An agreed statement produced by the official commission for dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches has been heralded as "ground-breaking" and an "important step on the pilgrimage towards fuller unity in Christ".
The text for the work – "Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be the Church – Local, Regional, Universal " – was agreed at a meeting of the third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) in the German city of Erfurt in May 2017. It was the first document produced by ARCIC III and is the culmination of seven years’ work.
The document encourages Anglicans and Roman Catholics to learn from each other’s differences, rather than concentrating on common ground. For example, Anglicans are invited to examine models of unity within the Catholic tradition and Catholics to look at empowering local church leaders and the laity in decision-making.
One commission member, the theologian Dr Paula Gooder, called the document ground-breaking.
"The agreed statement ... takes another step along the path of ecumenical dialogue which Anglicans and Roman Catholics have been journeying together for over 50 years," she told ACNS. "The method it uses models conversation at its best. The conversation here is rich, though also challenging – calling us to travel onwards into the future in mutual companionship and hope."
Bishop Christopher Hill, another member of the Commission, said: "The statement makes a new departure – a very practical, mutual examination of our respective authority structure. This gives Anglicans and Roman Catholics a timely opportunity for both self-criticism and mutual ecclesial learning – with authority questions high on our mutual agendas."
The dialogue’s Anglican Co-Secretary, Dr John Gibaut, stressed the significance of the work and its timeliness.
"The fullest reception of this document will require changes in both communions," he said. "It will be particularly interesting to the Anglican Communion as we move forwards to the next Lambeth Conference in 2020."
The potential for reform was noted by Dr Jamie Hawkey, the Dean of Clare College, who has been writing the Anglican commentary on the statement. (Click here to read.)
"This document is a remarkable fruit of the high-level doctrinal consensus and real-but-imperfect communion which already exists between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church," he said. "In both method and content, this agreed statement formally commends a new chapter of conscious mutual ecclesial learning, and encourages both communions to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit from one another.
"Emboldened by such partnership and promise, the process of reform of our structures - for the sake of the Church's communion and mission - can be seen as an important step on the pilgrimage towards fuller unity in Christ."
A Roman Catholic commentary has also been produced. (Click here to read.)
The document will be published later this year. ARCIC III’s next discussions will examine the discernment of right ethical teaching.
Editor's note: This story was updated on 5 July to include links to the Agreed Statement and the Anglican and Roman Catholic commentaries on it.