Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II)

Statement from the Most Reverend Frank T Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, newly appointed (1999) Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

For the launch of "The Gift of Authority",

12 May 1999, Westminster Abbey, London.

"The Gift of Authority" ("Authority in the Church III") marks another important step forward in the long and arduous journey toward the establishment of full visible communion between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion.

The agreed statement, which is the result of the careful work of an international commission made up of members of our two communions, builds upon earlier agreed statements as well as the responses they elicited from both churches. "The Gift of Authority" challenges Anglicans and Roman Catholics to think in fresh ways about the manner in which authority, which is God's gift to the whole body of the baptised, is to be ordered to the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

Of the various articulations of authority in the life of the Church, the one that will doubtless cause most comment is the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Though previously explored in "Authority II", the present agreed statement carries us further and asks Anglicans and Roman Catholics to consider the ministry of the Bishop of Rome as a "gift to be received by all the churches", while at the same time relating the ministry of universal primacy to the authority exercised by the whole Church.

"The Gift of Authority" calls for careful and prolonged study and discussion rather than immediate reaction and response. The agreed statement also has profound ecumenical implications and cannot be considered in isolation from our dialogues and discussions with other churches and faith communities: "When the churches, through their exercise of authority, display the healing and reconciling power of the Gospel, then the wider world is offered a vision of what God intends for all creation" ("Gift of Authority", 50)

It is my hope and earnest prayer that as "The Gift of Authority" ("Authority in the Church III") is explored and carefully reflected upon at all levels of ecclesial life we will find ourselves, as Anglicans and Roman Catholics, drawn into deeper and fuller communion in the one Christ and be enabled thereby to display the healing and reconciling power of the Gospel for the sake of our broken and unreconciled world.

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