exercise of pastoral authority in the Church.
1. The Context of Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Authority:
The Gift of Authority builds upon the convergence achieved in ARCIC’s previous work, Authority in the Church I (1976), Elucidation (1981), and Authority in the Church II (1981) which appeared in The Final Report (1982).[ii] These documents established a consensus of fundamental importance on the exercise of pastoral authority in the Church, especially on “the basic principles of primacy.” The authorities of our two communions welcomed this development and were able to affirm that it established a solid foundation for continuing study and dialogue.
In receiving Authority in the Church I and II, Anglicans raised questions concerning “the relation of scripture and its interpretation in the developing tradition of the Church,” the distinction between authority and power, the relation between primacy, episcopal collegiality and conciliarity, the role of the laity in decision-making, infallibility, and the reception of conciliar and papal teaching.[iii] The 1988 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops recognized that Authority I and II established “a firm basis” for the direction of continuing dialogue. Noting the generally positive responses from the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference acknowledged persistent concerns regarding “primacy, jurisdiction, infallibility, collegiality, and the role of the laity.” In the assurance that Authority I and II “gave real grounds for believing further agreement can be reached” the bishops requested that ARCIC devote further attention to:
…the basis in Scripture and Tradition for the concept of a universal primacy, in conjunction with collegiality, as an instrument of unity, the character of such a primacy in practice, and draw upon the experience of other Christian Churches in exercising primacy, collegiality, conciliarity.[iv]
For its part the
In its effort to receive Authority in the Church I and II the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue (ARC) of Canada was encouraged by the Vatican Response’s appreciation of the fact that ‘quite remarkable progress’ and ‘considerable convergence’ have already been achieved on the question of authority.[viii] ARC welcomed ARCIC’s recognition that more study was required before we could speak of full agreement on this matter. However, we expressed concern that the Vatican’s reservations and negative assessment of some aspects of Authority in the Church I and II appeared to be based on a misreading of the documents. ARC was convinced “that there is a deeper and broader area of agreement” between Anglican and Roman Catholic understandings of authority and its exercise than the Vatican Response had recognized.[ix]
The Gift of Authority presents a carefully nuanced reflection on the divine gift of pastoral authority and its exercise within the Church which serves and strengthens the communion of the whole people of God, thus broadening, deepening, and making more explicit the grounds of our consensus on the principles of primacy and collegiality as they are to be lived out in the life of the Church. We welcome ARCIC’s recognition that our search for consensus on this question, upon which the restoration of full communion depends, takes place within the broader context where “there is an extensive debate about the nature and exercise of authority both in the churches and in wider society” (A III 5).
Recently, Pope John Paul II invited church leaders and theologians to enter into a “patient and Fraternal dialogue” concerning the exercise of papal primacy in a way that takes into account “the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of Christian Communities” and is “open to a new situation.” [x] The 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops encouraged Anglican Provinces to “consider this letter and respond to it.”[xi] At the same time, structures of authority and communion are the subject of increasing reflection within the Anglican Communion. The 1997 Virginia Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, notes:
In reflecting on the structures of Anglican unity and authority, we are aware that discernment, decision making and teaching with authority are today, sadly, in the context of separated Churches, and are therefore only partial reflections of the One, Holy Catholic and
The context for the reception of The Gift of Authority is also marked by the historic meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops from 13 countries at
Thus, The Gift of Authority represents an important contribution to the self-critical reflection of both Anglican and Roman Catholic Communions concerning the nature of authority and its exercise in service to the unity of the Church today. It invites new efforts to envision structures of collegial collaboration in the ministry of episcope. In this context it merits careful consideration.
2. Advances in Agreement, Deepening Consensus:
Authority III broadens and deepens the consensus already achieved, and represents a significant advance in agreement in three areas:
2.1. Scripture, Tradition, and the Exercise of Teaching Authority
ARCIC’s discussion of Tradition as the way in which the Word is “received and communicated through the life of the whole Christian community” (A III 14) clarifies and strengthens our common understanding of the dynamic interdependence between Scripture and tradition. We welcome the affirmation that, as a living expression of the apostolic faith, “tradition makes the witness of the apostolic community present today through its corporate memory” (A III 18) in the celebration of Word and sacrament. The sense of memory that emerges is not a mere recollection of the past, but rather an active and dynamic principle with an eschatological orientation, calling us to live the gospel more fully in every age.[xv] ARCIC has clearly captured the anamnetic character of tradition and thus, its utter reliance upon the Word of God.
We affirm with ARCIC that the Scriptures are “uniquely authoritative” and “occupy a normative place” within the tradition such that the Church must constantly “measure its teaching, preaching and action against them” (A III 19). This is consonant with the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation that the teaching office of the Church is “not above the Word of God.”[xvi]Anglicans hold to the sovereign authority of Scripture while recognizing that the church, as an interpretive community, must read it in the context of tradition and reason. We welcome the affirmation that “the meaning of the revealed Gospel of God is fully understood only within the Church” (A III 23), within the context of the faithful people of God who are guided by the Spirit. When biblical interpretation is carried out by individual members of the Church in the context of study and prayer, each is guided by the manner in which the whole Church has received the Word in the past and continues to receive it today. In turn, they contribute to the community’s present and future understanding and witness to the Word. Because the Word of God is a treasure entrusted to the whole Church (Jude 3), its interpretation is necessarily an ecclesial activity.
