The Anglican Communion’s Director for Unity, Faith and Order, the Revd Dr Will Adam, outlines the current work of the department, and how their plans for the future.
The Department for Unity, Faith and Order in the Anglican Communion has at its core the search for deeper unity between Christians, be that within and between the churches of the Anglican Communion or between the Anglican Communion and other Christian churches and bodies.
Much of the work of Unity, Faith and Order (which goes by the extra-terrestrial acronym UFO) is taken up with encouraging Christians to talk together. Over the course of the last century much work has been done to break down mutual suspicion and division between churches by patient dialogue and the building up of relationships. This happens at the local level, where Christians find that when they come together to pray or get involved with mission and ministry that they have more in common than they first thought. It also happens at national and international level, when theologians from different churches and traditions talk together to come to agreement on issues that have previously divided them.
Looking at what UFO has done over the last few months gives a flavour of the work and its importance. We have organised and supported a number of international dialogues with outrageous acronyms – there is ICAOTD, where Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox have been finding significant agreement on the subject of climate change and issues surrounding the end of life; there is IRAD, where Anglicans have, through dialogue, come to an agreement on the nature of the church with the Reformed churches (including those known as Presbyterian or Congregational); in AOOIC Anglicans have got to know much better the Oriental Orthodox churches, mainly based in the Middle East; and in ARCIC, the longest-standing of the current dialogues, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are beginning to explore how each church makes important decisions on ethical teaching. We hope to start some conversations with Pentecostal churches at the world level soon – but we don’t yet have an acronym for that.
At the centre of UFO’s work is IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. IASCUFO meets annually to review the work of the dialogues, to advise the Instruments of Communion (including the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) and to consider developments in ecumenical relationships, liturgy and doctrine from around the Communion. The last meeting of IASCUFO took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2019.
The conversations and dialogues comprise people from all over the world – reflecting the breadth of the Anglican Communion and drawing on the depth of knowledge, expertise and experience that the Communion possesses.
All of the work of UFO has as its backdrop and its underpinning the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ for its mission in the world: seeking that unity which is Christ’s will for his people.