The Episcopal Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have jointly released Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness, the latest report by the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the U.S.A. (ARC-USA). An announcement by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs is here, the USCCB’s announcement is here, and the full text of the 23-page report is available as a PDF through the bishops’ website.
“It is hard to see how our differences in moral theology and ecclesiology will be resolved, and it is not clear to many whether they should be,” the report says in its conclusion. “The ecumenical movement teaches that legitimate diversity has its place in the Church, and history demonstrates that this is true. Moreover, the absence or addition of something need not be understood as culpable or blameworthy, nor as endemic or otherwise necessary, nor therefore as permanent or settled. This point holds true especially for churches, like ours, that are committed to continual reform, mutual gift-giving, and inter- and intra-ecclesial reconciliation.”
In 2008 the USCCB’s Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, asked the ARC-USA to address questions of ethics and the Christian life in the context of ecclesiology, in an effort to achieve greater clarity regarding areas of agreement and disagreement. They were aware that dialogue on these issues was also taking place between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion at the international level, and also in other bilateral dialogues between churches of various traditions.
The report examines the churches’ differing teaching authorities, and differing conclusions, through case studies of ethical dilemmas involving immigration and same-sex relations.
The co-chairs of ARC-USA are the Most Rev. Denis Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee.
“ARC-USA has produced some important statements in the past,” Bauerschmidt said. “This statement represents the latest landmark in our journey together as churches, and is a valuable contribution to an important topic.”
In addition to the two bishops, other members of ARC-USA are:
- The Rev. Victor Lee Austin, scholar in residence at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York
- The Very Rev. Beverly F. Gibson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Mobile
- The Rev. Matthew S.C. Olver, a doctoral student in theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee
- Mary Reath, governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome and author of Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity (2007), of Hopewell, New Jersey
- Timothy Sedgwick, professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria
- Christopher Wells, executive director of the Living Church Foundation in Milwaukee
- The Rev. Margaret Rose, the Episcopal Church’s deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations
- The Rev. Canon Charles Robertson, canon to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori
- The Rev. Charles Caccavale, professor of moral theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York
- Sister Marianne Farina, associate professor of philosophy and theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley
- Theresa Notare, assistant director of natural family planning, Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB
- The Rev. William O’Neill, associate professor of social ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley
- The Rev. Thomas P. Rausch, professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
- The Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the USCCB