by James M Rosenthal
Steps toward greater co-operation of the four Anglican jurisdictions were evident at the 16-18 May 2003 Partners in Mission consultation held in Spain. Building upon the progress to common mission and witness already experienced in parts of Europe, the group, complete with representatives of ecumenical partners and the wider Anglican Communion, set common goals in areas of theological education, engaging with youth and calling for a rotating presidency of the four diocesan bishops.
The Roman Catholic Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Old Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church of Sweden all had representatives at the meeting, held in a Roman Catholic Retreat House in Central Madrid. The Dean of Gibraltar, the Very Revd Ken Robinson, chaired the meeting.
Host church, the Spanish Episcopal Church, welcomed the members of the consultation to its Sunday liturgy in the Cathedral of the Redeemer, Madrid, for a concelebrated Eucharist with Bishop Carlos Lozano Lopez preaching on the workings of the Holy Spirit in the church today.
The four jurisdictions, the Lusitanian Church of Portugal, the Spanish Episcopal Church, the Convocation of American (Episcopal) Churches in Europe and the Diocese in Europe (Church of England), were represented by their bishops, clergy and laity, as well as observers and staff from the Missions Agencies, the Anglican Consultative Council and Lambeth Palace. The Most Revd John Paterson, Presiding Bishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, shared insights into the way the church in his province ministers to its various distinctive constituencies.
The official report stated that the separations felt in the Anglican bodies "hindered their common mission in continental Europe and that reconciliation and trust, in the name and for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, be an immediate goal. It was clear that there was an openness to all people "who find their spiritual home on our churches" while at the same time upholding that any form of proselytism would be unacceptable.
The College of Anglican Bishops in Continental Europe (COABICE) and its new commission are key to the implementation of many of the "next steps" of the report. Needs to see the Anglican presence in a spirit on Common Prayer, Common Future, Common Life and Common Funds and Policies for certain projects were highlighted by the consultation members in the hopes that their churches have moved from "awareness to trust." It was noted that the different jurisdictions relate in different ways to some of the ecumenical partners in "binding agreements." The report made it clear the pluralism of the present age and indeed the perceived "secularised" environment often found people "alienated from organised religion."
The work of COABICE was, in part, a response to the call of the Lambeth Conferences of 1968 - 1998 on parallel jurisdictions. The need to move in a united way with each other and churches in communion when establishing new work was noted, as was the desire for the complete inter-changeability of ordained persons.
The common identity of being Anglican in faith and practice led to a call for the churches to be "servants churches." The report states that "Our experience as minority and small churches especially calls us to ministry among the vulnerable and marginalised in our countries and contexts, as also to the rich and powerful amidst the diversity of our congregations."
Although there are "converging and diverging" understandings of the Anglican presence in Europe, the atmosphere of the meeting proved to be one of enthusiasm for embracing a common future, "building on our rich variety of God's gifts within our distinctive heritages; gifts which will enrich our common life, enhance our communion, even as we put behind us differences stemming from our separated histories."
Although the churches find themselves in environments subject to "powerful secular pressures," the consultation affirmed the need to be "a prophetic voice in an evolving Europe."