Anglican and Catholic Churches celebrate 25 years of covenant
By Albert de Zutter
Catholic Key Editor
KANSAS CITY - A warm, cordial spirit flowed between Anglican and Roman Catholics as the two communions renewed a 25-year-old covenant between their two cathedrals the evening of June 2.
Albert de Zutter/Key photo
Members of the joint congregation of the Episcopal and Catholic cathedrals file up to sign books signifying their support of the covenant between the two communities to cooperate in service to one another and to the Kansas City area.
The bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Missouri and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the rectors of their cathedrals were among the principal celebrants at a Scripture and prayer service in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At the conclusion of the service, the joint congregation walked in procession along Washington Street to Founders' Hall, a new facility at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral two blocks to the south, for a reception. They were led by two bagpipe players, members of St. Andrew Pipes & Drums, Ltd.
During the service, Msgr. Ernest Fiedler, rector of Immaculate Conception Cathedral, and the Rev. Dennis J.J. Schmidt, dean of Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, engaged in a dialogue which reflected the cordiality of their relationship. Members of both Churches enthusiastically wished one another the peace of the Lord. Music was provided by choirs and soloists of both.
The covenant between the two cathedrals - the formal liturgical seats of their respective bishops - was originally signed in 1974 by now retired Bishop Arthur Vogel of the Episcopal Diocese, and Bishop Charles H. Helmsing of the Roman Catholic Diocese, who died in 1993. The two bishops were the co-chairs of the Anglican-Roman Catholic National Commission(ARC), exploring doctrinal common ground and possibilities of convergence between the two communions, Bishop Vogel told The Catholic Key. Bishop Vogel was also a member of the international effort, Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, or ARCIC, for 22 years.
The renewal of the local covenant was signed June 2 by Coadjutor Bishop Barry R. Howe for the Episcopal Diocese, and Bishop Raymond J. Boland for the Roman Catholic Diocese.
In opening the joint service, Bishop Boland declared the occasion "one more step toward the day when there will be reunion in the Christian world."
The covenant, he said, was "a great document put together by both our Churches. I hope that 25 years from now we will have moved further along toward that reunion for which we all hope."
In his homily, Bishop Vogel recalled that Pope Paul VI referred to the Anglican Communion as a "sister Church," a designation with "a profound theological implication." In the early Church, before the division between East and West, there were five sister Churches: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria. Pope Paul's use of the term "sister Church" implied that the intent of the search for unity was not for one Church to absorb the other, "but to recognize the catholicity" within each, Bishop Vogel said.
The covenant between the two cathedrals was the first of its kind, Bishop Vogel said. While there have been many agreements of cooperation between Episcopal and Catholic parishes, this was the first between cathedrals.
"We do this as equals in the faith that we share in the Holy Spirit," he said. "If we are to achieve unity it will be because we are servants of each other and sacraments for each other."
Members of the joint congregation each signed two books pledging their support of the covenant.
A set of books with every signature will be kept at each of the cathedrals. The points of the covenant are:
- To support each other in celebrating the traditions which we each revere as the legacy of our understanding of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- To support efforts to renew and revitalize the City in which God has placed us so we may be at the spiritual heart of the metropolitan area.
- To feed the needs of God's people spiritually, physically and culturally, especially the needs of persons without the comfort of spiritual or material homes.
- To share our physical facilities and resources through programs and activities which build community, minister to social needs, and foster educational and spiritual development.
- To celebrate in our liturgies a frequent prayer to God for each other and for the unity of the Church.
- To pray for the work of scholars who strive to resolve the theological ambiguities involved in reconciliation.
- To create opportunities for mutual worship, celebration, study and social activities.
- To dedicate ourselves to meetings for prayer, study and the furtherance of our unity.