with The Anglican Church
1948 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops
The Unity of the Church - The Old Catholic Churches
(a) The Conference welcomes with particular pleasure the unanimous agreement reached between representatives of the Anglican Communion and of the Old Catholic Churches at Bonn in 1931, which has resulted in the establishment of a state of intercommunion between the Old Catholic Churches and certain Churches of the Anglican Communion. It cordially subscribes to the agreement then reached that "intercommunion does not require from either Communion the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion, or liturgical practice characteristic of the other, but implies that each believes the other to hold all the essentials of the Christian Faith." The Conference recommends that this agreement should be considered by those Churches of the Anglican Communion which have not yet considered it.
(b) The Conference notes with satisfaction and approval that in line with the Bonn agreement, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA by action of its General Convention in 1940, and the Polish National Catholic Church by similar action of its General Synod in 1946, have thereby achieved full intercommunion with each other.
July 18 - August 9, 1998
SECTION IV RESOLUTIONS
Churches in Communion
(a) recommends that the proposed Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations reflect upon the implications of being in communion with the See of Canterbury with particular reference to the United Churches and Churches in Communion;
(b) welcomes the fact that the International Bishops' Conference of the Union of Utrecht and the ACC have agreed to the establishment of an Anglican-Old Catholic International Coordinating Council;
(c) recommends that consideration be given to ways of deepening our communion with the Old Catholic Churches beyond the Bonn Agreement, including means of taking counsel and making decisions together; the anomaly of overlapping jurisdictions; the implications of wider ecumenical relationships, particularly with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran Churches; and the importance of work together on issues of mission and common witness;
Willibrord was a missionary who lived 1300 years ago. He came from the north of England. He was born in 658, and was educated by the monks at Ripon, in Yorkshire. These were difficult years in England, and one problem was the relationship between the settlers who had moved in from Germany and Denmark (the "English"), and the native Celts, who had their own very distinctive Christian traditions and practices. The abbot of Ripon was called Wilfrid. Wilfrid supported the English viewpoint, which was that church life should be harmonised as far as possible with the rest of western Europe, and in 664, Wilfrid persuaded a synod which met at Whitby to adopt the Roman way of reckoning the date of Easter, and other "Roman" (as opposed to "Celtic") practices.
At the age of twenty, Willibrord left Ripon, and studied for twelve years in Ireland. Here, he decided he wanted to be a missionary, and set out with some companions for Frisia - modern day Holland. This was in 690, some seventy years after St Gall had made a very similar journey from Ireland to Switzerland.
Willibrord's mission was successful. In 695, the Pope consecrated him as Bishop of the Frisians, and Pepin, the Frankish king, gave him land to build a cathedral in Utrecht. His work covered a large area, from Luxembourg in the south, where he founded the monastery at Echternach in 698, to Denmark, where his success was more limited.
So why is there a Swiss Willibrord Society? Well, Utrecht is the link. Holland became officially Calvinist at the Reformation, but there was a sizeable Roman Catholic minority. Some of these tended also to the view that we were powerless to follow God of our own free will, and for this they were censured by the Pope. As a result, a number of Dutch Christians separated from Rome in 1724. They emphasized their links with the church founded by Willibrord, and came to be known as Old Catholics.
In 1870, a number of churches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland rejected the dogma of Papal Infallibility as defined by the first Vatican Council. They turned to the Church of Utrecht, and received support from there. In Switzerland, Bishop Eduard Herzog was consecrated bishop in 1876, and since then the Old Catholics have had a small but significant structure based in Berne.
The Declaration of Utrecht in 1889 defined the Old Catholics' position, and explained their differences with the Roman church. The Church of England had always taken a close and friendly interest in the Old Catholics, with whom we have much in common. In 1931, the two churches entered into the Bonn Agreement, accepting each other's ministries, recognizing each other's clergy, and entering into full communion.
Full communion means little if churches do not work together, and it is to help in this that the Willibrord Society was set up. Willibrord Societies in England and in Holland work hard to share ideas and to enable each church to help the other. In Switzerland, the Willibrord Society has sought to help build up relations between our two churches - the Anglican church, with largely expatriate congregations, and the Old Catholics (or Christian Catholics), with their own traditions, and the problem of being an isolated minority in an increasingly secular land.
Let us remember the long connection between the English church and the Old Catholics, and join our prayers to those of our fellow Christians, that his ministry may indeed bear as much fruit as Willibrord's did! HD