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Section E: Ecumenism

71. As we witness to the Gospel of Christ to the world and the power of his love, we have to acknowledge the continued reality of our divisions in the Church of Christ. We believe that the ecumenical vocation is one which comes directly from the Lord, empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit[18].  Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the unity of his followers on the night before he died. We believe it is the will of God that his Church be one. Bishops recalled with gratitude that successive Lambeth Conferences have cumulatively and authoritatively spoken of the Anglican Communion’s vision of the unity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. One bishop reminded us of the prayer from the Conference of 1878 that there may be one flock with one shepherd[19]and another of the reaffirmation of the Anglican commitment “to full, visible unity as the goal of the Ecumenical Movement.”[20] This accords with the growing ecumenical consensus involving a common sacramental life, mutual accountability and a shared ministry. The Anglican Communion has never seen its life as a family of Churches as self-sufficient, nor does it claim any universal identity other than as part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

72. We recognise that all the baptised are brought, through their grafting into the Body of Christ, into a relationship of communion with one another.  The vocation of the Anglican Communion and the ecumenical vocation are therefore one and the same: to deepen our expression of the gift of full communion imparted to us already through our communion with and in Christ. 

73. We reaffirm the commitment of the Anglican Communion to the full visible unity of the Church now, and our strong desire has received physical expression in this Lambeth Conference by the participation of our ecumenical partners and of the bishops in communion.  They have participated as brothers and sisters in the Lord, and spoken as friends, both ready to support and to challenge.  We also reaffirm the Lund Principle as a commitment “on the way”:  “Churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately”.  At this stage of the ecumenical movement, we have to recognise that what affects one affects all, and that it behoves each Church to live in accountability to the rest of the oikumene.

74. Unity is both a gift and vocation from God to the Church for the world. We must learn how to receive that gift. Mindful of the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ prayed that the Church be one,[21] it is, therefore, an imperative for all his followers. They should use “every ounce of their energy” in seeking for that unity. It is ultimately a question of integrity and credibility, for if Christians are not seen to stand together in worship and work, our witness is impaired and none will believe us.

75. The Gospel is at the heart of the Church's life and mission and is the truth that sets people free. Because the Church is divided its mission is impaired. Ecumenism, therefore, which seeks to make the Church one, is intimately and urgently linked with that mission, and becomes a powerful route into the freedom which is displayed in the Lord's passion and resurrection and is for us the source of new life.

76. Ecumenism is a meeting in truth in Christ.[22] It is part of the Church's vocation of reconciliation. The Church should be made up of reconcilers and reconciled, an instrument and sign of reconciliation. This role as a reconciling community is urgent because it offers a paradigm for what more generally humanity is seeking in its search for authentic life, faith and truth. It should be pursued through servanthood, mutual support, and most especially through prayer.

77. The quest for unity must have a theological core. There are very many theological principles we hold in common with other Christian world communions. We give thanks to God for the presence of our ecumenical partners in the Conference and rejoice in the way he has blessed us in our formal conversations and dialogues with them since the Lambeth Conference last met in 1998.

78. We give thanks to God for the diverse and strong patterns of ecumenical relationship continuing to develop in the Anglican Communion.  We commit ourselves to sustain and nourish of relationships of communion with the Independent Philippine Church, the Mar Thoma Church in India, and the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. We welcome the growth and renewal of relationships of communion with the Lutheran Churches of northern Europe and North America. In addition to the denominations and churches we have related to for many years, we note the emergence of many non-denominational churches but that because of their congregational structure it is often difficult to engage with them. We affirm the work of the Global Christian Forum[23]

79. Current divisions between Anglicans and the actions by certain provinces that have provoked them have inevitably disrupted not only the internal life of the Communion but also ecumenical dialogues and cooperation. Our ecumenical partners are sometimes bewildered by apparent Anglican inconsistency especially where issues of authority and ecclesiology are concerned.  This is immediately relevant to the dilemmas facing this Conference. 

80. While we rejoice in the advances made in our conversations with other denominations, we must acknowledge that there is often a tension between formal dialogues and the Church at local level, between the structures of the Church and local congregations. Very often issues of faith and order are not communicated or seen as relevant to local situations and they do not always translate into practical outcomes in our congregations. At the same time there is much ecumenical activity at local level. Perhaps the future of ecumenism should be from the bottom up and not the top down. However whatever we do at local level must accord with dialogue at the top.