2.2. Collegiality, conciliarity, and the role of the laity
The Gift of Authority’s re-appropriation of the notions of the sensus fidelium and of synodality establishes a firm basis for growth in agreement concerning the role of the laity in decision making and church teaching, and the collegial nature of the exercise of authority.
2.2.1. Catholicity and the Sensus Fidelium: An approach to the Role of the Laity
We affirm ARCIC’s insistence that the “amen” of both the individual believer and of each local church is pronounced within the communion of the whole Church which stands in continuity with the faith of the apostles through time and space (A III 26). While the catholicity of the Church is present in each local church, it is not fully realized apart from a participation in the wider communion of the churches. ARC welcomes the recognition that this communion of faith is manifested in a rich diversity of ecclesial expressions: “As God has created diversity among humans, so the Church’s fidelity and identity require not uniformity of expression and formulation at all levels and in all situations, but rather catholic diversity within the unity of communion. This richness of traditions is a vital resource for a reconciled humanity” (A III 27). In this assurance we desire to find ways of living in a reconciled diversity rooted in the confession of one faith, respecting the unique and rich heritage of the Anglican Communion and the diversity of churches in the communion of the Catholic Church.
ARCIC’s dynamic model of revelation unfolds in a reflection on the interplay between the whole people of God and those entrusted with the task of ministering to the corporate memory of the Church, the bishops, in the continual process of receiving and re-receiving the Word revealed to us in Christ. ARC welcomes the affirmation of our common understanding of the tradition and teaching ministry of the Church as a process that calls for the engagement of the whole people of God. The transmission of the Christian faith cannot be reduced to the laity’s reception of decisions made by the hierarchy. Rather, every baptized Christian bears a responsibility in receiving and handing the Christian faith on to each new generation of believers. Through their full and active participation in every aspect of ecclesial life, and in the symphony of their many gifts and charisms, the catholicity of the Church comes to its fullest expression.
In this regard, our common faith is clearly articulated in the affirmation that “those who exercise episcope in the Body of Christ must not be separated from the ‘symphony’ of the whole people of God in which they have their part to play,” and that “the sensus fidelium of the people of God and the ministry of memory exist together in reciprocal relationship” (A III 30). [xvii] Here every member of the Church plays a role in receiving, proclaiming, and living out the Word of God. The sensus fidelium is properly and helpfully described as “an active capacity for spiritual discernment, an intuition that is formed by worshipping and living in communion as a faithful member of the Church” to be “exercised in concert by the body of the faithful” (A III 29). This deeper awareness of the role of the sensus fidelium reflects an aspect of the Christian tradition that both our churches need to retrieve in the present context. To this consciousness of faith of the whole people of God assisted by the Holy Spirit, the bishops, and with them the Bishop of Rome, must attend in exercising their unique ministry of watching over the corporate memory of the apostolic teaching, especially in moments when they are called to elaborate an authoritative interpretation of the Word.
ARCIC’s presentation of the teaching function of the episcopate as a “ministry of memory” gives us a more lively sense of the bishop’s role in “guarding the deposit of faith”; the bishop is not the curator of a museum but promotes the re-actualization of the apostolic faith in this local church, in this culture, in this moment of history (Cf. Church as Communion, 26-29). The “ministry of memory” recalls the prophetic function of the bishop, who like the prophets of old, called the people to renew their fidelity to God’s covenant by recalling the gifts and promises of God, and above all, God’s merciful love.
2.2.2. Synodality: An Approach to Conciliarity and Collegiality
The concept of synodality expresses aptly our common understanding that all the faithful are called to walk together in the Way of Christ. It helps us to see that authority is a gift intended to serve and strengthen the communion of faith and charity among all who believe in Christ so that we may witness to the world our faith that he is the Way to the fullness of life. Ecclesial structures, as instruments for the exercise of authority and decision-making in the service of communion, must exhibit a truly synodal character. ARCIC’s reflection on synodality situates the exercise of episcopal authority at the center of the communion of believers in each local church, and within the communion of all the local churches. The notion of synodality, while perhaps developed more explicitly in the theology of the Eastern churches, complements the fundamental consensus achieved previously on the collegial and conciliar nature of the Church. The Gift of Authority helps us to consider that the synodal dimension of ecclesial life is not only operative when a synod or a council is convened, but that this dynamic interaction expresses the very nature of the Church in its daily life and witness to the gospel. We believe this represents the recovery of an important aspect of the life of the Church in communion, a growth in understanding the nature of the Church for Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike.
