The International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference (IBC) met in Vienna from 17th to 19th September 2018.
The bishops began by tackling the issue of “finance”. Although revenue has remained the same, expenditure is steadily increasing. This raises the question of whether member churches should increase their annual contributions, though this would not be easy to achieve as the financial situation in all the churches is already strained. A further option would be to find ways to cut expenditure. In this connection, the next meeting of the IBC bureau will consider some concrete suggestions for a problem-solving process, including prioritising upcoming tasks.
The dialogue commission with the Mar Thoma Church will be meeting for the last time in October; final discussions on the outcome can take place in the coming year.
The results of the Roman Catholic/Old Catholic Dialogue Commission (IRAD) were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for an opinion. The IBC will also formulate their views on the document.
A working group with members of the Old Catholic Church and the Armenian-Apostolic Church has opened discussions on ethical issues. The first topic will be the role of the family in society; this will also cover the theme of human-sexuality (same-sex relationships).
The Anglican – Old Catholic Consultative Council published a booklet, in German and in English, on the common objectives and cooperation between Anglicans and Old Catholics in Europe. The booklet is being made available through parish offices.
The Bishops' Conference decided to withdraw the small number of mission parishes in Scandinavia because intercommunion with the Church of Sweden makes the presence of Old Catholic parishes in the area superfluous.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, it has been confirmed that efforts to maintain the community in Dubravne Donje have failed. The jurisdiction of the Bishops' Conference is therefore limited to the Old Catholic Church in Croatia.
The report of the delegates to the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) was considered; The IBC accepts the suggestions and will discuss future action with the delegates. Bishop Lederleitner will coordinate the work of the delegates before and during the next CEC General Assembly. Youth Ministers of the Churches of the Utrecht Union are being invited to work with the young people of the member churches to support the World Council of Churches (WCC) project on the theme of “The Churches’ Commitment to Children”. The project is being organised and promoted by an Old Catholic in the WCC.
Finally, the focus of the deliberations turned to a further debate of "Same-sex relations and the Sacramentality of a Church blessing". The bishop of the Old Catholic Church in Germany, Matthias Ring, presented a proposal which he intends to bring before the German Synod in October. The IBC decided to initiate a consultation process with member churches of the Utrecht Union, in accordance with article 6 of the Statute. This process is to end in 2020, so that the German Synod can reach a decision in that same year.
The next regular meeting of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference will be held from 23rd to 27th June 2019 in Lublin/Poland.
Amersfoort/Bern, in September 2018
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