The Anglican and Old Catholic Society of St. Willibrord exists to foster closer relationships between Anglicans and
Old Catholics. It encourages and supports contacts between theologians, clergy, lay people and young people of the
two communions. In this way it tries to put into practice the implications of the Bonn Agreement. Since 1931 there exists full communion between the Old Catholic Churches and the Anglican Communion.
How Can Anglicans & Old Catholics Worship & Witness Together?
Summary of the address given by the Reverend Canon Dirk W. van Leeuwen of St. Boniface's Anglican Church, Antwerp, to the Dutch Section of the Society of St. Willibrord, in Rotterdam (Sint Jansplaats) on February 1, 1997.
My first contact with the Old Catholic Church dates back to the 60ies, when I attended secondary school, and my eye was caught by the title of a booklet published by the Old Catholic Church in 1953 when the Roman hierarchy celebrated the centenary of its re-establishment during the last century. The booklet was brought round by an Old Catholic priest, who called when I was at school, causing some embarrassment to my mother!
Later, after I had come home in the Anglican Church, I subscribed to the national magazine "De Oud-Katholiek", but it is not until 1984 when I moved to Haarlem and was given the oversight of the Anglican congregation there, that I got to know the Old Catholic Church (The Anglicans are very fortunate to be allowed the use of the Haarlem OC cathedral for their worship). As it happened the Haarlem OC congregation was then without priest, as they had suffered two successive breakdowns in pastoral relationships, and the Bishop of Haarlem had wisely imposed a moratorium. I offered to take services, as I wanted to get to know this Dutch church, and soon I became effectively their parish priest, a situation which lasted for over 2 years. The result was that I chaired two church councils and sat on the synods of two churches. Many friendships with Old catholic clergy and laity which continue to this day were established then. At times I felt I received more friendship, hospitality and support from the OC Haarlem clergy chapter, than from my Anglican colleagues, who do not meet as a chapter, and barely as House of Clergy in Synod.
My presence in Haarlem helped to iron out some practical difficulties arising from sharing one church building, but the congregations remained distinct and much apart. At a later stage I addressed the Old Catholic national policy conference together with Professor H. Berkhof, the President of the National Council of Churches.
The ideas developed hereafter have grown out of my inside/outside experience of the Old Catholic Church and my continuing contacts and friendships. Why couldn't more have been achieved in my Haarlem period? How can we worship & witness together? What of the future?
My choice of words is intended to stimulate reflection, discussion and action. Some of my observations may appear biased or may be felt to be too candid to be comfortable. They are not meant to harm individual people, or two churches I love.
When I was appointed to Haarlem it was not my brief to seek to amalgamate the two congregations. Both congregations (and this holds true for the two churches all through the Netherlands) are distinct in ethos, spirituality, variety of churchmanship, history, position in society and national/international outlook. This should make closer interaction only more interesting and fruitful, but in practice there is sometimes suspicion and false perception in both directions. And so we continue to live apart together.
Living Apart Together
This qualification of Old Catholic - Anglican Relations I have taken from contemporary society, where two partners want to do something together, but do so without commitment to live together. That's what the Bonn Agreement amounts to: the two communions recognise each other and agree to full communion, but the commitment, the dynamics, the future goal is lacking. Maybe this was implicitly intended.
The recent Policy Paper issued by the Collegial Government of the Dutch Old Catholic Church - tellingly as it illustrates my point - speaks of relationships with the Anglican Communion in negative grammar and with no enthusiasm. (The translation and the italics are mine).
Section 6 deals with the relationships with the Anglicans.
6a.1 (Overview and analysis) says that visible unity has not been brought nearer, apart from the theological discussions with the Orthodox and Anglicans.
6a.2 (Orientation) closes with "A special task for the Dutch church remains the strengthening of the mutual ties between the churches of the Union of Utrecht, and for the Union itself. In addition we will need to remain active nationally and internationally to find partners for institutional re-union, where the Anglican church in theory the first [obvious] partner is, but almost never turns out to be so in practice."
6a.3 (Specific policies) lists 5 policy indications, of which the second reads: "In view of our relationship of full communion with the Anglican Communion and the developments within the Anglican churches on the European Continent, which will lead to the Anglican Church growing local roots in West-European countries, we will not discontinue our endeavours for structural co-operation both nationally and locally."
Last year most Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches and the Anglican Churches of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales signed the Porvoo Common Declaration, which includes commitments and dynamics for future growth and integration, which the Bonn Agreement lacks.
