In Christianity, full communion is a relationship of understanding among different Christian denominations that they share certain essential principles of Christianity. Views vary among denominations on exactly what constitutes full communion, but typically when two or more denominations are in full communion it enables services and celebrations to be shared among congregants or clergy of any of them with the full approval of each.
- 1 Definition and terminology
- 2 Catholic Church
- 3 Orthodox, Oriental, and Eastern churches
- 4 Other churches
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Definition and terminology
Full communion is an ecclesiological term for an established relationship between Christian denominations that may be constituted by shared eucharist, doctrine, and ecclesiology. Different denominations emphasize different aspects or define the term differently.
For the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Church of the East, full communion exists only between Christians who form a single church. In a weaker understanding of the phrase, "full communion" is instead a matter of practical relationship between denominations that fully retain their distinct identities.
As a practical matter for most Catholics, this affects whether or not a member of one Church may partake of the Eucharist celebrated in another, and for priests, whether or not they may concelebrate the Eucharist with priests of another Church. In each case, if the two Churches are in full communion, then they may.
For certain people taking up an office in their community in the name of the church, a specific "profession of faith" is required, demonstrating that they are in full communion with the Catholic Church, even if they have been members of a separate church whose sacraments the Catholic Church considers to be valid. Being "in full communion with the Catholic Church" requires that they "firmly accept" its teaching on faith and morals.
In the view of the World Council of Churches, an ecumenical organization that includes most Protestant denominations and some Catholic ones, full communion is a relationship between church organizations, groups, and individuals that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines of Christianity.
Several Protestant denominations base their idea of full communion on the Augsburg Confession which says that "the true unity of the church" is present where "the gospel is rightly preached and sacraments rightly administered." They believe that full communion between two denominations is not a merger, they respect each other's differences, but rather it's when two denominations develop a relationship based on a mutual understanding and recognition of Baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. They may worship together, exchange clergy, and share commitments to evangelism and service.
Groups recognized as being in full communion with each other on this basis include the Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the United Methodist Church.
The Episcopals base their idea of full communion on the Anglicans' communion with the Old Catholic Churches based on the 1931 Bonn Agreement, containing three main articles guaranteeing "catholicity and independence", admitting members of the communion to the sacraments, and a belief in "essentials" of the Christian faith without demanding strict adherence to all doctrinal opinion or liturgical practice of the other members of the communion.
The Anglican Church define their view of churches "in full communion with the See of Canterbury" based on the 1958 Lambeth Conference. Like the Episcopals, most of them are Old Catholic Churches based on the 1931 Bonn Agreement, and include those in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Utrecht, and several more in Europe as well as the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India and the Independent Philippine church. They also list a number of churches not in full communion, including the American Anglican Church, the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in America, and dozens of other churches called 'Anglican', 'Episcopal', or known by other names likely to be assumed to be in full communion.
The United Church of Christ defines full communion as meaning that "divided churches recognize each others' sacraments and provide for the orderly transfer of ministers from one denomination to another." Some of these go back to the 17th century Pilgrims in Holland, other relationships are recent. The UCC is in full communion alliance with the worldwide Reformed family of churches, the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and several others in North America and elsewhere.
Full and partial communion
The Catholic Church makes a distinction between full and partial communion. Where full communion exists, there is but one church. Partial communion, on the other hand, exists where some elements of Christian faith are held in common, but complete unity on essentials is lacking. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church sees itself as in partial communion with Protestants and in much closer, but still incomplete, communion with the Orthodox churches. It has expressed this distinction in documents such as Unitatis redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenism, which states: "... quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church ... men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect".
"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honoured by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter" (Lumen gentium 15). Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" (Unitatis redintegratio 3). With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist" (Paul VI, Discourse, 14 December 1975; cf. Unitatis redintegratio 13-18).
Full communion involves completeness of "those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church."
Universal and particular Churches
In Catholicism, the "universal Church" means Catholicism itself, from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning "universal". The term particular church denotes an ecclesiastical community headed by a bishop or equivalent, and this can includes both local dioceses as well as autonomous (or sui juris) particular churches, which include other rites such as the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches.
