The English Anglican – Roman Catholic Committee is the official bilateral instrument for monitoring and promoting the relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Its work complements the various expressions of local co-operation in parishes and Churches Together groups and the relationship between bishops in their dioceses and at the national level (where there are regular meetings for prayer and study between the two episcopates).
English ARC’s early focus
Although this joint body is now 34 years old, it was not until the seventh meeting, in November 1972, that the name ‘English Anglican - Roman Catholic Committee’ came to be used. The purpose of English ARC was defined then like this:
The positive fostering of Roman Catholic and Anglican relations in England, and the co-ordination of future work undertaken for this purpose by our two churches.
Already at this stage some topics familiar to us were mentioned: the possibilities of spiritual ecumenism, promoting joint church schools, encouraging local ecumenism, making the work of ARCIC known, fostering co-operation in theological education.
At its thirteenth meeting, English ARC asked its outgoing Anglican Co-Chairman, William Chadwick, the Bishop of Barking, to prepare a position paper on the tasks of English ARC. About a year later, Bishop Chadwick was invited back to present his findings. (We appear to have only the minute of his paper, not the paper itself.) The points that he made included the following:
* The origins of this body pre-date the historic meeting between Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI in 1966, soon after Vatican II had opened the Roman Catholic Church to the ecumenical movement.
* The early development of what became English ARC was strongly regionalised and moved to the national level later.
* In the early days, the members did not realise how long-term the task of promoting Anglican-Roman Catholic rapprochement would be. A programme for theological study was proposed.
Membership and agenda: a mixed economy
The minutes of early meetings suggest that English ARC was composed originally almost entirely of scholars and theologians. Its make up is now more balanced: ARC draws together scholars and practitioners, lay and ordained, female and male. The pastoral dimension is important; so is the practical implementation of any gains in Anglican - Roman Catholic understanding. This mixed membership is reflected in the programme of activities: these fall into three broad areas:
First, shared worship. We pray and worship together, alternating the celebration of the Eucharist and observing the discipline of our churches. Our meetings are structured by worship and this is significant in itself. It sets the tone of mutual respect and goodwill and underpins the genuine fellowship in Christ that we enjoy.
Second, joint study of statements that concern the relationship between our churches. This includes looking together at ecumenical agreed texts, especially those of ARCIC, and now of IARCCUM. In the past, English ARC has actively disseminated and offered commentary on some ARCIC texts. Frank discussion within English ARC of texts that will be scrutinised very closely within our churches can assist the process of reception and evaluation.
In recent years, ARC has engaged in ordered reflection on our experience of the Eucharist in an ecumenical context and the papers that have been given are posted on these web pages. The issue of inter-church families, that has been a concern of E/ARC from the beginning, perhaps fits in here.
Third, visits to institutions and situations where Roman Catholics and Anglicans are working together. These have included: institutions of higher education, such as Liverpool Hope University College; collaboration in theological education, such as the Cambridge Federation and the link between Cranmer Hall and Ushaw College in Durham ; the Armed Forces Chaplaincy, airport and prison chaplaincy; and local ecumenism. These visitations are intended to bring encouragement and guidance to these initiatives and are taken seriously by those to whom we go. Under this heading we note English ARC’s ongoing concern to support joint church schools and its guidance paper which is also posted here. And we should also mention the visits that keep us in touch with French and Belgian ARCS.
The Church of England membership is appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and is refreshed every five years. Because the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference covers Wales, the Church of England has invited a participant from the Church in Wales.
English ARC homepage