Ecumenical Notes by Fr. Richard Stewart
Lady Stansgate's article of August 31 was very interesting but left me slightly puzzled. She seemed to be identifying "organic union" with "total organisational uniformity"; but are these concepts really identical?
Certainly Cardinal Willebrands does not think so: in his Lambeth lecture last year he spoke of "unity of organisation" and said, with great emphasis: "This kind of unity does not constitute a Church."
He went on to say: "Organic unity means the unity of the body of Christ" —and, once we speak of that Body, it seems impossible to envisage any true Christian unity which ia not organic.
At the same time the Cardinal returned to his theme of the possibility of a variety of typoi in one organically united Church: within the unity of faith (and this does not justify compromise) these would enjoy "their own theological and spiritual heritage" (Const. on Church, 23).
This is a unity in diversity : if one stresses the diversity, there is a sense in which the term "federal" might just apply, but I gather that Lady Stansgate which using the term in a far broader sense.
Even our use of such terms as "organic" and "federal" shows something of our theology and background. The "organic" model comes naturally to the Catholic mind, for we incline to think first of the Church Universal and then of the local Church that is part of
To those of a congregationalist outlook the "federal" model comes more immediately, since their instinct is to think first of the local Churchcongregation and only subsequently in denominational terms.
At the multilateral conversations initiated by the United Reformed Church an important nreliminary step must be the clarification of our various terminologies and understandings of these basic concepts of unity and union. Lady Startsgate quotes reform as recognising that Catholic participation in these talks "may have to be on different level from that of some other Churches".
Yes and No. If the aim of the talks is to set up "an allinclusive National Church", we shall soon be on a very different level for obvious reasons! But the U.R.C. resolu tion and invitation does not propose this: we are asked "to share in discussion as to how unity can be furthered in England", and we enter such a discussion on an equal footing with others.
If, as the resolution hopes, the talks "produce concrete proposals for conversations between those Churches able to commit themselves to seek the formation of a united Churches", we will still have a role to play in that later stage; for as I suggested in an article in the Catholic Herald (July 20) we can help to see that any such schemes of union are not, inadvertently, exclusive of eventual wider unity.
Mr. Wade noted on September 7 that the bishops have not approved the Laity Commission's unanimous recommendation that we should join the British Laity Commission was not alone in recommending this: when consulted by the bishops nearly all the national Commissions, diocesan and other bodies, made the same recommendation, generally by very substantial majorities.
The bishops have taken these recommendations into account: their own resolution in Low Week was that "before the Bishops' Conference makes a final decision to apply for membership of the B.C.C., a small commission of bishops will be appointed to discuss with representatives of the B.C.C. the Catholic position on certain ethical issues" and also on the financial implications of membership. These discussions are now in hand.
Finally, we welcome the news that the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission has now produced a "Canterbury Statement" on the Christian Ministry. This is an important breakthrough, but the nature of the discussions does not really justify your reporter's suggestion (September 7) that the Commission is about to recommend "Catholic recognition of Anglican Orders and joint Eucharist."
The Commission's press release was very careful to state that, in the Commission's view, the two statements now "provide a wide context in which such problems may eventually be resolved." (italics mine).
Fr. Stewart is Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission.