Senior theologians in the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox churches are preparing to confirm an agreement on their understanding of Christ’s Incarnation.
Leaders of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission who met near Beirut this week reviewed responses to the 2002 Agreed Statement on Christology, which had been sent to churches of the two bodies for consideration.
The statement considered the question of how the two natures, human and divine, were united in one human being: Jesus Christ.Noting overwhelming approval for the agreement from both sides, the steering committee considered minor adjustments and will prepare a preamble for consideration by the commission.
His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell of the Church of England, and Archbishop Nareg Alemezian of the Armenian Orthodox Church were joined by the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of the Anglican Communion’s Department of Unity, Faith, and Order.
“Such an agreement on the fundamental theological question about the Incarnation marks a breakthrough in over 1,600 years of division,” she said. “It is a blessing that the churches can proclaim together in such a time as this the great good news that God in Christ became human in order to enter into and save our world.”
Barnett-Cowan said the group was conscious of the violence breaking out so widely in the Middle East: “Anglicans and Oriental Orthodox alike, together with Christians worldwide, are united in prayer for the peace of God to come again to the region.”
The committee was received by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Cilicia, who expressed gratitude for work that brings Christians together in solidarity.
The Anglican members were also received by His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who was at his summer residence in Beirut.
“There we heard more about the suffering of so many people in Syria and Iraq,” said Barnett-Cowan, “and of the need for Christians and people of good will to assist with relief efforts, but also to encourage the powers of the world to ensure security.
“The patriarchs of local churches issued a joint statement on August 7 about the situation, and Anglicans everywhere are encouraged to read it and take action as they are able.”
The commission is scheduled to meet again in Cairo on Oct. 13-17.
Image: Leaders gathered in Beirut (from left): Fr. Housig Mardirossian (new ecumenical officer, Armenian Orthodox Church), Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, Metropolitan Bishoy, and Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan • Armenian Orthodox Church photo