“Communion” is the theme of the first dialogue in more than 30 years between the Anglican and Reformed communions.
It is hoped that this dialogue will result in a “better understanding of each other during a time of rapid change, a better understanding of ourselves and how we may resolve disagreement better and an improved ability to concentrate on what matters most—namely, articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ today,” said Iain Torrance, president emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The theme of this first meeting was “The Nature of Communion” and drew on the New Testament word koinonia, as it currently describes the nature of the interrelationships between churches. The perspectives on communion from the recent World Council of Churches document The Church: Towards A Common Vision played an important role in the conversation, as did presentations from a number of the participants.
“What I found so good and in a certain way a highlight was the deep desire of all of us to see the communion as a gift of God that is lived out in a very concrete way in being active in the world we live in,” said Douwe Visser, the WCRC’s executive secretary for theology and communion.
This first meeting, which took place 26-31 October in Kochi, Kerala, India, was hosted by the WCRC and facilitated by the Church of South India (CSI). The CSI, a member of the WCRC, is a union of churches from the Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed traditions. The dialogue group was welcomed by Bishop Thomas K. Oommen (CSI deputy moderator) and D. R. Sadananda (CSI general secretary). Besides having an official delegate on the WCRC’s team two local scholars from the CSI also participated in the meeting.
Their participation along with the location of the meeting made a positive impact, so much so that it was decided to invite representatives from local churches to future rounds.
“The highlight of the week was being based in India,” said Elizabeth Welch, minister of the Clapton Park United Reformed Church at the Round Chapel in Hackney, London. “This gave us an opportunity to hear from people from the Church of South India, a church in which Reformed and Anglican already participate together as one people. It also gave us an opportunity to listen to some of the challenges that Christians in India face, as well as sharing the delightful hospitality offered by our Indian hosts.”
Another highlight according to Fundiswa Kobo, from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, was “our worship together, and coming into the Lord’s table together was so meaningful.”
The week 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 WCRC co-chair preached. The members of the dialogue prayed together each morning and evening.
By the end of the week three subtopics were identified that will become the focus of the dialogue in the coming year:
Anglican Communion participants: David Chillingworth, Scottish Episcopal Church; Clint Le Bruyns, Anglican Church of Southern Africa; Renta Nishihara, Nippon Sei Ko Kai; Amy E. Richter, the Episcopal Church; Kumara Illangasinghe (consultant), Church of Ceylon; staff: John Gibaut (co-secretary) and Neil Vigers.
WCRC participants: Elizabeth Welch (co-chair), United Reformed Church; Iain Torrance, the Church of Scotland; Royce M. Victor, Church of South India; Fundiswa Amanda Kobo (consultant), Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa; Helené Van Tonder, Dutch Reformed Church; staff: Douwe Visser (co-secretary).
CSI observers: Allan Samuel Palanna and Sharath Sowseelya.