The Porvoo Common Statement includes the following acknowledgements and commitments:
b [i] to share in a common life in mission and service, to pray for and with one another, and to share resources;
[ii] to welcome one another's members to receive sacramental and pastoral ministrations;
[iii] to regard baptised members of all our churches as members of our own;
[iv] to welcome diaspora congregations into the life of the indigenous churches, to their mutual enrichment;
[v] to welcome persons episcopally ordained in any of our churches to the office of bishop, priest or deacon to serve, by invitation and in accordance with any regulation which may from time to time be in force, in that ministry in the receiving church without re-ordination;
[vi] to invite one another's bishops normally to participate in the laying on of hands at the ordination of bishops as a sign of the unity and continuity of the Church;
[vii] to work towards a common understanding of diaconal ministry;
[viii] to establish appropriate forms of collegial and conciliar consultations on significant matters of faith and order, life and work;
[ix] to encourage consultations of representatives of our churches, and to facilitate learning and exchange of ideas and information in theological and pastoral matters;
[x] to establish a contact group to nurture our growth in communion and to co-ordinate the implementation of this agreement.
On the Anglican scene in continental Europe there is increased co-operation between the several and overlapping Anglican jurisdictions (The Diocese in Europe of the Church of England, the Convocation of American Churches of the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church
and the Lusitanian Church in Portugal). The bishops can formally assist in each other's jurisdictions and meet together in COABICE, the Council of Anglican Bishops in Continental Europe, with a view to co-ordinate missionary, pastoral and ecclesial policy. The 1998 Lambeth Conference will be asked to encourage this process and to sanction specific work aiming at the creation of a (pan?) European structure.
Within the Diocese in Europe great steps are being taken to grow from an extraordinary constellation of individual congregations and so-called chaplaincies into a complete and self sufficient Church. Archdeaconry boundaries have been redrawn to facilitate increased efficiency in mission, better pastoral care, and regional oversight.
There are other factors to be taken into account. The four Anglican churches in Britain and Ireland do not have a structure to speak with one voice on matters of national interest. The Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches that have signed the Porvoo agreement.
Are this the first beginnings of a blue print for an ecclesiastical Province in Europe? If they are or could be, Old Catholics should be enthusiastically thinking along and participating. Currently I sense a certain apathy or 'wait & see' attitude. Of course, ideas on the Anglican side are still conceptual rather than precise. Of course, the Old Catholics are pre-occupied by tensions within their own Union of Utrecht. But we are not letting the window of opportunity close, are we?
Worship, Prayer & Celebration
Worship & Prayer have the primacy in everything. Pray for each other, worship & celebrate with each other. Do that always first. Do it often.
Possible new initiatives for an increasingly shared life of worship & witness.
As a general principle and attitude: do nothing apart without first discussing with the other whether it can be done jointly, or how we can complement each other. This is a far cry from 'informing each other' after the minds are set and the decisions taken.
Intensify and formalise contacts between bishops, clergy and laity. Do this at diocesan, regional and local level.
Participate of right in each other's synods (not merely as observers). In Germany certain things have already been achieved in this field.
Facilitate and ease the mobility and exchange of clergy. Think of Erasmus, Saravia, Zwart, Eman, De Rijk, Bonting, Parmentier, Van Leeuwen, etc. Institutionalise a compulsory first or second curacy for the newly ordained in the other church.
Remove legal barriers (nationality, canonical residence, etc.) to the election of bishops across ecclesiastical borders. It must be made possible to appoint or elect a bishop from the other communion. Could the vacant Suffragan see of Deventer be offered by the Old Catholics to help to transcend ecclesiastical boundaries and start realising an emerging new structure?
Adopt, and make the most of, twinning schemes. Recently the Old Catholic Church of Germany and the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire, USA formally agreed to call for members of both dioceses "to pray for one another, to develop visitation programmes, and to construct 'working relationships' between congregations and to educate each other about each other's Churches."
Recently the 'Hanover Report', a joint Anglican Lutheran study about 'The Diaconate as Ecumenical Opportunity' was published. It contrasts widely differing approaches to the Church's diaconate. It looks at theological foundations for the diaconate and for (permanent) diaconal ordained ministry. In the Anglican Church the practical diaconate is dispersed and unstructured, and detached from what a deacon does.
