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Anglican-Catholic Dialogue Looks At Moral Discernment, Homosexuality

 
March 11, 2011

WASHINGTON—Anglican and Catholic ecumenical leaders examined moral discernment and homosexuality at their current round of dialogue where they explore the positions of the Catholic and Episcopalian churches on theological issues.

The meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the USA (ARC-USA) held the sixth meeting of its current dialogue in Berkeley, California, February 28-March 1. Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of the Catholic Diocese Alexandria, Louisiana and Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee chaired the meeting.

Dialogue members continued to study the theme of the current round, “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences,” and considered a preliminary draft of some sections of a statement on this theme that they expect to adopt. Members also heard a paper by Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver summarizing the discussions so far in this round and outlining areas of disagreement and convergence.

Members also examined statements by both churches on the question of homosexuality. These included “To Set Our Hope on Christ, A Response to the Invitation of Windsor Report 135,” a 2005 unofficial response by The Episcopal Church to a request from the Anglican Consultative Council and “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church,” an unofficial statement prepared in 2010 by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. Two Catholic statements also were studied, including “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers,” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family (1997) and the USCCB’s “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” which was adopted by the full body of bishops in 2006.

“One of the primary tasks of this round of dialogue is to examine what has led our churches to come to very different conclusions regarding the morality of certain actions,

especially in the area of human sexuality,” Bishop Herzog explained. “We also acknowledge that we agree on many other moral questions. I have been impressed by the way in which both sides have been listening to each other with a spirit of patience and generosity as we search for common ground on these vexing moral issues.”

At the meeting the dialogue team welcomed The Rev. Canon Dr. Beverly F. Gibson, Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama, as a new member from the Episcopal Church. In addition, Dr. Christopher Wells, Executive Director of The Living Church Foundation in Milwaukee, attended as a theological consultant. Two faculty members of local Catholic theological schools also attended as consultants: Jesuit Father William O’Neill, Associate Professor of Social Ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology, and Holy Cross Sister Marianne Farina, Assistant Professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

The next meeting of the Consultation is slated for August 22-23, in Washington.

In addition to the co-chair, Catholic members of the dialogue include Father Charles Caccavale, S.T.D., Professor of Moral Theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception; Theresa Notare, Ph.D., of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Jesuit Father Thomas P. Rausch, Ph.D., Department of Theological Studies of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; and Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and staff to the dialogue.

Representatives of The Episcopal Church, in addition to Bishop Bauerschmidt and Canon Gibson, include the Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver, Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas; Mary Reath, governor of the Anglican Center in Rome and author of "Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity" (2007); Dr. Timothy Sedgwick, Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary; the Rev. Canon. J. Robert Wright, Ph.D, Professor of Church History at the General Theological Seminary in New York, New York; and the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, Ph.D., Ecumenical Officer of The Episcopal Church and staff to the dialogue.

A list of the agreed statements released by the consultation as well as links to earlier press releases can be found on the USCCB website at: http://www.usccb.org/seia/anglican.shtml

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Keywords: Catholic, Anglican, Bishop Ronald Herzog, Bishop John Bauerschmidt, moral discernment, homosexuality, ecumenism

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