issued in February 2003 by the Bishops of the four Anglican jurisdictions meeting in Paris
We, the four Anglican bishops with pastoral jurisdiction in Continental Europe, agreed this contribution to the Partners in Mission consultation in Madrid in May during a recent meeting of our College of Anglican Bishops in Continental Europe (COABICE) in Paris. It is addressed both to the delegates from our jurisdictions, and to those who have generously agreed to join us in Madrid and assist us in our work.
God's work is to reconcile all people in Christ and restore the unity of the human race. (cf. Galatians 3: 27-8). The Church is called to be the first fruits and sign of this promise of God. An essential part of the Church's mission, therefore, is to strive for unity. The Church's mission of reconciliation is weakened by her lack of unity, and her witness is diluted when the life of the Church does not show forth, visibly, the unity which Christ wills for all. Unity in mission as well as in faith, sacramental life and pastoral care is not something that the Churches may merely opt for or agree to by resolutions on co-operation and commitments at the level of synods and conventions. A Church called to God's work of reconciliation in the world must demonstrate this unity from the very way it structures its life. As bishops in Europe we commit ourselves to working together so that our unity may be more visible and our mission enhanced.
The Lambeth Conference in 1998 stated: 'In common with historic Christianity, the Anglican Communion considers the episcopate to be one of the defining elements of its life together. Rooted in apostolic ministry, bishops symbolise and guard the unity of the church as a whole, and within a diocese represent its coherence in the faith.' (§111).
The Virginia Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission speaks of the ministry of unity that is exercised by the bishop in this way: 'Bishops have a special responsibility for maintaining and focusing the internal unity and communion of the local Church. In the diocese where they have oversight they represent, focus and have a care for the unity of the Church.' The bishops' ministry of unity is not seen to be such, when different congregations that are in communion nevertheless relate to different bishops. Such an anomaly may impede the Church from developing a coherent mission and ministry in each place.
In the Body of Christ, each person comes with particular gifts and a particular ministry. So too, with regard to the diverse and rich traditions that come with our several ecclesiastical jurisdictions. We affirm that such particular charisms and insights are gifts to the whole body, and we uphold the principle that none of these will be lost as we move towards greater unity. The intent is that these diverse gifts, strengths and charisms will be nurtured and extended, thus enriching all in a new and deepened fellowship.
Just as in Anglican engagement in ecumenical dialogue and Church-unity matters, a rigid uniformity has been rejected in favour of a rich diversity of life and devotion within the unity of the whole fellowship; so distinctive traditions are upheld and continued side-by-side within the life of the Communion, in accordance with the unity and continuity that is preserved through the elements of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Our experience leads us to affirm that diversity even within one diocese does not impair unity when all accept their union with the one bishop.
We rejoice in the rich mosaic of cultures and languages that are embraced in our jurisdictions and affirm that this diversity is an essential gift for a joint and coherent mission in mainland Europe. We look forward to the Partners in Mission Consultation contributing to a deeper sense of common mission. And we commit ourselves to continue to work to remove all obstacles to the unity and mission of Anglicans in Continental Europe, heeding that call to unity of Christ our Lord, who is 'the shepherd and bishop [episcopon] of our souls' (1 Peter 2.25).
Bishop Carlos López-Lozano Bishop of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church
Bishop Geoffrey Rowell Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe
(Bishop David Hamid Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese in Europe)
Bishop Fernando Soares Bishop of the Lusitanian Church
Bishop Pierre Whalon Bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe
Paris, 18 February 2003
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