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The International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue issues a Communique following the first global meeting since 1984

The International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue issues a Communique following the first global meeting since 1984

The International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue (IRAD) between the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Anglican Communion met for its historic inaugural meeting in Kochi Kerala India, 26 to 31 OCT 2015. The Co-Chairs are The Revd Elizabeth Welch (Reformed) and The Most Revd David Chillingworth (Anglican).

This was the first time that the Anglican and Reformed Communions have met in a formal dialogue at the global level since 1984, when the dialogue finalized its agreement statement, God’s Reign and our Unity. Following an exploratory meeting in 2011, there has been fresh energy and enthusiasm for a new round of dialogue between the two Communions. The dialogue has been mandated to study to the nature of communion (koinonia), a wide range of missiological challenges facing the two Communions, and the sources wherein the work of the Spirit may be discerned, notably authority and governance, episcope and episcopacy.

The theme of this first meeting has been ‘The Nature of Communion’ drawing on the New Testament word koinonia, being invoked today to describe the nature of the interrelationships between churches.

As part of its preliminary reflection on the nature of communion, there were presentations and discussion on the topic from the perspectives of the Old and New Testaments, and Church history. Seventeenth century English Reformed theology was put in dialogue with contemporary Orthodox theology. The African concept of Ubuntu was placed in dialogue with New Testament understandings of communion. The perspectives on communion from recent WCC document The Church: Towards A Common Vision played an important role in the conversation. Communion in relation to understandings of the nature of community and of Holy Communion proved a helpful part of the discussion.

The dialogue began with a celebration of Holy Communion using a liturgy of the United Reformed Church at which the Anglican Co-Chair preached, and closed with a celebration of Holy Communion according to the Scottish Episcopal liturgy, at which the Reformed Co-Chair preached. The members of the dialogue prayed together each morning and evening.

This first meeting of the Commission was hosted by the WCRC and facilitated by the Church of South India (CSI), which is itself an organic union including Anglican and Reformed churches. The CSI contributed two local scholars as participants to this meeting of the dialogue; their many contributions and perspectives context, theological education and being a minority church greatly enriched the discussion. The contribution of the local participants was so vital to the meeting, that it gave rise to the hope that at each meeting of the dialogue, representatives of the local churches be invited to attend.

Members of the Commission were honoured to be welcomed by Bishop Thomas K. Oommen (Deputy Moderator of the CSI) and The Reverend Dr D. R. Sadananda (General Secretary of the CSI).

To enable understanding of the Christian culture of south-west India in its Portuguese, Dutch and English forms, the CSI arranged for a memorable visit to St Francis’ Church, Fort Kochi. The Commission also paid a moving visit to the fifteenth synagogue at Fort Kochi belonging to a now small Jewish community.

The Commission spent a day in intense discussion of its mandate, clarifying priorities, and critically reflecting on guiding themes for the way ahead. It will meet again in early SEP 2016.

The attendees were;

For the Anglican Communion –
The Most Revd David Chillingworth – the Scottish Episcopal Church
Dr Clint Le Bruyns – the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Revd Prof Dr Renta Nishihara – Nippon Sei Ko Kai
The Revd Dr Amy E. Richter – The Episcopal Church
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe (Consultant) – the Church of Ceylon
The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut (Co-Secretary)
The Revd Neil Vigers

For the World Communion of Reformed Churches –
The Revd Elizabeth Welch Co-Chair – the United Reformed Church (UK)
The Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance – The Church of Scotland
The Revd Dr Royce M Victor – the Church of South India
The Revd Fundiswa Amanda Kobo (Consultant) – Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa
The Revd Helené Van Tonder – the Dutch Reformed Church
The Revd Dr Douwe Visser (Co-Secretary)

CSI observers –
The Revd Dr Allan Samuel Palanna
The Revd Sharath Sowseelya

The main image and the Communique are published at Anglican Communion News Service.


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Kurt Hill

Episcopalians in New York have always had a good working relationship with the Dutch Reformed. Before The King’s Chapel in the fortress and Trinity Church Wall Street were built, we shared St. Nicholas Church with them. The Rev. Dr. Commissary William Vesey, first rector of Trinity Church, was installed in 1698 at St. Nicholas. The service was in Latin.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jean Lall

Wonderful report. Having traveled to Kochi more than fifty years ago and visited local churches and the synagogue there, I can appreciate what an appropriate site it was for this gathering, especially with the participation of Church of South India representatives. The CSI has so much to teach us about how to be church together, preserving variety and diversity within unity.

Philip Spivey’s reflections above are excellent, so I’ll just say Amen to them!

JC Fisher

First thing I want to hear from the Reformed, is apologize for Donald “I’m a Presbyterian” Trump!

[I kid, I kid! ;-p~~~]

Philip B. Spivey

This gathering of religious leaders from throughout the world suggests a recipe of what a “real communion” looks like: Significant differences; significant common ground. A listening opportunity among its members where nobody is shouted-down; nobody is criticized and perhaps most of all, differences are explored to better understand one another.

A communion’s membership in the 21st Century needn’t adhere to a common doctrine and orthodoxy; a modern communion can agree to disagree on many matters, when its purpose is something greater than itself. Together we can find areas of common ground that further our stewardship of God’s people and planet—despite differences in our portal of entry to God’s Light.

The IRAD modeled an exemplar of Jesus: When invited into the House of God that I happen to occupy today, everyone is treated as a valued guest; everyone has a voice that is respected, not just tolerated; and our hospitality consists of “some of your liturgical cuisine and some of mine.” There is no divine conflict or contradiction at this “Supper”; only a blessed moment of harmony and fusion.

If we can manage to break the bonds of compliant orthodoxy, Communions may be permitted to become dynamic—as in—loosely knit confederations centered around issues of global importance: Human rights; white supremacy; human enslavement; climate change; poverty; corporate excess and so many others. These new confederations would be able to shift (and overlap) as the need arises.

The Jesus Movement can be so much more when many, many voices, unite in a single mission, to change the world.

Jos. S. Laughon

“nobody is criticized”

This would be very, very odd to the Early Church and the Church Fathers indeed. Most of all to Peter and Paul.

Philip B. Spivey

I’m sure you’re correct, but I would hope that we’re “big boys” now; somewhere between early and late middle age. On the other hand, institutions always make room for “grump old men”.

Philip B. Spivey

Afterthought: Perhaps ‘Communion’ has become too loaded a term. Why not ‘ The Anglican Consortium’ ? (No smiley-face here.) You don’t have to be Anglican to join and…best of all…there needn’t be any doctrinal fights. That will free us from our interminable sectarianisms.

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