Episcopal and European churches seek to fortify ecumenical bonds

May 16, 2011

Utrecht,
Netherlands, May 16 (ENInews)--Two Christian denominations in Europe -- one in
full communion with the Episcopal Church and the other exploring the potential
for such a relationship -- welcomed Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori for key talks and a keynote
address.

Following a three-day visit to the (Lutheran) Church of
Sweden, with which the Episcopal Church is hoping to formalize a
full-communion partnership, Jefferts Schori traveled to Utrecht in the
Netherlands to deliver the annual Quasimodo Lecture, hosted by the Old
Catholic Church, Episcopal News Service reports.

The Episcopal Church
entered into full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of
Utrecht on the basis of the Bonn Agreement in 1934. The Old Catholic Church
consists of several national churches in Europe -- located in the Netherlands,
Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland -- that could
not accept the definition of papal infallibility presented by the first
Vatican Council in 1870.

Archbishop Joris Vercammen of the Old Catholic
Church told ENS that cooperation between his church, the Episcopal Church and
the Church of England -- all of which have a presence in Europe -- is
"essential for contributing to the gospel" on the continent.

"It's
important to really enter into one another's theology and that is where you
will really find more unity," he said. "Churches must collaborate more with
one another, and that means tearing down boundaries, which is very possible
between Anglicans and Old Catholics."

The Convocation of Episcopal
Churches in Europe serves a culturally diverse demographic of Christians in 20
parishes and missions throughout Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and
Switzerland.

"It's all about celebrating our full communion," Vercammen
said, "and it's important that we have the opportunity to witness the life of
the Episcopal Church. We are not that far away from each other and we are
struggling with the same issues. Such a visit also provides an opportunity for
solidarity."

But Vercammen acknowledged that more creativity is needed
in dealing with overlapping jurisdictions. The Church of England's Diocese in
Europe also includes parishes throughout the continent. "We need more concrete
initiatives," such as common searches for church leadership to serve across
jurisdictions, he said.

On 14 May in St. Gertrude's (Old Catholic)
Cathedral complex in Utrecht, the presiding bishop delivered the Quasimodo
Lecture, which explores issues of faith in contemporary society. The lecture
historically has been held near the second Sunday of Easter, known in some
traditions as Quasimodo Sunday, taking its name from the opening Latin text of
a traditional Introit for the day, "Quasi modo geniti infants," meaning "As
newborn babies."

In the lecture, Jefferts Schori said that a church
catholic should be an open place where wrestling with difficult questions is
encouraged and a place where old forms give way to new
opportunities.

"The leadership of Christian bodies like ours, as well
as all of the partners we can discover and nurture, are needed in order to
transform the future," she said. "We must build networks for that transformed
future, for that image of the reign of God ... That future is only possible
with the catholicity of relationships beyond our current understanding. We
must reach beyond the bounds that divide us for the love of God and for the
love of our neighbors." She said that the rich diversity of relationships
throughout ecumenical partnerships "make us so effective."

"[H]ealing
of the community is why we're here, not just the healing of the Christian
community through our ecumenical work, but the healing of all creation," she
said. "The constant peril of ecumenism is thinking too small. Ecumenism is
basically housekeeping work, cleaning up the household, setting it in order so
that it can be a home ... So we need to keep our focus on God's mission, that
great dream of restored creation... The work of full communion is meant for
fuller communion than you and I can envision."

Jefferts Schori visited
Uppsala to continue to explore ways that the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and
the Church of Sweden can deepen its partnerships. "It's really about
formalizing a relationship that already exists," the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, the
Episcopal Church's ecumenical and interreligious relations officer, told
Episcopal News Service. Ferguson was accompanying the presiding
bishop.

Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Wejryd has been invited to
attend the next meeting of the Episcopal Church's General Convention in 2012,
when it is hoped that a resolution on formalizing a full-communion
relationship between the two churches will be acted on, Ferguson
said.

Churches in full communion formally recognize that they share
essential doctrines, including baptism and Eucharist; agree to accept the
service of each other's clergy; and pledge to work together in evangelism and
mission. The churches become interdependent while remaining
autonomous.