We welcome The Gift of Authority’s affirmation that each bishop receives the charism of pastoral authority “for the effective exercise of episcope within the local church.” This includes the jurisdiction required to lead each community, which is not to be confused with “an arbitrary power given to one person over the freedom of others” (A III 36). We welcome ARCIC’s balanced assertion that “the faithful have a duty to receive and accept” the decisions taken by bishops in the exercise of their pastoral authority, but that such assent is to be “an obedience of freedom and not slavery” (A III 36). Elsewhere, The Gift of Authority’s insists that in enforcing, at times, necessary disciplinary measures, the ministry of the bishop is to be “an instrument of the Holy Spirit of God for the healing of humanity” (A III 49). The bishop then, must be seen, even in difficult and apparently divisive judgments, as a minister of the God’s mercy whose authority is not arbitrary and who fully respects the conscience and freedom of each believer. These affirmations resonate with the sincere conviction of contemporary Christians concerning the fundamental dignity of every human person and the contribution of each believer to the life of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
2.3. The Petrine Ministry in Relation to Scripture and Tradition
The Gift of Authority reflects a significant advance in our common understanding of the link between the pastoral authority of the bishop, and thus of the Bishop of Rome, to ecclesial communion. The communion of faith in each local church with and in the whole
2.3.1. A Ministry of Communion
ARCIC affirms the common belief of Anglicans and Roman Catholics that the exercise of authority in the Church exists to enable the whole Church to realize its mission of proclaiming the reign of God in the world and “to promote the unity of the whole Church in faith and life” in a way that enriches legitimate diversity (A III 32-33). The task of all those entrusted with pastoral authority in the Church, and especially the bishops who preside over the life of the local churches, is fundamentally a ministry of communion. Thus, pastoral authority can never be exercised in isolation from the local community of believers or from the whole Church’s communion of faith; it is exercised properly within the context of communion and expressed within a dynamic of synodality. The Gift of Authority deepens our agreement concerning the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, which, as a truly episcopal ministry exercised by one who is both a member and head of the college of bishops, is to be exercised collegially and in a way that reflects the synodality of the whole Church.
2.3.2. Communion and Ecclesiality
The Gift of Authority provides a notable clarification and deepening of our common understanding of the link between the ecclesiality of local and particular churches and the will of God that the communion of the churches be served by the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Authority in the Church I had already established a dramatically new context for dialogue on these questions when it observed, that the “pattern of complementary primatial and conciliar aspects of episcope serving the koinonia of the churches needs to be realized at the universal level” (A I 23). Later, Authority in the Church II expressed a consensus that “it is possible to think that a primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not contrary to the New Testament and is part of God’s purpose regarding the Church’s unity and catholicity” (A II 7), and acknowledged that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome was commonly held to be “the sign of the visible koinonia God wills for the Church and an instrument through which unity and diversity is realized” (A II 11). In receiving this consensus, ARC observed, “For ARCIC, then, as well as for Vatican II, a church not in full communion with the universal primate would lack, not only a visible sign of universal Christian communion, but also a God-given means by which that communion is to be maintained.”[xviii]Nonetheless, Roman Catholic authorities found that ARCIC’s position did not reflect the fullness of the Roman Catholic conviction that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome “belongs to the divine structure of the Church” as something “positively willed by God and deriving from the will and institution of Christ.”[xix]
The Gift of Authority reflects an unprecedented level of consensus on this matter. It maintains that “the mutual interdependence of all the churches is integral to the Church as God wills it to be” (A III 37), and further, that “the exigencies of church life call for a specific exercise of episcope at the service of the whole Church” (A III 46), recognizing that “historically, the Bishop of Rome has exercised such a ministry” (A III 46). Together, Anglicans and Roman Catholics affirm the shared conviction that such a ministry is “a gift to be received by all the churches” (A III 47). These assertions exclude any notion of the local or particular church as sufficient unto itself apart from communion with the wider church, or the suggestion that the Bishop of Rome’s ministry to the communion of the churches is an incidental feature, a purely human institution appended to the life of a local community.
This common belief is founded upon the witness of the New Testament “in the pattern [where] one of the twelve is chosen by Jesus Christ to strengthen the others so that they will remain faithful to their mission and in harmony with each other” (A III 46; see also A II 2-5). It is grounded in our shared heritage in the Fathers of the Church (A III 46). The Gift of Authority expresses our shared conviction that the ministry of the Church of Rome and its bishop to the communion of the churches is positively willed by God for the realization of the Church’s mission. Nonetheless, it does not oblige us to maintain a literalistic interpretation of the biblical evidence concerning the origins of the Church and its ministries that could not be upheld with any integrity in the face of contemporary biblical scholarship. These statements represent a significant growth in agreement whose practical implications merit careful consideration by the authorities of our communions.
2.3.3. The Exercise of Authority in Communion and Perseverance in Truth
The Gift of Authority’s carefully nuanced development of the synodal nature of ecclesial communion and the essential role of the sensus fidelium in the discernment of the Gospel establishes a new context from which to consider our shared faith in the Church’s indefectibility or its “perseverance in the truth” and of the authority of Church teaching as a reflection of God’s faithful promise of the Holy Spirit (John 14.26).
126.96.36.199. Infallibility and the
In regard to the teaching ministry of the college of bishops, The Gift of Authority states:
In specific circumstances, those with this ministry of oversight (episcope), assisted by the Holy Spirit, may come to a judgment which, being faithful to the Scripture and consistent with apostolic Tradition, is preserved from error. (…) This is what is meant when it is affirmed that the Church may teach infallibly… (A III 42).
Further, The Gift of Authority holds that “such doctrinal definitions are received as authoritative in virtue of the divine truth they proclaim as well as the specific office of the person or persons who proclaim them within the sensus fidei of the people of God” (A III 43). Our consensus on this matter is strengthened by the fact that The Gift of Authority clearly locates the exercise of such authority within the synodal nature of the Church, requiring the participation of the sensus fidelium (A III 43), as all such judgments express “the authentic faith of the whole Church” (A III 47). It is our common belief that “this form of authoritative teaching finds no stronger guarantee from the Spirit than have the solemn definitions of the ecumenical councils” (A III 47).
