This year’s meeting of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference (IBC) took place in Königswinter, Germany, from 3 to 7 March 2013.
The meeting began with a church service at the Namen-Jesu-Kirche in Bonn. The sermon was given by Archbishop of Utrecht Dr. Joris Vercammen, who presides over the IBC.
Up to and including Tuesday, the main subjects of discussion were reports from each church, ecumenical dialogue, and financial matters.
The dialogue between the Church of Sweden and the Union of Utrecht is soon to be concluded. If the dialogue commission’s concluding document on ecclesiological agreement and its implications is approved by both sides, church communion would be possible. The Old Catholic bishops also welcomed the progress of the pre-dialogue with the Mar Thoma Church in India, which will now be continued as a dialogue.
In the context of international collaboration, especially looking ahead to this year’s Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, the IBC delegates discussed the WCC paper “Together towards life: mission and evangelism in changing landscapes”. They welcomed the paper’s theme and its inclusion of a variety of theological and ecclesiastic traditions, but agreed that cultural specifications are necessary.
During the last three years the bishops have worked to create a new financial structure to make finances more transparent and to repay a deficit that stood at over 12,000 euros in 2011 and was paid off with a one-time payment from the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands. Clear budgets that may not be exceeded are now in place. The membership fees have also been increased. As a result, the approved budget for 2013 is now balanced.
The 31st International Old Catholic Congress will take place in Utrecht from 18 to 21 September 2014, and the IBC meeting received a report from the Congress Committee in the Netherlands. The theme of the event, “Stand up and walk”, is based on the story of the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles. The 125th anniversary of the Union of Utrecht’s foundation will also be celebrated during the congress. All church communities will be invited with a brochure containing preparation materials. The congress is designed as a spiritual meeting place for all Old Catholics and people interested in Old Catholicism.
Following on from last year’s discussions on the Permanent Diaconate, it was decided that only a priest, not a deacon, may give the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. If required by pastoral care, the bishops of the Union of Utrecht can allow other forms of anointing with no absolution in their diocese (in special services, for example) and must notify the IBC accordingly. The sacrament of marriage may be given by a priest only.
The next meeting of the IBC will take place in Switzerland in April 2014.
Amersfoort/Bern, March 2013
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