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  • The Concept of Unity in the Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, and Reformed Dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church
  • Hector Scerri

unity, communion, church, ecumenical dialogue, fellowship, convergence, Trinity, holiness

In the introduction to his precious work, Harvesting the Fruits, Cardinal Walter Kasper stated, in very clear terms, that "the intention and the focus of each bilateral dialogue is different from the others. Even when considering the same issues, their difference of focus often means that they treat them from different perspectives, and come to a different degree of consensus or convergence."1 In this research, while sifting through the bilateral ecumenical dialogue documents for their presentation of the concept of unity, one is bound to follow Kasper's advice cautiously in seeking "to maintain the distinct character of the four dialogues"2 that are being presented.

Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission's 1976 ARCIC I document, Authority in the Church I, affirms that the road to unity entails the "coming together to discuss matters of mutual concern and to meet contemporary challenges."3 This implies that this is a gradual process during which there is a "[s]haring together and active mutual concern"4 in order for the churches to bear an effective Christian witness. Written six years later, [End Page 129] the preface to the Final Report of ARCIC I affirms that "koinonia . . . is not a static concept—it demands movement forward, perfecting."5 The Conclusion of this latter Final Report explains that the dialogue is not merely intended to reach doctrinal agreement, which is so "central to our reconciliation, but to the far greater goal of organic unity."6 Unity is achieved in stages, as the 2007 document of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) affirms, namely, "acknowledging that our churches . . . need to grow gradually into the full communion which Christ desires . . ., and trusting that the Holy Spirit would guide this process" (no. 10).7

The 1981 ARCIC I document, Elucidation of "Authority in the Church," affirms that the expression "unity in essentials"8 (often attributed to St. Augustine, and by others to John Wesley) is used to characterize "the universal koinonia."9 A term used in ARCIC's Clarifications of Certain Aspects of the Agreed Statements on Eucharist and Ministry (September, 1993) is "convergence." The full statement, which throws light on the concept of unity as understood in the context of this dialogue, is: "After careful study of the particular issues of papal primacy and infallibility ARCIC spoke of a 'convergence' which, taken with its earlier agreements, appeared 'to call for the establishing of a new relationship between our Churches.' "10

The Preface to the ARCIC II document, Church as Communion (1991), describes the journey toward Christian unity as an arduous experience that must be carried out "with determination and vigor, whatever obstacles [End Page 130] are perceived to block the path."11 Quoting the October 2, 1989, Common Declaration by Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie, the preface of Church as Communion underlines the commitment of those involved in the dialogue: "We here solemnly recommit ourselves and those we represent to the restoration of visible unity and full ecclesial communion in the confidence that to seek anything less would be to betray our Lord's intention for the unity of his people."12 The path to unity is characterized not only by "the removal of obstacles" that lie in the way, but also by "the sharing of gifts,"13 a concept mentioned also in the 2007 IARC-CUM document.14

Church as Communion specifies that the unity that is being sought is a "unity in truth and love," which can be reached by "progress in mutual understanding and [a] growing awareness of the need for ecclesial communion."15 The text makes several other important affirmations regarding unity:

  1. (1). While "Anglicans and Roman Catholics are already in a real though as yet imperfect communion," they are to appreciate "the degree of communion that exists both within and between" them.16

  2. (2). The degree of unity achieved between the churches offers an invitation "to acknowledge as a gift of God the good that is present in community...


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