A couple of times each year I take part in the dialogue of the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission of Aotearoa New Zealand (ARCCANZ).
This dialogue is made up of half a dozen members of each church, appointed by the bishops, seeking to work on behalf of the Anglican and Catholic bishops of New Zealand towards a visible unity that was the prayer of Jesus: “that they may be one”. John 17:21
The friendship that marks our ARCCANZ meetings is a sign that here in NZ the prayer of Jesus is being answered.
One of the fundamental methods for growth in ecumenism is that we must do together the things that we can do together. Thanks be to God, and to the growing friendships of faith between Anglicans and Catholics, there is much more that unites us than divides us.
A good amount of each of our meetings is given to presentations of papers on some aspect of Anglican or Catholic doctrine in an effort to help us all to grow in knowledge of and respect for each of our traditions.
Our March meeting each year is given in large part to a retreat afternoon which yesterday was led by Archbishop David Moxon who until a few months ago served as director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See.
In David’s reflection yesterday it was clear that the friendship between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby is a significant power for growth and unity between our two churches.
Some have thought the best way for churches to move forward towards unity is to ignore differences, discarding any traditions or beliefs that are problematic for other Christians. But this method brings only confusion and unnecessary grief. It is now accepted that unity is most enhanced when each church remains faithful to its own Tradition and traditions, and when we all seek to respect and to understand what is held as central in other Christian traditions.
You might take an opportunity to reflect on today’s gospel noting that the heart of the life of Jesus is his relationship with his Father. Too often we try to overcome differences, problems and difficulties by focussing on the problem or the difficulty. The method of Jesus is different. We see Jesus taking his challenges to his Father first. In this relationship Jesus receives the comfort, the affirmation and the strength he needs to work for unity with others.
The same method is available to us: taking everything to prayer before we act or react. Jesus will lead us.
Church unity will come when we seek to live fully in relationship with Jesus Christ within our own Church communities. The yearning for unity among Christians is a divine desire placed in the heart of every Christian, but ultimately it will be achieved by the action of the Holy Spirit through willing participants in our formal dialogues and daily friendship with those of different church communities.
If the opportunity arises during the next day, have a conversation with a person (friend, colleague, workmate or neighbour) who belongs to another church. You might begin by mentioning that you read this post, and perhaps in some way expressing your desire for church unity and your commitment to praying for this unity.
At some stage today pray this prayer below for the Unity of Christians which is used throughout the Catholic Church in the Good Friday Intercessions.
For the unity of Christians
Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ,
that our God and Lord may be pleased,
as they live the truth,
to gather them together and keep them in his one Church.
Almighty ever-living God,
who gather what is scattered
and keep together what you have gathered,
look kindly on the flock of your Son,
that those whom one Baptism has consecrated
may be joined together by integrity of faith
and united in the bond of charity.
Through Christ our Lord.