Recent Old Catholic initiatives in the Netherlands concern ordained permanent deacons, women deacons, and the practical local implementation of the Church's diaconate.
The functional diaconate offers great opportunities for practical co-operation and contact at parish level between Anglican and Old Catholic churches: find out what each is doing already, share, give, relate (the deacon's role in) your worship to your corporate diaconal ministry. Do it together.
Ministry to Society and to its Structures
Both the Anglican Church and the Old Catholic Church have been in the Dutch society a long time. Anglicans are admitting that they are not here on a temporary or provisional basis (How could they after more than 400 years!), and that this has consequences for their internal life and for their ministry.
The Old Catholic Church in some way is the continuing ancient national church of the Netherlands, but don't have the numbers validate that claim.
Both need to relate, speaking the truth in love, to the soil in which they are planted. Good use of scarce resources would mean joining efforts in this field.
This is of course especially about being witnesses of Christ and the salvation He offers. Firstly where we are placed, and that also in communion with the Church far away.
Following the Bonn Agreement in 1931, it have been the Anglicans who have urged the Old Catholics to see themselves as part of and co-responsible for the world-wide Church. In the Netherlands "St. Paul's Mission" was created, an official agency of the Old Catholic Church. Their scope is limited to 'outside Europe', thus at the same time reinforcing the responsibility of the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches to their national missions.
Mission is the life of the Church. If there is no mission, there is no life. Mission starts here.
St. Paul's Mission traditionally supports many overseas Anglican projects as well as more recently an endeavour of the Philippine Independent Church [who have just signed a Concordat of Full Communion with the (Anglican) Episcopal Church in the Philippines]. The Agency's recent offer to help parish level involvement with overseas mission with a start up grant of 1000 guilders opens a practical way for Anglican and Old Catholic parishes to co-operate at grass roots' level in this area.
Training for the Ordained Ministry
The Old Catholic Church has in fact embraced the Protestant model for the education of its future clergy. There is little attention to the spiritual development of the candidate and to his ongoing formation as a priest. The education is mostly secular and never residential. The Anglican Church asserts its ownership of its seminaries and ordination courses - selection and discernment are more decisive than an academic diploma. The perception is that training your own clergy is a sign of maturity as a church. Integration is sought rather with programmes for equipping the laity, i.e. within an ecclesial context, than with secular structures. The Anglican Diocese in Europe is in the process of creating a (dispersed) training institute, for which formal accreditation will be sought from the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
More can be made of mutually enriching our ordination training, at the level of the curriculum, the faculty, the education and formation in process, and of parish placement. Should not all young priests have a compulsory placement (first or second curacy) in the other church?
Equipping the Laity
The Anglican Diocese in Europe has made an encouraging start with a centrally developed, de-centrally executed training scheme, where it is hoped that in parallel a process of discernment will take place, to see into what role or ministry in the Church each participant may grow.
The Old Catholics have occasionally run a successful course for readers (lectors), with some Anglican membership.
At parish level bible studies and seasonal courses should be planned and offered in partnership and mutual participation encouraged.
The Anglican Church is comprehensive, which some see as a strength, others as a weakness. The Old Catholic Churches are historically more monolithic. This relates both to doctrine and liturgical practice. The Bonn Agreement does not contain a directly doctrinal element (living apart together?!).
Some Anglican parishes offer worship which is barely recognisable as 'Anglican'. At times some evangelical Anglicans have felt that the Old Catholic Church was too un-reformed. In Flanders many RC religious tune in to the 'EO', the Dutch Evangelical Free Church Broadcasting Corporation.
There are so many permutations of doctrinal, devotional, spiritual and liturgical preferences, that there is plenty opportunity to concentrate on each other's strengths and to encourage those. True catholicity includes that all are welcome and can find their place. Idiosyncratic extremes are to be shunned, as is a grey common ground approach.
Both churches have distinct musical traditions, with partial overlap. English Church Music is popular in the Netherlands: visiting English cathedral choirs draw full churches; Anglican style Evensongs are performed by non-Anglican groups or communities (usually showing little understanding of the underlying liturgical principles). The Old Catholic Church has recently published a new and comprehensive hymnal.
The Annual Anglican Choir Festival could do with Old Catholic choirs participating.
Spiritual Life & Discipline
The Anglican Church imposes a discipline on its clergy to pray the offices every day. Anglican Franciscans recently published 'Celebrating Common Prayer', a comprehensive selectio
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