The particular Churches that form the Catholic Church are each seen, not as a separate body that has entered into practical arrangements concerning its relations with the others, but as the embodiment in a particular region or culture of the one Catholic Church.
A 1992 CDF letter to Catholic bishops expressed this idea as: "the universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches. It is not the result of the communion of the Churches, but, in its essential mystery, it is a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church."
List of Catholic churches in full communion
The autonomous Catholic churches in full communion with the Holy See are:
- Of Alexandrian liturgical tradition:
- Of Antiochian liturgical tradition:
- Of Armenian liturgical tradition:
- Of Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition:
- Albanian Greek Catholic Church
- Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
- Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church
- Byzantine Catholic Church of Croatia and Serbia
- Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
- Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
- Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
- Macedonian Greek Catholic Church
- Melkite Greek Catholic Church
- Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic
- Russian Byzantine Catholic Church
- Ruthenian Catholic Church
- Slovak Greek Catholic Church
- Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
- Of Chaldean or East Syrian tradition:
- Of Western liturgical tradition:
Churches in partial communion
The Catholic Church sees itself as in partial, not full, communion with other Christian groups. "With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound 'that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist.'"
Sharing in the Eucharist
As a practical matter for most Catholics, full communion means that a member of one Church may partake of the Eucharist celebrated in another, and for priests, that they may concelebrate the Eucharist with priests of another Church.
Intercommunion usually means an agreement between churches by which all members of each church (clergy with clergy, or laity with laity, respectively) may participate in the other's Eucharistic celebrations or may hold joint celebrations.
In fact, apart from exceptional circumstances, the Catholic Church sees full communion as an essential condition for sharing together in the Eucharist, in line with the 2nd-century practice witnessed to by Justin Martyr, who, in his First Apology,wrote: "No one is allowed to partake (of the Eucharist) but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined."
The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, indicates the limited circumstances in which Catholics may receive the Eucharist from clergy of churches not in full communion (never if those churches are judged not to have valid apostolic succession and thus valid Eucharist), and in which Catholic clergy may administer the sacraments to members of other churches.(nn. 122–136)
Orthodox, Oriental, and Eastern churches
Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians have an understanding of what full communion means that is very similar to that of the Catholic Church. Though they have no figure corresponding to that of the Roman Catholic Pope, performing a function like that of the Pope's Petrine Office for the whole of their respective communions, they see each of their autocephalous churches as embodiments of, respectively, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They too consider full communion an essential condition for common sharing in the Eucharist. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, as first among equals among the Eastern Orthodox autocephalous churches and their spiritual leader, though not having authority similar to that of the Roman Catholic Pope, serves as their spokesman. The Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria holds a somewhat similar position in Oriental Orthodoxy.
For the autocephalous churches that form the Eastern Orthodox Church, see Eastern Orthodox Church organization. Their number is somewhat in dispute.
The Oriental Orthodox churches are:
- Armenian Apostolic Church
- Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
- Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
- Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
- Syriac Orthodox Church
The Church of the East is currently divided into churches that are not in full communion with one another. The Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East divided in the 20th century over the former's limitation of the post of patriarch to members of a single family and due to the adoption of the New Calendar by the former. There is movement towards reunity, but they are not in full communion with one another at present. The Chaldean Catholic Church shares a similar history with both, but is currently in full communion with neither. The Catholic Church, of which the Chaldean Church is part, allows its ministers to give the Eucharist to members of Eastern churches who seek it on their own accord and are properly disposed, and it allows its faithful who cannot approach a Catholic minister to receive the Eucharist, when necessary or spiritually advantageous, from ministers of non-Catholic churches that have a recognised Eucharist. The Guidelines for Admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East explicitly apply these rules, which hold also for the Ancient Church of the East and all the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches, to the Assyrian Church of the East. "When necessity requires, Assyrian faithful are permitted to participate and to receive Holy Communion in a Chaldean celebration of the Holy Eucharist; in the same way, Chaldean faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, are permitted to participate and to receive Holy Communion in an Assyrian celebration of the Holy Eucharist".