188.8.131.52. Infallibility and the Ministry of the Bishop of Rome
ARCIC had previously “recognized the need in a united Church for a universal primate who, presiding over the koinonia, can speak with authority in the name of the Church” (A II 26; cf. A I 23). It acknowledged that the service of preserving the Church in the truth of the gospel, though “normally given through a synodal decision” (A II 28), has also “been performed by the Bishop of Rome as a universal primate,” at times apart from a conciliar context, though such judgments “must satisfy rigorous conditions” (A II 29). This consensus is deepened by The Gift of Authority’s elaboration of our common understanding of the exercise of the infallible magisterium of the Church:
Every solemn definition pronounced from the chair of Peter in the
In our view, these few dense lines represent an important development in our common understanding of the teaching concerning the Bishop of Rome’s exercise, under certain conditions defined by the First Vatican Council, of “that infallibility which belongs to the Church”[xx] The Gift of Authority represents an important explication and reception of the insight of the Second Vatican Council that the whole college of bishops shares in the solicitude of the Bishop of Rome for the unity in faith of the whole Church.[xxi] Even when teaching ex cathedra, in his role as pastor in service to the local churches, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is to be exercised in a manner that reflects the essential collegiality of his episcopal office and in the context of the synodal structure of the Church.
184.108.40.206 Infallibility and the Reception of Church Teaching
The Gift of Authority clarifies our shared understanding of the role of reception in the process of handing on the faith of the gospel, especially in regard to the infallible exercise of the teaching office. Authority in the Church II had stated, “Anglicans do not accept the guaranteed possession of such a gift of divine assistance in judgment necessarily attached to the office of the Bishop of Rome by virtue of his formal decisions can be known to be wholly assured before their reception by the faithful” (A II 31). This reservation was taken by Roman Catholic authorities to suggest that ARCIC “sees the assent of the faithful’ as required for the recognition that a doctrinal decision of the Pope or of an Ecumenical Council is immune from error.”[xxii] In fact, ARCIC acknowledged our shared conviction that “although it is not through reception by the people of God that a definition first acquires authority, the assent of the faithful is the ultimate indication that the Church’s authoritative decision has been truly preserved from error by the Holy Spirit” (A II 25).
This consensus is deepened by The Gift of Authority’s affirmation that “doctrinal definitions are received as authoritative in virtue of the divine truth they proclaim as well as because of the specific office of the person or persons who proclaim them within the sensus fidei of the whole people of God” (A III 43). This position excludes any interpretation that would propose ecclesial reception as a precondition or guarantee that such definitions remain in the truth of the Gospel. The reception of such judgments by the people of God is properly understood as an act of recognition “that this teaching expresses the apostolic faith and operates within the authority of the truth of Christ, the Head of the Church” and the ultimate “source of infallible teaching in the Body of Christ” (A III 43).[xxiii] Our common understanding of reception is enhanced by The Gift of Authority’s exposition of the essential role of the sensus fidelium in the process of discerning Christian truth. The active participation of the whole body of believers is an integral aspect of the process of teaching both prior to and following upon any formal exercise of teaching authority. The statement that doctrinal definitions are made “within the sensus fidei of the whole people of God” is a helpful manner of re-receiving together the teaching of the First Vatican Council that the exercise of infallible teaching authority by the Bishop of Rome remains an exercise of “that infallibility with which Christ willed to endow his Church.”[xxiv]
As indicated above, we believe that The Gift of Authority represents a significant growth in common understanding and expresses an unprecedented level of theological consensus between Anglicans and Roman Catholics regarding the exercise of pastoral authority in the life of the Church. Its theological reflection leads to a deeper appreciation of the dynamic interdependence of the laity and the episcopate, and of the local churches and their bishops with the Bishop of Rome. Nonetheless, we consider that a number of factors related to its methodology affect the reception and interpretation of the text in our two communions. Since its publication we have had occasion to study and reflect on The Gift of Authority with the laity and clergy of our local churches. We have found it difficult, at times, to transpose the rather abstract language of the text in a way that speaks to the concrete experience of ordinary Christians. They ask how this new level of consensus is related to more traditional, confessional teachings. We consider as well, in light of the rather limited attention accorded the text in theological journals, that it has not caught the imagination of the theological community. How are we to understand these facts?
The Gift of Authority continues to follow a method established early on by ARCIC: “…in the spirit of Phil. 3.13, ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead’, to discover each other’s faith as it is today and to appeal to history only for enlightenment.”[xxv] It avoids the controversial language of the past and succeeds in developing a new common language to give voice to our consensus of faith. This constructive approach has helped both our churches to deepen our understanding of the gospel and has led us beyond many of the negative judgments of the past. However, when the connection of this new language with the teachings of the past is not made clear, there is a risk that agreed statements remain somewhat abstract. Some have found the language of Authority I and II more helpful and concrete than that of The Gift of Authority because it was clearly seeking to understand the teachings of
3.1. Authority and Power in Context
Our contemporaries regard the words power and authority with considerable suspicion. The Gift of Authority avoids the use of the term “power” which is used customarily with a positive connotation in both our traditions in relation to the ministry of the ordained. How does ARCIC’s treatment of pastoral authority relate to our traditional understanding of power? This question, raised in the Anglican responses and summarized in The Emmaus Report, merits further consideration.
