COMMUNION IN MISSION
Meeting, May 2000
1. This meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops
from 13 countries, convened by His Eminence Edward Cardinal Cassidy
and His Grace Archbishop George Carey, gathered at Mississauga,
near Toronto, Canada, from 14-20 May 2000. Our meeting was grounded
in prayer and marked by a profound atmosphere of friendship and
spiritual communion. We began on Good Shepherd Sunday, conscious
of our common vocation as shepherds of the Good Shepherd, with a
responsibility to lead God's people forward in active hope towards
that unity in truth and holiness which our Lord wills for his Church.
We came together to address the imperative for Christian
reconciliation and healing, in a broken and divided world. We were
also conscious of the fact that Christian people around the world
are celebrating two thousand years since the birth of Jesus Christ.
In this year of Great Jubilee, in which the churches are acting
co-operatively for the remission of unpayable Third World debt,
we are aware of the need to leave behind all past deficits with
which our churches have themselves been burdened, so as to enter
the new millennium renewed in deepening unity and peace.
At this meeting we have naturally focused on the special
relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican
Communion as expressed in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second
Vatican Council. We also recognized the progress which has been
made in our relations with other Christians and we recommit ourselves
to the ecumenical endeavor with all Christian churches.
As day by day we prayed together and meditated on scripture
in the chapel of Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre, we realized afresh
both the degree of spiritual communion we already share in the richness
of our common liturgical inheritance, but also the pain of our inability
to share together fully in the eucharist. As we listened to experiences
from the different regions we were struck by the extent of interchurch
collaboration, particularly common action for social justice and
joint pastoral care in which Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy
and lay people are involved. We noted with concern some of the problems
our disunity causes to the mission of the Church, and recognized
the opportunities for shared endeavor presented to us in the service
of our fragmented world. As we reviewed the results of the Anglican-Roman
Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), we came to appreciate
the very impressive degree of agreement in faith that already exists.
This alerted us to the serious obligation to intensify the process
of reception of those agreements at the local level.
There is one specific point that has been driven home
to us during the meeting. Over the last thirty years we have become
familiar with the concept of degrees of communion'. Despite
our acknowledged differences, we have regularly affirmed that we
share in the fundamental communion of a common faith and a common
baptism. This degree of communion holds within it the promise of
the full visible communion to which God is calling us. Our experience
at Toronto encourages us to believe that we have reached a very
significant new place on our journey. We feel compelled to affirm
that our communion together is no longer to be viewed in minimal
terms. We have been able to discern that it is not just formally
established by our common baptism into Christ, but is even now a
rich and life-giving, multifaceted communion.
We have come to a clear sense that we have moved much
closer to the goal of full visible communion than we had at first
dared to believe. A sense of mutual interdependence in the Body
of Christ has been reached, in which the churches of the Anglican
Communion and the Roman Catholic Church are able to bring shared
gifts to their joint mission in the world.
We appreciate that there are as yet unresolved differences
and challenges which affect both Communions. These have to do with
such matters as: the understanding of authority in the Church, including
the way it is exercised, and the precise nature of the future role
of the universal primate; Anglican Orders; the ordination of women;
moral and ethical questions. Though interchurch families can be
signs of unity and hope, one pressing concern has to do with addressing
the need to provide joint pastoral care for them. Sometimes those
in interchurch families experience great pain particularly in the
area of eucharistic life.
However, we believe these challenges are not to be
compared with all that we hold in common. The communion constituted
by what we already share has within it an inner dynamic which, animated
by the Holy Spirit, impels us forward toward the overcoming of these
differences. Indeed, we have become conscious that we have embraced
what may be described, not only as a new era of friendship and co-operation,
but as a new stage of evangelical koinonia'. By this we mean
a communion of joint commitment to our common mission in the world
The marks of this new stage of communion in mission
are: our trinitarian faith grounded in the scriptures and set forth
in the catholic creeds; the centrality of Christ, his death and
resurrection, and commitment to his mission in the Church; faith
in the final destiny of human life; common traditions in liturgy
and spirituality; the monastic life; preferential commitment to
the poor and marginalized; convergence on the eucharist, ministry,
authority, salvation, moral principles, and the Church as communion,
as expressed in agreed statements of ARCIC; episcopacy, particularly
the role of the bishop as symbol and promoter of unity; and the
respective roles of clergy and laity.
We believe that now is the appropriate time for the
authorities of our two Communions to recognize and endorse this
new stage through the signing of a Joint Declaration of Agreement.
This Agreement would set out: our shared goal of visible unity;
an acknowledgment of the consensus in faith that we have reached,
and a fresh commitment to share together in common life and witness.
Our two Communions would be invited to celebrate this Agreement
around the world.
As our meeting proceeded we became increasingly aware
that as bishops we ourselves have a responsibility to guide, promote,
and energize the ongoing work of unity in our churches. We commit
ourselves wholeheartedly to this task. Our action plan is appended
to this statement.
The first recommendation of our action plan is that
a Joint Unity Commission be established. This Commission will oversee
the preparation of the Joint Declaration of Agreement, and promote
and monitor the reception of ARCIC agreements, as well as facilitate
the development of strategies for translating the degree of spiritual
communion that has been achieved into visible and practical outcomes.
It is important to be clear that this new stage on
our journey is but a step on the way to full and visible unity.
Our vision of full and visible unity is of a eucharistic communion
of churches: confessing the one faith and demonstrating by their
harmonious diversity the richness of faith; unanimous in the application
of the principles governing moral life; served by ministries that
the grace of ordination unites together in an episcopal body, grafted
on to the company of the Apostles, and which is at the service of
the authority that Christ exercises over his Body. The ministry
of oversight has both collegial and primatial dimensions and is
open always to the community's participation in the discernment
of God's will. This eucharistic communion on earth is a participation
in the larger communion which includes the saints and martyrs, and
all those who have fallen asleep in Christ through the ages.
However, the shape of full visible unity is beyond
our capacity to put into words. "God will always surprise us,"
as we were reminded in a meditation shared with us: "God cannot
be understood through our human system or correspond to our positive
or negative predictions for the future. ... In our ecumenical efforts
we should keep in mind that one day we will rub our eyes and be
surprised by the new things that God has achieved in his Church."
[Information Service 104 (2000/III) 138-139]