Adapted from Anglican Communion News Service
Leaders of Anglican and Oriental Orthodox churches have signed historic agreements that help to heal the oldest continuing division within Christianity.
A revised Agreed Statement on Christology, published in North Wales this week by the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission, addresses a centuries-old split. The commission also has made substantial progress on issues concerning the Holy Spirit.
Leading clergy and theologians from both Christian traditions met at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden to engage in theological dialogue, while at the same time forging deeper bonds of faith and mutual support.
“With this agreement we are able to heal the cause of the division between the two families of the churches worldwide which started at Chalcedon,” said His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt, co-chairman of the commission.
“There are other things which emerged during the long history since Chalcedon in the fifth century, so we have on our agenda many other topics, including the position of the Holy Spirit, which we were able to sign a preliminary agreement on this subject also,” he added.
“The publication of our Agreed Statement on Christology is a great outcome of sharing dialogue together. It is a very beautiful piece of theology, which is very encouraging and easily understandable to the people and pleasing to the theologians.”
The commission has spent a week in North Wales talking and visiting church communities across the Diocese of St. Asaph. The Rt. Rev. Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St. Asaph and co-chair of the commission, was their host.
Speaking during Evensong at St. Asaph. Cathedral, Bishop Cameron, said: “It’s a privilege to welcome you to this building which has seen worship every day for at least 800 years, although this is a tradition which can be easily matched and bettered by the Churches of the East.
“Ecumenical dialogue can be long, but beneath the process is the love shared between Christians, and it is that love and affection which draws us together and back to dialogue and mutual understanding.”
The Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission was established in 2001 to strengthen relationships between the different churches and to discuss important theological issues, such as Christology, which divided the Church at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
The dialogue paused in 2003 after the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire but resumed in 2013.
In addition to its dialogue, the commission worshiped and prayed, sharing the urgent concerns of members from the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
“Because of immigration we now find ourselves side by side as neighbors,” said Metropolitan Polycarp Augin Aydın of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Netherlands. “In the past we used to talk about Eastern and Western Christianity, but this is no longer the case. There are Eastern Christians who live in the Western Countries and vice versa. Therefore we have to dialogue with each other and to really learn from one another and to really share our treasures with one another.”
“The world we are living in today is a world that needs us as Christians to stand together,” said Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. “Around our commission table, we have the Armenians commemorating the Armenian Genocide, the Syrians and Iraqis whose countries are war-torn and peoples displaced, the Copts who have lost 21 of their men to that horrific martyrdom in Libya, the Ethiopians likewise in Libya, and here in Europe we also have our own struggles. It is very much time for us to stand together as Church leaders and to recognize what we have in common while at the same time respecting the differences we have.”
The Commission will meet again in Lebanon on Oct. 24-29, 2016, when it expects to continue its dialogue about the Holy Spirit.
Image: Members of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission outside St. Asaph Cathedral.