81. Ecumenism and mission go hand in hand. This will be highlighted at the World Missionary Conference in 2010, marking the centenary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910 at which the modern ecumenical movement had its origins. It was recalled that one of our predecessors, Bishop Charles Brent, a missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church USA in the Philippines and one of the founding fathers of the modern ecumenical movement, was a key player at that first conference.  Cooperation in mission between Churches requires theological foundations and matters of faith and order belong together with life and work. The ecumenical quest that all may be one in Christ is not only a witness to the truth revealed in Christ, but also an empowerment of the Church for its part in God's mission.

82. However, not only is ecumenism a vocation to witness to the unity of the Body of Christ and to the one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism[24] of Christian revelation, it is a singular truth that the response of the Church to God's call to embrace his mission can only be fully realised in the action of the whole Body of Christ united in its response to God. The ecumenical vocation that all may be visibly one in Christ is not only a witness to the truth revealed in him, but also an empowerment in relation to the Church’s mission and to issues of justice and peace. Bishops emphasised the connection between ecumenism and aid and relief following times of warfare, natural disasters and human catastrophe. On such occasions we can stand and work together in a way that no single Christian family can achieve on its own. (Of course many disasters and issues of desperate human need go far beyond what even the churches together can face and demand cooperation with other religions, agencies and governments bodies.)

83. One of the keys to ecumenism is relationships, especially between Christian leaders. Bishops, therefore, must be leaders involved in local ecumenism, standing together with leaders of other denominations in the proclamation of the Gospel and the empowerment of the Church in its mission and witness.

84. The nature and extent of ecumenical cooperation on the road to full visible unity often depends on context. There was a clear witness that good relations between churches flourish in times of testing, and that such times have proven plentiful for ecumenical thinking and works. Where churches face crises or challenges they are more motivated to stand and act together in witness. For example in India where Christianity is a persecuted minority there is much cooperation between churches. On the other hand when it is in a majority, there is often complacency.


The establishment of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) was endorsed at Lambeth Conference of 1998 to monitor and enable Anglican participation in ecumenical activity and to ensure consistency of approach.  It was reported that IASCER has met annually and has proved itself a useful instrument for the Communion and its partners in many matters touching faith and order.[25]

Three reports were offered to the Lambeth Conference as of particular significance:

“The Church of the Triune God” (The Cyprus Statement) concludes the third phase of the Anglican - Orthodox international theological dialogue (1989-2007). The Statement sets out significant material on the life of the Church which is timely and pertinent to many of the current debates within Anglicanism. available for purchase from Church House Publishing

“Growing Together in Unity and Mission”
Available Here

“Called to be the One Church” Available Here

These three reports were used as resources for the Lambeth Conference. The bishops commend them for study and reception in the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Consultative Council carries its task of co-ordinating and enabling ecumenical dialogue through the work of several bilateral commissions, whose work is reported through the Anglican Communion website. The Anglican Communion currently has dialogues with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation and the Methodist World Council. A full listing of the Commissions and of their work, together with notes on all the bilateral conversations and reports published since the 1998 Lambeth Conference can be found on the Anglican Communion website. The Anglican  Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council continues the work of implementation of the Bonn Agreement (1931).

In 1999, the Anglican  Roman Catholic International Commission published the Report The Gift of Authority, its third text on authority in the Church,Available here and in 2005, Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ, on the subject of the Blessed Virgin Mary's place in Christian doctrine and devotion. Available here

In 2002, the Anglican  Lutheran International Working Group published their report, Growth in Communion, exploring the theological implications of agreements of communion at regional and international level between the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran World Federation. Available here

In 2005, "Conversations around the World", the report of the dialogue with the Baptist World Alliance set out convergences in the faith and life of these two traditions and benchmarks for co-operation.Available here


18. John 17:20-23

19. John 10:16

20. Resolution IV:1, Lambeth Conference 1998.

21. John 17

22.Pope John Paul II


24.Ephesians 4:5

25. See ecumenical  matters in the appendix

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