Reflections on the “compatibility” of ecumenical relations to date and on bilateral dialogues in the service of unity
At its annual meeting in Prague, the Czech Republic, in June 2015, the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference (IBC) decided in favour of a relationship of communion with the Church of Sweden.
The members of the IBC also discussed the overall view of current ecumenical relations and bilateral dialogues. This topic was covered in greater depth at a meeting in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, in August 2015, to which all Old Catholic members of the various dialogue commissions were invited. The discussions covered the question of how to set priorities taking into account theological, ecclesio-political and financial aspects, and the current ecumenical role of the Union of Utrecht. At the end of the meeting, a wish was expressed to hold such exchanges regularly in the future.
The following basic considerations are particularly important to the IBC:
1. To what extent do the outcomes to date correspond in substance? Which amendments to the various relationships and texts call for a joint statement by all of those involved? For example, are the first three Ecumenical Councils constitutive for a “common church”? Or the first four, or the first seven?
2. In theory, two Churches that are in full communion and that are both active in the same territory as a result of migration should draw “structural consequences”. To what extent are they really willing to do so? To what extent would this be useful taking cultural aspects into account? To what extent would it even be possible in the light of the consensus texts produced to date?
3. To what extent do new ethical issues, such as approaches to homosexuality and the significance of marriage and family, call into question the existing agreements?
The members of the IBC firmly believe that these reflections and their outcomes are of great relevance to other dialogues and ecumenical relations.
Bern and Utrecht, October 2015
Bishop Dr. Harald Rein, Secretary of the IBC
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