WAYS OF BEING ONE CHURCH
As we reflect on a reunited Church we cannot expect to find an ecclesiology
shaped in a time of division to be entirely satisfactory. Our explorations
towards a more adequate ecclesiology have begun and are helping
us to give proper recognition to each other's ecclesial or churchly
character. They will also assist in overcoming our present state
23. We have found that koinonia, both as a concept and an experience,
is more important than any particular model of Church union that
we are yet able to propose. Koinonia is so rich a term that it is
better to keep its original Greek form than bring together several
English words to convey its meaning. For believers it involves both
communion and community. It includes participation in God through
Christ in the Spirit by which believers become adopted children
of the same Father and members of the one Body of Christ sharing
in the same Spirit. And it includes deep fellowship among participants,
a fellowship which is both visible and invisible, finding expression
in faith and order, in prayer and sacrament, in mission and service.
Many different gifts have been developed in our traditions, even
in separation. Although we already share some of our riches with
one another, we look forward to a greater sharing as we come closer
together in full unity (cf. Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis
In our discussion we found that the following, each in its own way,
offered elements for a model of organic unity in the koinonia of
the one Body of Christ:
a) considerable value was found in the notion of what have come
to be called typoi. This implies that within the one Church in which
there is basic agreement in faith, doctrine, and structure essential
for mission, there is room for various "ecclesial traditions",
each characterized by a particular style of theology, worship, spirituality
b) from one perspective the history of John Wesley has suggested
an analogy between his movement and the religious orders within
the one Church. Figures such as Benedict of Norcia and Francis of
Assisi, whose divine calling was similarly to a spiritual reform,
gave rise to religious orders characterized by special forms of
life and prayer, work, evangelization and their own internal organization.
The different religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church, while
fully in communion with the Pope and the bishops, relate in different
ways to the authority of Pope and bishops. Such relative autonomy
has a recognized place within the unity of the Church;
c) a third train of ideas is suggested by the term "sister
churches". In its original usage, the expression contained
a strong geographical component (e.g. Church of Rome, Church of
Constantinople). But more recent usage, as when Paul VI looked forward
to the Roman Catholic Church embracing "the Anglican Church"
as an "ever beloved sister", hints that it may be possible
to envisage reunion among divided traditions as a family reconciliation
(cf. Pope Paul VI letter to Patriarch Athenagoras, Anno ineunte,
July 25, 1967. In Tomos Agapis [ 1958-82], English Translation,
E. J. Stormon, S.J. [New York: Paulist Press, 1986], no. 176);
d) the relations between Churches of the Roman (Latin) rite and
those of various oriental rites also in communion with the Bishop
of Rome, afford a further possible model for the retention of different
styles of devotion and Church life within a single communion.
In trying to take these ideas further, we began to explore the acceptable
range of variety and uniformity in the Church.
26. Christians, sharing the same faith, relate to God in a great
variety of ways, often helped by spiritual traditions which have
developed, under the providence of God, in the course of history.
Some of these traditions are embodied in and furthered by religious
societies, renewal movements, and pious associations or institutes.
The Church should protect legitimate variety both by ensuring room
for its free development and by directly promoting new forms of
27. We broached the question whether such varying needs can be provided
for within the framework of the local congregation and how far a
particular tradition or form of prayer and worship may require special
provisions (parishes, ministries, other organizations). How far
would the pastoral) care of such groups require separate, possibly
overlapping jurisdictions, or could it be provided by one, single,
local form of episkope (supervision or oversight)?
There have to be limits to variety; some arise from the need to
promote cohesion and cooperation, but the basic structures of the
Church also set limits that exclude whatever would disrupt communion
in faith, order and sacramental) life.