It is a privilege for me to spend a couple of days twice a year with members of the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission of Aotearoa New Zealand (ARCCANZ). This forum is the national dialogue between the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the Roman Catholic Church of New Zealand.
Yesterday afternoon we concluded one of our meetings, and the photo above was taken yesterday at lunch.
It has been a great joy for me to be a part of this dialogue in recent years. Our theological discussion and learning is robust and inspiring. But most of all I appreciate the friendship of and conversation with the other members of the commission from all over the country.
The past few weeks has seen many faith-filled ecumenical gatherings of prayer in the Hurunui with two ecumenical Ash Wednesday services, a Harvest Festival and four World Day of Prayer services which were this year hosted by our parish. We also took part in services that were hosted in other churches.
Such expressions of Anglican and Catholic desire for unity are happening around New Zealand and in many other parts of the world including in St Peter’s Basilica Rome where last week Anglican Evensong was sung.
Last week I spent time over a coffee with a couple of our local Hurunui church ministers. There is so much that we share and it is always a pleasure to spend time socially over a cup or a glass.
In these encounters with other Christians we are painfully aware of the fact that we do not share full communion. We are united in our desire for this communion, and we know too that the unity we seek is not something we can pretend we have before we experience it in reality. Our inability to receive Eucharist in each others churches is a painful reality that motivates us to do everything we can to resolve the remaining differences and tensions.
Archbishop David Moxon (former Anglican bishop of Waikato) was a member of the ARCCANZ group until four years ago when he was appointed to be the director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Earlier this month Pope Francis visited the Anglican parish in Rome – All Saints, and the photo below was taken at the gathering. You can watch the complete two hour service online at the RomeReports website.
In recent decades many Christians began to think that unity would be achieved by each church abandoning teachings or doctrines that seemed problematic in the quest for unity. Many Catholics began to think that our Catholic understanding of Eucharist, priesthood, Mary (for example) should simply be discarded or at least ignored. We now know (and I experience this on the ARCCANZ dialogue) that our desire for unity is most helped when Catholic and Anglicans each know and love their own faith fully. Our unity is also not helped when we pretend a communion that we do not have. There is more work to be done, and we long for the day when full communion may be possible.
But in this time of anticipation we most help the process by seeking to discover the full meaning and beauty of our own faiths, and gathering often with Christians of other communities to do together all that we are currently able to do together.
SUGGESTION FOR THE DAY:
Be open to conversation about your faith with someone from another Christian denomination. Don’t discuss or debate doctrine, but simply share your personal experience of Jesus Christ. In doing this you will find true common ground, and discover a friendship in faith that moves us along the road towards full communion.
below: Pope Francis at All Saints Anglican Church in Rome