Theologians from the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed an historic agreement on the Holy Spirit. The Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit was signed on Friday at the end of a week of discussions by the Anglican Oriental-Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and concludes two years of work on the subject.
In their 2015 meeting in Wales, AOOIC members discussed the “procession” of the Holy Spirit, and agreed on the omission of the Filioque clause – a line appended to the Nicene Creed by the Latin Western tradition causing a schism between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the western Churches that was inherited by the Anglican tradition. The clause says that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Son” (Jesus) as well as the Father. Last year, the theologians continued their work at a meeting in Lebanon, concentrating on pneumatology, or “the Sending of the Holy Spirit in Time (Economia)”.
This year, the Commission members finalised the text of both sections of the combined Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit, which was then signed by the co-chairs, the Church in Wales’ Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, and the Coptic Orthodox Church’s Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, during a special choral evensong at the Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. A published version of the Statement will be launched with the Commission next meets in Lebanon in October 2018.
The agreement states: “We accept that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, based on the Scriptures, is intended to imply the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Oriental Orthodox Churches consider the addition of Filioque as an error since it breaks the order within the Trinity and puts into question the Father’s role as source, cause, and principle of both the Son and the Spirit.
“The Anglican Tradition, however, sees the Filioque clause as ‘an interpolation, irregularly put in the text of the Creed and devoid of any canonical authorization’. This led to the Moscow Agreed Statement 1976 of the Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue and subsequent statements referring to the inappropriateness of its insertion in the Creed.
“Following the Moscow Agreed Statement of 1976, Anglicans agree that ‘The Filioque clause should not be included in this Creed.’”
The Dublin agreement goes on to say that “Holy Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as movement in vivid imagery of water, fire, and wind. The Holy Spirit speaks in the Church and moves her from the area of internal comfort to the arena of external engagement. The Holy Spirit acts as the dynamic force within a redemptive understanding of memory as found in a historical past and leading to future responsibility in a changing world.
“In a world of enforced displacement and fearful arrival; in a world of accelerated movement; in a world of war-torn fragmentation and courageous martyrdom; the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, transcends time and space and yet inhabits both. The same Spirit is sent to commission and empower the weak to be strong, the humble to be courageous, and the poor to be comforted and blessed in a fallen world that is upheld by the providence and grace of God the Trinity who makes all things new in faith and hope and love.”
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, is a member of AOOIC and acted as host for last week’s meeting. In a sermon during the special evensong, he said that members of AOOIC had “worked together as two families who have become one family.”
The Commission was not just focused on theological discussions. Members discussed the ongoing conflict and terrorism that impacts many of the countries from which the Oriental Orthodox Churches originate, including Egypt, Syria, and Ethiopia. And prayers were said for Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim, of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, who remain missing after being kidnapped in Aleppo in April 2013.
“These tragedies have made their way into our theology and into our prayer,” Archbishop Michael said. “These atrocities have framed our discourse and our compassion. These human and civic devastations have helped to give a contemporary urgency and tragic vibrancy to our reflections.
“This is all the more poignant for us in that all of these Churches are represented here and their members live in Ireland and in Dublin. We have worshipped, for example, last evening in the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Maximus and St Domatius in Drumcondra.
“We and they together are also one family. We all know one another,” the Archbishop stated.
A copy of the Dublin Agreement was presented to the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, and will be placed on public display.
The Commission held their meeting in the deanery of St Patrick’s Cathedral, but made a number of excursions during their week in Ireland, including to Trinity College, where the early 9th Century illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels is displayed. They also attended an inter-faith reception hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dubline – the Ardmhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath – at the Mansion House.
The Dublin Agreement will be submitted to “the responsible authorities” of the Oriental Orthodox and Churches and the Anglican Communion “for their consideration and action.” In the Anglican Communion, this is expected to be future meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference.