1. An interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury
DESMOND FISHER, who covered the Vatican Council for the CATHOLIC HERALD, put some questions on it to the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, Dr. Michael Ramsey. The interview took place last week in the Church of England Chaplaincy attached to Liverpool University.
The Archbishop was there as the Anglican leader during Christian Encounter Week, an inter-denominational programme . of talks, debates and meetings.
Fisher began by recalling a conversation he had with an American Methodist observer at the Council on the night the session ended. The Methodist had declared that the aggiornamento ill the Roman Catholic Church faced other Christian Churches with the challenge of initiating their own movements of reform and renewal. They could reject the challenge to their souls' harm, the observer said, or accept it to their minds' agony. Then he put the first question to the Archbishop : DESMOND FISHER: In what areas are reforms needed in the Anglican Church? What shape might its renewal take? ARCHBISHOP RAMSEY: One of the reforms we need is reform of the liturgy and public worship. This has already been happening, for instance. in the very considerable use of the new English Bible in Church. in the next few years, I think the reform of our forms of public worship will be a very considerable task for us to set in hand. I think that liturgical reform and renewal is something happening in every part of Christendom and that we can all gain immense challenge and stimulus from one another. I think that we in our Church can be challenged and stimulated by the liturgical renewal and reform within the Roman Catholic Church.
FISHER: Do you think, then, that liturgical reform is at the root of the renewal, coming before theological or doctrinal reform?
ARCHBISHOP: Tt is only one aspect of it. I think that we urgently need to present the Christian faith in ways that modern man can understand. This means a dialogue between Christian thinkers and thinkers outside the Church. I believe that we present the Christian Church to those outside the Church if all the time we are learning from those outside the Church the ways in which their own minds are working.
FISHER: How does the liturgical reform hear on this theological dialogue?
ARCHBISHOP: It bears on it in the sense that the way we express our belief inevitably affects the forms in which we worship, and I think also that the way in which we worship
affects the shape and pattern of our belief.
FISHER: The Vatican Council has heen defining the role of Bishops.. What teaching arith• only or rnagisterium is exercised by Anglican Bishops? To Catholics it sometimes seems' that your theologians have more teaching authority than your Bishops and that Bishops. in fact. give little positive doctrinal teaching.
ARCHBISHOP: I would say that the positive doctrinal teaching is given by our theologians, some of whom may be Bishops but many of them are not Bishops, but priests or indeed laymen. The role of the bishops we see as that of the guardians of the main tradition of the faith. The work of theological thinking and the great teaching that goes with it is sometimes done by Bishops and sometimes by others.
FISHER: Where, then, does the ordinary vicar get his doctrinal beliefs from—the theologian or the Bishop?
ARCHBISHOP: The ordinary parish priest gets his doctrine from the Bible, the Creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.
FISHER: Do you think that this is a Weakness of hierarchical structure in your Church which might he changed for the better?
ARCHBISHOP: I think that our Anglican way has both strength and weakness. We lack the magisterial authority of the Roman Church hut, at the same time, through the years we have gained in having more freedom of thought compatible with the Church's life.
FISHER: Do you consider the episcopate to be of divine origin or a necessary part of the structure of the Church? How do your views on this affect the current talks on AnglicanMethodist relations?
ARCHBISHOP: I believe that the otlice of Bishop as father in God, guardian of the faith and organ of the Church's unity—not necessarily in its Anglican shape but essentially— is a divine gift to the Church necessary for the Church's unity.
FISHER: How do you recon rile this with Methodist beliefs in view of your talks for communion'
ARCHBISHOP: Well, the Methodists at present have not got episcopacy as we Anglicans understand it, but it is a condition of a unity church between Methodists and Anglicans that there will be episcopacy, while also the Methodists will bring into the united church many features of their own life and traditions.
FISHER: By way of interpolation, could you say how the talks are going and how optimistic are you for a successful result?
ARCHBISHOP: T think that there is a large body of conviction both in the Anglican Church and in the Methodist Church in favour of this plan for inter-communion and then Church unity. It's too early to say whether the matter is likely to go quickly forward to a conclusion. It's too early to say that.
FISHER: Has the promulgation of the Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism and the Constitution on the Church le.ssened the major doctrinal differences between our Churches?
ARCHBISHOP: T don't think the Decree on Ecumenism has lessened the major doctrinal differences. I think it has shown within the Roman Catholic Church a bit of a shift in the proportions of doctrine and a notable recognition of a. true ecclesiastical life outside the Roman Church. That I would say is a shifting of proportion rather than a change of dogma.
FISHER: And what about the greater Constitution on the Church which is the greatest achievement of Vatican 11?
ARCHBISHOP: I would evaluate it in the same way As a change in the proportions of doctrine that is significant and hopeful.
FISHER: With specific reference to the definition of the principle of collegiality vis-a-vis the primacy .. .?
ARCHBISHOP: Indeed, yes, I think that is very significant indeed. FISHER: And this, you think, might lessen the theological differences and help bring the two Churches together? ARCHBISHOP: I think it lessens the sharpness of the division between the Roman Catholic view of authority as it has been understood and our own view of authority. FISHER: Though it is not important now. the question of establishment might he a molar obstacle ecumenically from our point of view. Even at present it might prove a great obstacle to common prayer if it gives Anglicans an automatic position of superiority. Do you foresee disestablishment?
ARCHBISHOP: I don't foresee disestablishment within the near future. I think that we have to work for and conserve certain essential liberties of the Church and certain fundamentals in our relation with other Churches. If in the end establishment proved to be a stumbling block it would go.
FISHER: Finally, what lessons can we learn from you and what could we teach you? ARCHBISHOP: Well, I think that we can learn from Roman Catholics much about prayer and spirituality and penitence and the discipline of the Christian life, the hold upon the supernatural. I think that Roman Catholics might learn from us something of the principles of intellectual freedom and also something in the realm of Christian moral witness and understanding of the problems of conscience. where I think our witness has been important.