WASHINGTON (April 6, 1999) -- The relationship between the local church and the universal church was the major focus of discussions at the recent meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States. The 48th meeting of the ARC-USA dialogue, sponsored by the Episcopal Church and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), took place at the Center for Continuing Formation, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore, March 11-14. The 23 members and participants reviewed a draft of a report which will be the first major step in a long-term project examining how authority is understood and exercised in both churches.
The report, now being completed, traces the relationship between dioceses, each of which is considered properly as a "local church," and the worldwide communion of churches. The report recognizes agreements and differences, and notes areas for further study. Next, the dialogue will focus on the inner workings of both churches.
All major elements constituting the report were discussed at the meeting but there was insufficient time for agreement on a final text. When released, the report will contribute to the ongoing discussion of the major remaining issue for dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion as a whole, namely the nature and exercise of Authority. In the past, the planners of Anglican-Catholic dialogue identified three areas where historical differences were thought to be dividing the churches: eucharist, ministry and ordination, and authority.
Most Rev. John J. Snyder, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, and Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, co-chair ARC-USA deliberations which bring together as many as twenty-six participants, all appointed in some way through their churches.
Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, hosted the group March 11, and presided at a Vespers service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Frank T. Griswold III, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who until recently had been Anglican co-chair of ARC-USA, preached the homily. The Vespers service marked the first official visit and reception of a Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church at the historic basilica in the first Roman Catholic diocese in the United States. Cardinal Keeler thanked Bishop Griswold for accepting the invitation to preach and for delivering a "thoughtful and challenging homily which we will remember for a long time." The homily is available on the Episcopal Church's website (www.dfms.org), under ecumenical relations.
Presiding Bishop Griswold has been named co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission which will begin its third round of dialogue this year.
Members of the dialogue also laid plans for responding to the long anticipated statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, "the Gift of Authority," which is due to be released in May. ARC-USA's members also discussed another project that would make the consensus on Eucharist and ministry, now approved by Lambeth Conferences and the Holy See, more widely known among Episcopalians and Catholics. As the next step in their project on authority, ARC-USA will study the theological and canonical bases for autonomous provinces, like the Episcopal Church, in the Anglican Communion, and episcopal conferences, like the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the Roman Catholic Church.
The next meeting is scheduled for January 20-23, 2000, at Marywood retreat and conference center in Jacksonville.
For further information contact:
the Rev. Canon Dr. David Perry, The Episcopal Church Center, 212-716-6220; Dr. John Borelli, NCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 202-541-3022