While ARCIC has devoted a great deal of energy to recovering the positive root meaning of Christian authority and to present it as a gift, we note that most Canadians, because of our current cultural milieu, find it very difficult to hear such a positive interpretation. We live in a time characterized by a marked decline in deference to authority at all levels of society. In their search for authenticity and for structures that reflect a respect for the dignity of every human person, our contemporaries manifest a certain uneasiness in the face of hierarchical structures. They show a preference for more egalitarian and participatory models of authority. Recent scandals involving the abuse of power and the improper exercise of authority have created a sentiment of betrayal and mistrust toward those in positions of pastoral authority within our two churches. A particularly tragic instance of this is the legacy of the experience of aboriginal peoples in church-run residential schools. In our Canadian context, the pastoral authority conferred upon those in ministry is no longer acknowledged easily as a “gift.”
The trust and confidence of the faithful will be earned by those who exercise pastoral authority with the authenticity of the servant who lays down his or her life for a friend, in the image and likeness of Jesus: “This is Christian authority: when Christians so act and speak, men perceive the authoritative word of Christ” (A I 3). Both of our communions are challenged in this context to give witness “that authority rightly exercised is a gift from God to bring reconciliation and peace to humankind” (A III 5). To the extent that our communions live out the common faith expressed in The Gift of Authority, we will give a common visible witness to the reconciling presence of Christ in the world.
3.2. God’s “Yes” and our “Amen”: A Key ?
The Gift of Authority makes use of Saint Paul’s image, expressed in 2 Corinthians 1.18-20, of God’s “yes” to sinful humanity in the saving work of Christ, and of humanity’s response in Christ, our “amen” to God. The text is offered as a key to understanding the dynamic of authority in the life of the Church. All the promises of God, Paul tells us, find their yes in Jesus. And in him we say amen to the Father. This text serves as a literary device where the analogy of God’s yes and Jesus’ amen is extended to the exercise and response to the gift of Christian authority. While the theme of 2 Corinthians 1.18-20 serves as a helpful springboard in the development of this framework, we wonder whether, at least from an exegetical point of view, this text is not being asked to bear more than its intended meaning. The “amen” of Jesus is not a response to authority as such, but a response to self-giving love of the Father. Similarly, the “yes” of the Father to Jesus does not appear immediately as an exercise of authority.
ARCIC carefully develops the theme of God’s “yes” and the “amen” of the people of God within the context of the relations of the three persons of the divine Trinity. We welcome the Trinitarian foundation of this exposition with its affirmation that “God is the author of life” (A III 8); that Jesus’ “self-giving service and self-sacrificing love (Cf. Mk 10.45),” rooted in his “perfect communion with the Father” appear as a new way of exercising authority (A III 9); that the obedience of Christ, and hence, our yes to the divine gift of love, are “not a burden” but spring “from the liberation given by the Spirit of God” (A III 10). This Trinitarian framework lays the groundwork for a dynamic model of revelation that underpins the subsequent reflection on the amen of the individual believer and of the local church, and sets the tone for an exploration of the dynamics of decision-making within the context of ecclesial communion. However, the term “communion” only appears once in this context. It is therefore not immediately apparent how the communion of the divine Trinity is the source and model of communion for the life of the people of God, the Church.
It is helpful, in this context, to recall the foundation of ecclesiological consensus established previously in Church as Communion:
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 fulfillment 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. nos. 16-24).[xxvi]
Consensus on the ecclesiology of communion establishes an important framework for considering the nature and exercise of authority in the Church. A possible disadvantage of the “yes/amen” theme is that it might be perceived as reinforcing the unfortunate portrayal of our relationship to persons in authority as “power over” and “obedience/submission.” A stronger presentation of the interdependence of Trinitarian and ecclesial communion would reinforce ARCIC’s presentation of our relationship to instances of authority as one of liberating love and obedience/response in fulfillment of our longing for union with God and one another. Our relationship to those entrusted with authority in the Church is not a simple dyad, but is lived against the backdrop of our personal relationship with the triune God and with the wider ecclesial and human community.
3.3. Universal Primacy
Reference to the “Petrine ministry of universal primacy” (A III 3) seems to reflect the introduction of a new category, or terms that are more familiar to Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue than to the vocabulary of ARCIC. While we agree upon the need for a universal primacy, and that such a primacy would belong appropriately to the Bishop of Rome in a reconciled Church, this expression ought to be read in light of the observations made previously in Authority in the Church II:
While the New Testament taken as a whole shows Peter playing a clear role of leadership it does not portray the Church’s unity and universality exclusively in terms of Peter. The universal communion of churches is a company of believers, united by faith in Christ, by the preaching of the Word, and by participation in the sacraments assured to them by a pastoral ministry of apostolic order. In a reunited Church a ministry modeled on the role of Peter will be a sign and safeguard of such unity (A II 9).
