Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Communion, and Pope Benedict talk after signing a joint declaration in 2006 to mark the four decades of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

CNS PHOTO | ALESSANDRO BIANCHI, REUTERS

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Communion, and Pope Benedict talk after signing a joint declaration in 2006 to mark the four decades of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

January 23, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – Being friends and knowing each other well has served as a model for ecumenical ventures between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Edmonton.

"The more that we know each other in life, the more we have an ability to talk to each other about Church matters, whether theological, practical, liturgical or whatever," said Julien Hammond, associate director of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the Edmonton Catholic Archdiocese.

"If you think about it, how are we going to correct the problems of history that led us apart if we don't forge a new future together that isn't just about casting aspersions on one another?" asked Hammond. "It's really about living the Gospel together."

From divisions healed to relations restored, Edmonton's Anglican and Roman Catholic communities rejoiced in all that has been achieved nationally over the past 40 years. Locally, the Edmonton Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue Group held a joint worship service Dec. 8 at the Anglican Parish of Christ Church.

At the Catholic Pastoral Centre is a framed photo on the wall depicting Archbishop Anthony Jordan shaking hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Second Vatican Council.

"I have often taken it as iconic, and that image has set a path for us," said Hammond.

Rev. Dr. Eileen Conway, pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, is active in Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue at both the national and local levels.

"There are the overarching things, not the specifics, such as the fact there is a dialogue and it continues and it hasn't been broken off. That's a significant accomplishment," said Conway. "Most of us can remember a time when it was otherwise."

Most of her time at the national level is spent reviewing documents that have been issued at different levels of interdenominational dialogue. Recently the group has been reviewing statements pertaining to the meaning of community.

"There was a time when the thought of dialogue between the two denominations would have been amazing. The fact that we have ongoing dialogue is an accomplishment," said Conway.

Roman Catholics and Anglicans have been working together informally in Edmonton for many years, with inner city pastoral ministry and social justice projects.

Julien Hammond

Julien Hammond

Creating a formal dialogue group is recent, however. It was initiated with a dinner party hosted in January 2010 by Dr. Jane Samson, the assistant ecumenical officer for the Anglican Church and a history professor at the University of Alberta.

Other Catholic members of the group include Father Don MacDonald, Father Laurent Gallant and Sister Lynn Rouleau from Red Deer.

The purpose of the group was to discuss agreements that had already been reached between Roman Catholics and Anglicans at the national and international levels. Then they would look at those agreements in the context of Edmonton.

"Usually what these groups hope to do is slog through the theology and find in many cases what level of agreement there is on all sorts of issues. The hope down the road is that will translate into more joint activity between the two communions," said Samson.

Both the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church recognize the Baptism each confers, agree that the Scriptures are the unique and normative witness to divine revelation, and recognize the grace and unique vocation of the Virgin Mary.

JOINT WORSHIP RARE

Despite these key similarities, joint services of worship are rare due to the regulations of the two churches.

"The goal of all these groups is to create friendship and trust so that doctrinal issues can be explored honestly but with charity," said Samson.

"The long-term goal is to be together, pray together, study together and hopefully to grow together as Christians to help us down the road, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to achieve greater unity," she said.

"Locally, in our own small way, we are contributing to what's happening between Anglicans and Catholics worldwide, which is to say we are all striving for greater unity, greater communion with one another," said Hammond.

What they are able to accomplish at locally is modest, but could serve as a model of unity to the rest of the world.

NO ANGLICAN SEMINARY

Alberta does not have an Anglican seminary so many of the present Anglican clergy, including Anglican Bishop Jane Alexander, have been and continue to be educated at Newman Theological College.

"Newman has for many years been an important place for our laypeople and ordinates to train because those who can't travel for training don't have an Anglican option here," said Samson.

Media coverage tends to focus on the historical and cultural differences such as the approach to moral teaching, the ordination of women in the Anglican Church and the way authority is exercised.

"But people get distracted by those things and they don't seem to understand how much we can already do together," said Samson.