The Council of Anglican Bishops in Europe
Anglican churches in mainland Europe should eventually form a separate province, the College of Anglican Bishops in Continental Europe has suggested.
"After several years of growing fellowship we have come to believe that the future will involve the establishment of an Anglican Province of Continental Europe," the bishops wrote to the 1998 Lambeth Conference in a letter drafted at a meeting in Worth, England, May 23- 34. The Lambeth Conference is an international gathering of nearly all Anglican bishops held every 10 years.
"We now seek the support of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in our desire to move towards closer relations with each other as a contribution to the unity of the church as a whole," the bishops wrote.
Currently four Anglican jurisdictions overlap on mainland Europe. The Church of England's Diocese in Europe coexists with the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church and the Lusitanian Church in Spain and Portugal, as well as with the Convocation of American Churches in Europe (Episcopal Church in the United States of America) in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
"In these countries, as in the rest of Europe where only the Diocese in Europe has parishes, formal jurisdiction is no guide to the composition of parishes," the bishops noted. "All our parishes are 'Anglican Episcopal' and typically contain a wide international membership."
The bishops signing the letter--John Hind, diocesan bishop of Gibraltar (Diocese in Europe-Church of England); Henry Scriven, suffragan bishop (Diocese in Europe-Church of England); Jeffery Rowthorn, bishop in charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe (ECUSA); Carlos Lopez Lozano, diocesan bishop of the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church; and Fernando Soares, bishop of the Lusitanian Church of Portugal--represent the four jurisdictions.
Broader ecumenical concerns
As ties have been forged increasingly with other denominations, a move to form a new Anglican province might have ecumenical implications as well, the bishops said. "Account must also be taken of other churches in communion, namely the Old Catholic Churches in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland, and the `Porvoo' churches in the Nordic and Baltic region," their letter adds. "We believe that ultimately the future shape of Anglicanism on mainland Europe can only be determined properly within the wider context of Anglicanism in Europe a whole (including Great Britain and Ireland)."
The bishops said that they have begun to consult with clergy and laity in their jurisdictions, with the heads of their respective churches, such as Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning of ECUSA, and with the Anglican Consultative Council, an international body of clergy and laity drawn from throughout the Anglican Communion. Their interest in a single province, they said, grows out of earlier steps to cooperate and share in each others' ministries. The bishops of the four Anglican dioceses, for example, already serve as assistant or assisting bishops in one another's jurisdictions.
The bishops stressed that "the process of becoming a province cannot be hurried," and noted that "it will require a gradual growing together of clergy and congregations, an increased sharing of resources and insights, and the securing of adequate funding."
At the same time, they wrote, "there is a timeliness about the proposal and we believe it right to seize the opportunity which is currently offered to us."
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