3.4. Practical Structures of Communion
Our consensus would be enhanced by strengthening the link between the theological consensus reflected in The Gift of Authority and the practical lived experience of authority and decision-making. In this regard, the consensus achieved by ARCIC invites further reflection within each of our communions, and in dialogue with one another, on concrete structures for the participation of the laity in the processes of discernment and authoritative decision-making, on structures and procedures for dealing with dissent in the life of the Church, and on the requirements for a mutual recognition of a genuine exercise of episcope, whose collegial and primatial dimensions are held in a proper equilibrium, within a diversity of ecclesial polities.
3.4.1. The Laity and Decision-Making
The Gift of Authority’s discussion of catholicity and the sensus fidelium responds to concerns voiced in Anglican responses to ARCIC’s previous work for a clearer statement of consensus concerning the role of the laity in the life of the Church, particularly as regards the practice of decision-making. It provides a strong theological foundation for asserting that all the baptized have a right and responsibility to participate actively at every level of the Church’s life, and that the bishops have a particular responsibility to listen and discern carefully the pastoral needs and insights of all the faithful. It is not clear, however, that the lived experience of the laity in our two communions bears this out in practice.
The laity play an important role in many synodal structures within the provinces of the Anglican Communion, to the point of voting on important matters of ecclesial discipline and doctrine. Some Roman Catholics look at these practices and ask whether the discernment of the sensus fidelium has not been reduced to a mere democracy. In the absence of similar structures where bishops can hear the concerns of faithful lay persons within the Roman Catholic Church, some ask whether Roman Catholics take seriously the full dignity of all baptized persons and the assurance that the Holy Spirit is given to the lay and ordained persons alike. ARCIC makes mention of the “active participation of lay persons in the life and mission of the local church” (A III 40), but makes no reference to their role in national or regional structures of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Gift of Authority succeeds in developing the theological category of the sensus fidelium, yet it is not applied to the level of concrete procedures and institutional structures. In future, our continuing dialogue must take seriously the questions raised by the different practical structures through which our communions come to a common mind on questions of faith and order. We must be frank in articulating what will be required for us to recognize, in our diverse polities, an expression of our common faith. This is but one area where each communion must face hard questions (as ARCIC has helpfully noted: A III 56-57), take seriously the concerns of our ecumenical partners, and consider what practical reforms need to occur in order that structures and operative principles of order truly reflect our shared doctrinal convictions.
More could be said concerning the concrete procedures for responding to dissent within the Christian community. The Gift of Authority does not offer any reflection on the tensions that sometimes arise when individual Christians, who are bound to follow their conscience, find themselves at variance with decisions of the wider Christian community. Each Christian has a responsibility to make their views known on matters which concern the life of Christian community. As our history has shown, dissonant voices have not always signaled discord and discontinuity; at times we have come to recognize them as prophetic voices that call the Church to renew its fidelity to the faith of the apostles. What, concretely, do we do with persons in our communities who cannot say amen? Do we deal with them in a manner that safeguards and promotes genuine communion? It will be worth reflecting together on the concrete ways that the sensus fidelium can be most effectively formed and discerned in our time and in our fast-changing cultures. Further, it may be helpful to indicate a number of common criteria for distinguishing truly prophetic voices from that dissent which is destructive of our communion in faith and charity.
3.4.3. Synodal Structures and Recognition
The Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church have very similar ecclesial structures. Yet, in actual practice, the locus of power and authority is inverted. Where authority is highly centralized in the papal office on the Roman Catholic side at present, in the Anglican Communion it is much more localized and dispersed such that no legislative or juridical authority is recognized beyond the various provinces. What might our churches learn from one another and from other Christian churches concerning the lived experience of primacy, collegiality, and conciliarity? What will it take to recognize that our differing decision-making structures are nonetheless faithful expressions of the faith of the apostles that we share? A certain degree of recognition is inferred in ARCIC’s exposition of the instruments of synodality which presently exist within the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church (A III 39-40). We look forward to the day when the authorities of our two communions can formalize such a mutual recognition.
4. Future dialogue on authority in the church
In future we would hope to see ARCIC consider the application of a more inductive approach, one that places advances in agreement in dialogue with the concrete context of Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches and their heritage in historical affirmations of faith. We believe that such an approach would enable ARCIC to respond more directly to a number of the concerns that had been raised by the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the reception of ARCIC’s previous agreed statements on authority. Further, the establishment of IARCCUM invites a more intentional reflection on the relationship of growth in theological consensus and practical implications for the relationship of Anglican and Roman Catholic communities throughout the world. Some of the more practical issues identified above in section 3.4 might be addressed by a coordination of ARCIC’s future work with the efforts of IARCCUM.
4.1. Recommendations for a Joint Declaration
In light of the consensus reflected in The Gift of Authority, which builds upon the significant agreement already established by Authority in the Church I and II, and given mandate of IARCCUM, we would like to suggest that two points be carefully considered for inclusion in a Joint Declaration of Anglican-Roman Catholic agreement. This Joint Declaration might follow the method that proved fruitful in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification[xxvii] that established a basic consensus of faith and related these points to the diverse theological and practical approaches at work in each tradition.
