Ecumenical ‘box of chocolates’ laid out for council

Published May 8, 2009

Kingston, Jamaica
The Anglican Communion may seek to resume its dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches of the Middle East, which had been postponed in 2003, following tensions among Anglicans worldwide over the issue of sexuality.

The meeting of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission scheduled in the fall of 2003 had been deferred at the suggestion of the heads of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church, following the ordination that year of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster in 2002.

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) on May 7 asked the 14th ACC meeting here to endorse a set of resolutions, including one that urges the resumption of the Anglican Communion’s dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches of the Middle East.

The resolutions and documents, compiled in a book, The Vision Before Us, also asked the ACC to commend to member provinces for adoption, “key sections” which include matters ranging from the administration of baptism and eucharist, to guidelines for ecumenical participation in ordinations to the Four Principles of Anglican Engagement in Ecumenism.

Gregory Cameron, who is bishop of the Welsh diocese of St. Asaph and former IASCER director, likened the book to “a box of chocolates” that offers many delights and surprises.

Bishop Cameron, who recalled that at the last ACC meeting in Nottingham, England, he had come with a shopping list of 18 resolutions to carry forward the Anglican Communion’s ecumenical work, this time decided to “pack an awful lot in one drop.” He asked the ACC to “consider them, amending, changing or adding to them,” saying they are “vitally important” to the Communion.

The resolution, asks the ACC, to:

endorse the Four Principles of Anglican Engagement in Ecumenism, which describes “the Anglican approach towards ecumenical activity and goals, and commends them to churches of the Communion;

endorse the IASCER resolution as they relate to the administration of the “two sacraments ordained by Christ himself,” baptism and the eucharist, and urge their adoption throughout the Anglican Communion “in the light of the importance of the convergence on administration of these sacraments in ecumenical relations;”

reaffirm the Guidelines on Ecumenical Participation in Ordinations;

request the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC to “commission a review of the processes for the reception of ecumenical texts”;
welcome the continuing work of the various dialogue commissions of the Anglican Communion, namely the Anglican Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council, the Anglican Lutheran International Commission, and the Anglican Methodist International Commission for Unity and Mission;

look forward to the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) Preparatory Commission, and the commissioning of the third phase of the ARCIC, and the resumption of the work of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission and the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox dialogue;

resume the work of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission. (The resolution notes that, “In seeking such a response IASCER recognizes that there is a need to carefully explain to the Oriental Orthodox churches the processes by which the provinces of the Anglican Communion are responding to the Windsor Report, and also to address some of their expressed concerns by drawing their attention to the Statement of the Primates’ Meeting in 2003.” The Windsor Report, published by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, offered recommendations on dealing with the conflict in the Anglican Communion over human sexuality.)

A brief on the current state of Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Churches of the Middle East relations notes that, “A visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Holy Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenia, and to other Middle Eastern Oriental Orthodox patriarchs in September 2007 also did much to move the situation forward, and guests from a number of Oriental Orthodox churches attended the Lambeth Conference” in 2008.

Bishop Cameron, meanwhile, noted that “getting the Anglican position right” on baptism and the eucharist is crucial. “They’re vital foundations for ecumenical engagement and encounter.”

The document on ecumenical participation in ordinations offers “a handy set of guidelines,” on “how far is it appropriate” for Anglicans to participate in ordinations of other traditions and vice versa, he said.

The response to draft papers for the Lutheran World Federation Lund Statement, On Episcopal Ministry within the Apostolicity of the Church, offers “a useful guide to Anglican episcopacy as well,” said Bishop Cameron. He said that the LWF, who he described as “our close cousin,” had, as an ecumenical gesture, asked Anglicans to comment on the draft paper.

Representatives of six ecumenical partners of the Anglican Communion were presented to the ACC as their fellow delegates, namely Monsignor Mark Langham (Roman Catholic Church), Metropolitan Nikitas (Orthodox), Prof. Harald Rein (Old Catholics), Paul Gardner (Moravian Church in Jamaica and World Council of Churches). They also included two Canadians, Bishop Michael Pryse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, representing the Lutheran World Federation) and Rev. John Gibaut (director of faith and order of the World Council of Churches).
“We welcome them not as observers but as sharers in our work and prayer,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Bishop Cameron, meanwhile, said his work has enabled him “to see diverse parts of God’s family,” adding that the experience “has blown my mind.” He added: “I have had the privilege of being able to become a member of the world family of God’s household.”

ACC delegates were later asked to participate in “ecumenical streams” of their choice that focused on various areas of Anglican engagement in ecumenism. They included Roman Catholic and Orthodox relations, Protestant relations and conversations, churches in communion, and United and Uniting Churches. Bishop Cameron urged delegates to ponder the question, “What difference does that all mean to my local church and what are the local implications of ecumenism?”

For more photographs, summaries of news and events and commentary at the ACC-14 meeting, please visit the blog of Journal staff writer, Marites N. Sison, at


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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