From 21st to 27th May 2000 the Bishops of the Utrecht Union met for their annual conference in Breslau (Poland). There were a number of issues to be addressed on the agenda.
The new statute of the Union of Utrecht was finally ratified. It replaces the foundation documents of 1889, which had already been reworked in 1952 and 1974. The Declaration of Utrecht of 1889 remains, of course, untouched. This brings the long awaited restructuring of the Utrecht Union to a conclusion. Special reference is made to the theological foundation paper, the Preamble.
The tensions which have arisen in the Union of Utrecht as a result of the ordination of women were discussed at length. Every effort is being made to work for the restoration of full communion between all members. The aim is to have clarified relations by 2003. - The Old Catholic Church of Slovakia was received into the Union of Utrecht. The church emerged out of the division of Czechoslavakia, that led to a new church situation. - There are worries about the tensions within the Polish-Catholic Church of the USA and Canada.
The post of Information and Communication officer established by the 1999 Conference is to be filled by Ms lic. theol. Maja Weyermann (Berne, Switzerland). She takes up her duties on 1st September 2000. The aim is to improve communication between the Old Catholic Churches and between the local Churches and the Bishops’ Conference.
A heavy shadow has been cast over the close relations between the Union of Utrecht and the Orthodox Churches since the ordination of women. In order to counter this development it was decided to re-form the mixed Commission in a reduced form (after consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople). Furthermore the consultation for the completed Old Catholic-Orthodox dialogue should be completed as quickly as possible and the results published.
The renewal of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Union of Utrecht was an important topic. It was proposed to take new steps to intensify contacts. At an ecumenical service taken by the Polish Church, in which three Roman Catholic bishops also participated, Archbishop Glazemaker spoke in principle of the Old Catholic ecumenical endeavour. It was with satisfaction that the Conference took note of the considerable improvements in relations between the Polish-Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Porvoo Common Statement between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches remains a topic for the Conference in the light of the close relations with the Anglican Communion.
The IBC dealt with the developments in the World Council of Churches (WCC). It is with deep concern that the conference observes the way relations between Orthodoxy and the WCC are developing. It welcomed the fact that a member of the IBC belongs to the special Commission set up to address these tensions.
The IBC said farewell to Archbishop Dr h.c. Antonius Jan Glazemaker who has presided over the Conference since 1982. The next regular meeting of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference will take place in September 2001 in Germany. For the first time it will be chaired by Archbishop Joris Vercammen.
Utrecht and Berne, 29th July 2000
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