First, the basic consensus concerning the ministry of primacy to be exercised by the Bishop of Rome in service to the communion of the whole Church invites a clear declaration that the rejection of papal primacy is not a constitutive element of Anglican identity. This question has been raised by Anglicans in the face of growing consensus concerning the ministry of the Bishop of Rome.[xxviii] Indeed, Anglicans have continuously recognized the unique honour accorded to the successors of Peter through the celebration of the Confession of Saint Peter and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, whose martyrdom laid the foundation of the Church of Rome. In 1997, Anglicans marked the 1400th anniversary of the mission of Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory to proclaim the gospel among the Angles. Beginning with the common declaration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, and Pope Paul VI,[xxix] the primates of Rome and
Secondly, in light of the theological consensus achieved on the ordained ministry and on the exercise of episcopal authority, and given The Gift of Authority’s invitation to “make more visible the koinonia we already have” through the increased cooperation of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops (A III 58-59), we consider it desirable to make a clear declaration to the effect that we must now speak of a new context of ecclesial communion. Anglicans and Roman Catholics have grown in their common understanding of pastoral ministry to such an extent that the negative judgments of the past, particularly those reflected in Apostolicae Curae, have been surpassed. While the Roman Catholic Church may not yet accord full canonical recognition to Anglican orders, this new context requires a positive affirmation concerning the apostolic character of Anglican orders and the genuine and fruitful exercise of episcope within the Anglican Communion.
In Canada, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have been engaged in dialogue for over twenty-five years. Through moments of common prayer and exchanges at the table of dialogue they have grown in mutual understanding and developed common pastoral initiatives to serve the needs of those entrusted to their care. [xxx] In a number of regions across Canada, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have committed themselves to meet and pray together on a regular basis, and to promote ecumenical collaboration on issues of shared pastoral concern. In some cases, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have made a common pilgrimage to the See of Rome as a sign of their lived experience of communion in mission. Internationally, even more dramatic gestures of recognition can be seen in Pope Paul VI’s gift of an episcopal ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey, or in Pope John Paul II’s invitation to Archbishop George Carey to assist in opening the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome to inaugurate the Jubilee celebration at the beginning of a new millennium of Christianity. These and other gestures reflect the fact that Roman Catholics hold the ministry of Anglican bishops in high esteem. Their ministry clearly comes from Christ, leads back to him, and belongs to the one
These are but two suggestions that we offer for the consideration of ARCIC and of IARCCUM in their efforts to prepare a Joint Declaration on Anglican-Roman Catholic agreement. Such a measure would establish some clear landmarks, beyond which we may not turn back. It would invite ordinary Anglicans and Roman Catholics to receive the consensus achieved to date by ARCIC, and avoid returning to the condemnatory judgments and attitudes of the past. In so doing, we believe that a Joint Declaration will play an important role in the healing of memories and conversion of hearts and minds needed to prepare for the day when we will be fully reconciled.
4.2. Drawing from the Resources of History
To date ARCIC has given little attention to the exercise of papal primacy prior to the separation of the churches in the sixteenth century Reformation period. A common study of the historical development of the papacy, particularly during the first millennium when the exercise of primacy by the Bishop of Rome was recognized and received by all as a genuine gift, may enable us to clarify the essential mission of the Bishop of Rome and to retrieve the elements of an ecumenically receivable expression of this ministry for a new context.
4.3. A More Inductive Approach
The basic consensus expressed in ARCIC’s dialogue on authority can only be tested through an interface of theological agreement with existing structures and practice for the exercise of authority. Using a more inductive approach, ARCIC might apply this consensus to existing Anglican and Roman Catholic structures at the regional and diocesan levels. This exercise would assist Anglicans and Roman Catholics to deepen their appreciation of the extent to which the basic principles of primacy and synodality are operative in the life of one another’s churches. It might also assist both sides in discerning those areas of ecclesial life that stand in need of renewal and reform as they seek to respond with integrity to the questions articulated in The Gift of Authority nos. 56-67.
4.4. Future Dialogue Concerning Infallibility
The Gift of Authority establishes a firm consensus regarding the infallible exercise of authority by an ecumenical council, or, under carefully defined conditions, by the Bishop of Rome. Roman Catholic teaching also holds that in some cases the college of bishops, even though dispersed throughout the world and not engaged obviously in an act of solemn definition, may be said to teach infallibly.[xxxii] This doctrine, concerning what is commonly referred to as the “ordinary universal magisterium” is widely debated among Roman Catholic theologians today. There appears to be little consensus on either the conditions for verifying the common mind of the bishops dispersed in their local churches, or on the scope of such infallible teaching. In recent years the
ARCIC rightly reminds us that the visible unity of Anglican and Roman Catholic Communions is directly linked to our proclamation of the reconciling love of Christ in the world: “When Christians do not agree about the Gospel itself, the preaching of it in power is impaired. When they cannot be one in faith they cannot be one in life, and so cannot demonstrate fully that they are faithful to the will of God, which is the reconciliation through Christ of all things to the Father (2 Col 1.20). (…) Only when all believers are united in the common celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Church as Communion) will the God whose purpose it is to bring all things into unity in Christ (cf. Eph 1.10) be truly glorified by the people of God” (A III 33). These forceful statements recall the urgency of our shared commitment to the restoration of full visible communion and invite us to redouble our efforts to find ways to concretize the genuine communion that we already share. The advance in agreement contained in The Gift of Authority establishes a firm foundation for us to move forward on the road of deepening communion.
[i] The Gift of Authority. Authority in the Church III (London: Catholic Truth Society/Toronto: Anglican Book Centre/New York: Church Publishing, 1999). Subsequent references will be abbreviated in the text as “A III” followed by paragraph number.
