Unity of the Church. Ed. Mark Santer. SPCK 1982 + 160 pp (£4.50 paperback).
THE COVER of this collection of honest and open-minded essays shows the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury kneeling side by side at the same prie-dieu at the shrine of St Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral.
Presumably the title was chosen in the same spirit: Catholics and Anglicans serve the same Lord. The Archbishop explains in a foreword that his purpose in commissioning the book was that the methods of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission should be applied to further subjects related to those treated by the Commission.
Two of the eight essays have accordingly sought to show the agreement and co-operation that exists between Roman Catholics and Anglicans concerning the interpretation and use of Scripture (Professor Barnabas Linders, SSF), and social and political action (Kenneth Leech).
Another two deal directly with the Arcic report: Professor John Macquarrie examines that report in the light of the concept of pluriformity in a united Church; Mary Tanner compares the report with the results of other ecumenical dialogues.
Anthony Thistleton considers the duties, the constraints and the freedom of the academic theologian. Rowan Williams discusses the authority of the bishop.
Gordon Dunstan considers the canonical and constitutional problems that would be raised by union between the Church of England and Rome, and defends a form of establishment in which the non-Anglican Churches could participate.
The editor, who is Bishop of Kensington, reflects on the myths which the members of the two Churches entertain about themselves, and on the need we have to look at history through one another's eyes.
Unfortunately there is not room to review each of these contributions in detail. I shall therefore concentrate on the one which seemed to me most original and stimulating, namely the essay by Rowan Williams entitled Authority and the Bishop in the Church.
For Williams the ultimate source of authority in the Church is the celebration of the 'symbol' or 'story' (which does not mean 'fiction') of Christ's death and resurrection in the liturgies of baptism and the eucharist.
From this symbol authority is reflected on to those who preside at its celebration, above all, the bishops. Decisions need to be made by the worshipping community gathered round the bishop. • The bishop exercises his authority not so much by commanding as by unifying, discriminating, referring 'all sides of a debate to the unifying symbol over whose celebration he presides (p.99), and by promoting catholicity through 'interpreting his church to other churches and vice versa' (101).
This line of argument leads Williams to consider the function of the papacy, which might be to refer 'all Christians to the single Catholic truth, the paschal symbol' (106). However, the logic of his position leads Williams to wonder how the Pope could have authority among local communities with which he cannot celebrate the liturgy.
The present papacy and the use of television suggest that this difficulty is not insuperable. But the traditional condition for papal authority has been not actual but potential participation in the liturgy, i.e. being in communion, not actual reception of it together.
Even in this eirenic collection the authors show occasional misunderstandings or false emphases in their discussions of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papacy. I do not recognise my faith in such statements as
that Vatican I came near to saying that 'the true bishop of every church is the Pope' (106); that 'the Pope has an authority definable in individual terms' (107); that 'local bishops . . . derive authority from him' (107); that the Pope has an 'individual charism different in kind from that of other bishops' (108) (Vatican I taught that the Pope's authority was 'truly episcopal').
But Dr Williams's statement that 'non-local structures in the Church should see their primary role as enriching (the) local exercise of authority' (109) is an excellent expression of the role of the papacy in promoting unity in Catholicity.
This is a book by Anglicans in the first instance for Anglicans: the Word 'Ours' in the title presumably refers to the Church of England.
But the book will also show Roman Catholics what a loss it is for them to be separated from a Church which can produce such lucid, honest and charitable writings.
Edward Yarnold SJ