April 17, 2015

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Spirit will lead ecumenical participants to fulfill Jesus’ call for unity

Acronyms abound in our world today. What once was Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.

The same is true in the Church. We have RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), DRE (director of religious education) and UCA (United Catholic Appeal).

In ecumenical work, acronyms also abound.

Take ARCIC: “Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission” created in 1969, which seeks to make ecumenical progress between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

For more than four decades, ARCIC has sought to find common ground between the Anglican and Catholic faiths. Their meetings have been worldwide, with many notable results.

In the first phase of the commission from 1970-81—known as ARCIC I—the group produced reports on such topics as mixed religion marriages, eucharistic doctrine, ministry and ordination, authority in the Church, and more.

ARCIC II spanned from 1983 to 2011. Their published works from this time covered areas such as the doctrine of salvation and the Church, the Church as communion, the gift of authority, Mary, and other documents.

The documents from both ARCIC I and II resulted in follow-up comments and criticisms by the Anglican Church and the Pontifical Commission. (For a complete listing and access to the documents produced, log on to http://bit.ly/1NUDi2w.)

The International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) was established in 2002. Their focus is to find ways to put into practice the agreements which ARCIC has reached and which have been accepted by the two communions.

Meanwhile, parallel work has been ongoing in the United States and Canada through ARC/USA (Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States of America), sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

For example, ARC/USA’s brief document, “Five Affirmations on the Eucharist as Sacrifice,” is directly connected to the larger process of dialogue. (For the text, log on to http://bit.ly/1NaUCoQ.)

The results of dialogue have been impressive.

Nevertheless, some Catholics and members of the Anglican Communion have found them less than satisfactory. Challenges to the dialogue do exist.

For instance, the Anglican ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom (Episcopalian), and the Anglican ordination of a man in a committed gay relationship in the U.S. led then-Pope John Paul II to suspend the international dialogue from 2003-05.

Later, a stumbling block for the Anglicans arose when Pope Benedict XVI established the personal ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in England and Wales in 2011, and in the U.S. in 2012. The ordinariate allows Anglicans to be received into the full communion of the Church while retaining aspects of their spiritual patrimony.

But IARCCUM resumed its work in 2005 when the dialogue moratorium ended. And ARCIC finally took up the dialogue again in 2011, thus beginning the group’s third phase. They are now looking at the Church in local and universal communion, and how the local and universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching.

Dialogue is a massive undertaking. It requires years of patient work, rooted in charity and a common longing for unity. Though there are obstacles and challenges, the Holy Spirit will lead the participants to fulfill Jesus’ call for unity.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at rginther@saintpat.org)

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