[ii] Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, The Final Report (London: Church House/Catholic Truth Society, 1982) 49-98. Subsequent references will be abbreviated in the text as “A I” and “A II” respectively.
[iii] Anglican Consultative Council. The Emmaus Report. A Report of the Anglican Ecumenical Consultation (London: Church House, 1987) 65-69.
[iv] The Truth Shall Make You Free. The Lambeth Conference 1988 (London: Church House, 1988) Resolution 8. 3, 211.
[v] Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican Response to the ‘Final Report’ of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission [as “Vatican Responds to ARCIC Final Report”], Origins 21 (1991-92) 441- 48.
[vi] Ibid, nos. 9 and 19.
[vii] Ibid, nos. 11-18, at no. 18.
[viii] Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada, “Reply to the Vatican Response to the Final Report of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission ,” in Common Witness to the Gospel. Documents on Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations 1983-1995. Edited by Jeffrey Gros, E. Rozanne Elder, Ellen K. Wondra (Washington, DC: USCC, 1997) 78-104, nos. 54-69.
[ix] Ibid, 98, no. 69.
[x] John Paul II. Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint On Commitment to Ecumenism (Ottawa: CCCB, 1995) 105-107, nos. 95-96.
[xi] The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference 1998 (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1999) 256. Some Provinces have contributed responses, showing that Anglicans feel genuinely concerned by these questions.
[xii] “The Virginia Report,” in Ibid, 23.
[xiii] “Communion in Mission [Statement]” in Information Service 104 (2000/III) 138-39, no. 4.
[xiv] “Communion in Mission [Action Plan],” in Ibid, 140, A.
[xv] This discussion complements ARCIC II’s treatment of the apostolic tradition in Church as Communion (London: Church House, 1991) nos. 25-33.
[xvi] Second Vatican Council, “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation [Dei Verbum],” in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. Volume II. Edited by Norman P. Tanner (Washington: Georgetown UP/London: Sheed and Ward, 1990) 971-81 at 975, no. 10. All subsequent citations of documents from the First and Second Vatican councils are from this version.
[xvii] Together we hold that the catholicity of the Church is manifested by the unanimity of the whole people of God. Cf. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen Gentium]” in Decrees, 489-98 at 858, no. 12: “The universal body of the faithful who have received the anointing of the holy one (see 1 Jn 2, 20 and 27) cannot be mistaken in belief. It displays this particular quality through a supernatural sense of the faith in the whole people when ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful laity,’ it expresses the consent of all in matters of faith and morals.” Cf. Augustine, De Praed. Sanct. (Predestination of the Saints), 14, 27: PL 44, 980.
[xviii] “Reply to the Vatican Response,” 97, no. 65.
[xix] “Vatican Response,” no. 18. The Vatican Response took particular exception to ARCIC’s assertion, based on Vatican II’s recognition of the Orthodox Churches, that “being in communion with the Bishop of Rome is not among the necessary elements by which a community is recognized as a church” (A II 12).
[xx] First Vatican Council, “First Dogmatic Constitution on the
[xxi] “But as members of the episcopal college and legitimate successors of the apostles, the individual bishops, through the institution and command of Christ, are bound to be concerned about the whole Church…” Lumen Gentium, in Decrees, 867, no. 23.
[xxii] “Vatican Response,” no. 15.
[xxiii] This is consistent with the First Vatican Council’s desire to exclude the Gallican insistence on prior reception as a condition for the veracity of doctrinal definitions, reflected by its teaching that such decisions are “of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.” Cf. Pastor Aeternus, in Decrees, 816, no. 4.
[xxv] Final Report, 1.
[xxvi] Church as Communion, no. 43.
[xxvii] (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000).
[xxviii] The Emmaus Report noted that in receiving The Final Report, Anglican Provinces “ask the critical question whether being out of communion with the Roman see is an accidental and contingent fact of history or of the very substance of being Anglican,” 64.
[xxix] “The Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of
[xxx] E.g.: Pastoral Guidelines for Interchurch Marriages between Anglicans and Catholics in Canada (Ottawa: CCCB, 1987).
[xxxi] Cf. “Decree on Ecumenism, [Unitatis Redintegratio],” in Decrees, 908-920 at 910, no. 3.
[xxxii] “Although the bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, nevertheless, even though dispersed throughout the world, but maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, when in teaching authentically matters concerning faith and morals they agree about a judgment as one that has to be definitively held, they infallibly proclaim the teaching of Christ.” Lumen Gentium,” no. 25. Cf. Dei Filius, no. 3; Pius IX, Letter Tuas Libentur, DS 2879.
[xxxiii] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Responsum ad dubium,” Origins 25 (November 30, 1995) 401; in reference to John Paul II, “Apostolic Letter on Ordination of Women [Ordinatio sacerdotalis],” Origins 24 (June 9, 1994) 49-52. See also: John Paul II, “Ad tuendam fidem,” Origins 28 (July 16, 1998) 113-116, and the commentary on this document by the heads of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone, “Commentary,” in Ibid, 118-119. The latter discusses the matter of “definitive doctrines” which are said to be taught infallibly by the ordinary universal magisterium of the bishops, citing, among other examples, the Catholic teaching on Anglican Orders.