The English and Welsh Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee is the official bilateral instrument for monitoring and promoting the relationship between the Church of England and the Church in Wales, and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Its work complements the various expressions of local co-operation in parishes and Churches Together groups and the relationship between bishops in their dioceses and at the national level (where there are regular meetings for prayer and study between the two episcopates).
EWARC is accountable to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Church in Wales Bench of Bishops, and to the Church of England House of Bishops. International bodies that EWARC relates to are the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
Part of English and Welsh ARC’s immediate work will be to form a response to the latest ARCIC III statement, ‘Walking Together on the Way – Learning to Be the Church – Local, Regional, Universal’, which was released in July 2018.
Membership and agenda
The minutes of early meetings suggest that English and Welsh ARC was originally composed almost entirely of scholars and theologians. Its make up is now more balanced: ARC draws together scholars and practitioners, lay, episcopal and clergy, female and male. The pastoral dimension is important, as is the practical implementation of any gains in Anglican – Roman Catholic understanding and collaboration.
The purpose of English and Welsh ARC is to support, coordinate and promote relations between the Church of England and the Church in Wales, and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales by:
- encouraging and exploring growth in the communion that already exists between our churches;
- identifying and advocating practical ways to live out that communion through sharing in God’s mission together;
encouraging informed and respectful dialogue that attends to areas of continuing disagreement, as we navigate ‘new contexts and new challenges to our unity’ (Common Declaration 2016);
- attending to the processes of formal response and ecclesial reception for agreed statements of ARCIC;
- fostering awareness of opportunities for strengthening relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in England and Wales and of potential risks to those relationships, and ensuring these are drawn to the attention of others in both churches as needed;
- resourcing dialogue and cooperation at episcopal level, including support for the organisation of regular joint bishops’ meetings at national and regional level.
English and Welsh ARC’s work is underpinned by shared worship. The committee prays and worships together, alternating the celebration of the Eucharist and observing the discipline of the churches. Meetings are structured by worship and this is significant in itself. It sets the tone of mutual respect and goodwill and underpins the genuine fellowship in Christ that the committee enjoys.
English and Welsh ARC undertakes the joint study of statements that concern the relationship between the churches. This includes looking together at ecumenical agreed texts, especially those of ARCIC and IARCCUM. In the past, English ARC (the Committee’s name until 2018) has actively disseminated and offered commentary on some ARCIC texts. Frank discussion within English and Welsh ARC of texts that will be scrutinised very closely within the churches can assist the process of reception and evaluation.
In recent years, EWARC has engaged in ordered reflection on the experience of the Eucharist in an ecumenical context and the papers that have been given are posted in the ‘Reports’ section of these web pages. Other areas of reflection and work have included inter-church families and a recent ‘Mapping Exercise’ of relations between the Church of England and Catholic Church in English parishes. Again, findings of this work can be found in the ‘Reports’ section.
In the past, members of English ARC have also visited institutions and situations where Roman Catholics and Anglicans are working together. These have included: institutions of higher education, such as Liverpool Hope University College; collaboration in theological education, such as the Cambridge Federation and the link between Cranmer Hall and Ushaw College in Durham; the Armed Forces Chaplaincy, airport and prison chaplaincy; and local ecumenism. English and Welsh ARC also has an ongoing concern to support and offer guidance to joint church schools.
The Catholic membership is appointed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and the Church of England membership is appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Church in Wales membership is appointed by the Bench of Bishops. Membership is refreshed every five years, with members able to serve up to two five-year terms.
Photo credit: © WCC