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(Photo Credit: Facebook/Anglican Church in North America)

Archibishop Robert Duncan (left) and Bishop Ray Sutton (center) greet Pope Benedict XVI (right). (Photo Credit: Facebook/Anglican Church in North America)

by Barton Gingerich (@bjgingerich)

During the Anglican Way Institute, IRD’s Barton Gingerich had the opportunity to sit down with the Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton, bishop coadjutor in the Diocese in Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) and Ecumenical Officer for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This is Part 3 in a four part series.

Bart Gingerich: On the global front, many Anglicans I’ve talked to want to know about the trip to Rome. I didn’t know if you could reveal too much about the whole story, but people tend to get excited when they saw you and Archbishop Duncan receiving a welcome from then-Pope Benedict XVI. What can you tell us about the nature of that visit? What consequences might that have for the relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the United States, especially when contrasted with that of Episcopalians and Roman Catholics?

Bishop Ray Sutton: Well, there’s a larger background to that meeting on November 28th.. When Pope Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he had sent a communication to Episcopalians meeting here in Plano in 2003, right around the time of the election and consecration of a practicing homosexual to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Gene Robinson. Cardinal Ratzinger sent a wonderful letter to Archbishop Duncan and other bishops who were present. Cardinal Ratzinger referred to the history of the relationship between Christians out of old Briton to the spread of the Gospel to his ancestors in Germany. So (A) he wanted to encourage especially our moral and Gospel commitments. (B) In so doing he demonstrated an awareness of what was developing and happening among conservative Anglicans. He therefore wanted to encourage those taking a stand for the truth in our part of the Church. So it was not a complete surprise that we got an invitation to go see him. Archbishop Duncan was able to bring him up to date on what had been happening in ACNA and the global south of Anglicanism, and ask for his prayers.

As for what it means in the future, I think that of course Anglicans view the Roman Church as part of the faith, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anglicanism has always been committed to trying to bring Christians together. We especially have a historically close relationship with the Roman Church in our own past. We want to seek ecumenical dialogue with them to the greatest extent possible. And so as these things begin, they start at an informal level, a non-official level, though the meeting with the Pope was at a public gathering that he has on Wednesdays during the week. We were allowed to go up and bring him personal greetings, thank him, and as I say ask him for prayer. That part is official. What we hope will develop in the future would be more official ecumenical kinds of discussions and efforts together. I do think there is interest in what’s happening in the Global South of Anglicanism. Our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church have always demonstrated a willingness to stand together with other Christians for a common witness to the world. The recent, sad decisions of the Supreme Court regarding same-sex unions being viewed as marriage underscores what a struggle we are in as Christians of all persuasions to uphold Biblical, traditional marriage, understood as one man, one woman in a lifelong commitment.