Section Four: Report upholds concern for 'visible unity'
by Randall Lee
Calling for a recommitment to the historic Anglican concern for the visible unity of the Church, as well as the unity of the human community, the report from Section Four identifies ``humility, gentleness, patience and loving tolerance'' as essential characteristics for engaging in the ecumenical task. Under the theme ``Called to be One,'' the report calls attention to the three major topics under consideration by the section. The report's first chapter summarises significant developments gleaned from relationships with churches in communion, local advances, regional cooperation, and councils of churches, especially the World Council of Churches.
The report recognises that the movement toward visible unity will result in the development of certain ``anomalies,'' but that these anomalies ``are rooted in the greatest anomaly, which is division within the Body of Christ.'' Nonetheless,``visible unity is to point to the sort of life God intends for the whole of humanity, a foretaste of God's Kingdom,'' the report says.As in the past, Anglicans will be helped in their ecumenical work by reaffirming the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888, which the report calls ``a dynamic for unity.''
Turning to the theme of ``New Churches and Independent Christian Groups,'' identified as an area of ``growing concern'' and addressed for the first time by a Lambeth Conference, the report rejects the simplistic terms of ``pentecostal'' and ``fundamentalist'' to describe these churches. Rather, the report identifies eight characteristics such as biblical literalism and ``free and enthusiastic'' worship as representative of these groups. While many have encountered these churches with ``a sense of threat,'' the report recognises that Anglicans might learn from them how to train people to evangelise, more forcefully proclaim the scriptures, and achieve greater clarity in moral teaching. The third chapter of the report covers the work accomplished during the last decade in bilateral and multilateral conversations.A summary of Anglican international conversations with 10 church groups is included, along with a reflection on the important contributions of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
All three themes contribute to one of the most controversial sections of the report,``Consistency and Coherence: Response and Reception,'' which endorses the proposal of the 1996 Agros Report for the establishment of an Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations.
Back to front page of this issue