Churches such as those of the Anglican Communion see full communion as meaning that their members may licitly participate in each other's rites, particularly in the partaking of the Eucharist. By definition, open communion denominations accept outsiders, but an arrangement of full communion authorises their members to participate in the Eucharist of the other church or churches involved in the arrangement. It sometimes also involves interchangeability of ordained ministers. The existence of full communion, as thus understood, does not presume that there is no difference in rites or doctrine between the denominations concerned. Thus, for the Anglican churches that are party to the Bonn Agreement of 1931 with member churches of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches, full communion 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.
This understanding of "full communion" differs from that of the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Christianity, which consider that full communion between churches involves them becoming a single church, as in the case of the particular churches "in which and formed out of which the one and unique Catholic Church exists",
An arrangement such as the Bonn Agreement between churches that maintain their separate identities is sometimes spoken of as "intercommunion", which is much less close than the unity between national/regional churches that share a common history, such as those in the Anglican Communion.
It is in the stronger sense of becoming a single church that in 2007 the Traditional Anglican Communion sought "full communion" with the Roman Catholic Church as a sui iuris (particular Church) jurisdiction, but in 2012 declined the possibility offered by Pope Benedict XVI to join a personal ordinariate for former Anglicans in full communion with the see of Rome.
Agreements between churches
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
The following groupings of churches have arrangements for or are working on arrangements for:
- mutual recognition of members
- joint celebration of the Lord's Supper/Holy Communion/Eucharist (these churches practice open communion)
- mutual recognition of ordained ministers
- mutual recognition of sacraments
- a common commitment to mission.
- Agreements completed
- The Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India, and the Philippine Independent Church.
- The Churches of the Porvoo Communion.
- The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and each of the following: the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church in America.
- The Leuenberg Agreement, concluded in 1973 and adopted by 105 European Protestant churches, since renamed the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.
- The Moravian Church and each of the following: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church USA.
- The United Methodist Church with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church.
- The United Church of Christ and each of the following: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Reformed Church in America.
- The United Episcopal Church of North America and each of the following: the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and the Diocese of the Great Lakes.
- The Anglican Province of America has intercommunion with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria.
- The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland have established full communion and are working toward interchangeability of ministry.
- Agreements in progress
- The United Methodist Council of Bishops have approved interim agreements for sharing the Eucharist with the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
- The Methodist Church of Great Britain is currently working toward full communion with the Church of England and the United Reform Church.
- Many of the Independent Catholic Churches are working toward full communion with each other and with the Old-Catholic Union of Utrecht.
- Closed communion
- Communion (Christian)
- Ecclesiastical separatism
- Open communion
- Personal ordinariate
- Of the various Latin liturgical rites used within the Latin particular Church, even those associated not with a religious order but with a geographical area do not constitute separate particular Churches. Thus there is no Ambrosian particular Church corresponding to the Ambrosian Rite in use in Milan and neighbouring areas of Italy and Switzerland, nor is there a Mozarabic particular Church in those parts of Spain where the Mozarabic Rite is practiced. In the Latin Church, governance is uniform, even where liturgical rite is not.
- "Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of churches or ecclesial communities which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church
- Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches (20 February 1991). "The unity of the Church: gift and calling - The Canberra Statement". oikoumene.org. Geneva: World Council of Churches. n. 2.1. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25.
- "RCIA and Confirmation Qualifications: On Participants in RCIA and Confirmation". bostoncatholic.org. Archdiocese of Boston. Archived from the original on 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
- McNamara, Edward. "When an Orthodox joins the Catholic Church". Zenit.org. Rome: Innovative Media Inc. Archived from the original on 2009-08-31. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
- Ratzinger, Joseph; Bertone, Tarcisio (29 June 1998). "Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio fidei". Libreria Editrice Vatican. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "Full Communion Partners". Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- "Meaning of Full Communion". Episcopal Church. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- "In Full Communion". Anglicans Online. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- "Not in the Communion". Anglicans Online. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- |title=Ecumenical partnerships and relationships of full communion |url=http://www.ucc.org/ecumenical_ecumenical-partnerships-and |website=ucc.org |accessdate=2017-04-04}}
- Vatican II (21 November 1964). "Unitatis redintegratio". vatican.va. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. n. 3. Archived from the original on 6 March 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "CCC 838". Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1993. Archived from the original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "USSCB memo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-03-09.
- "Catholic". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Vatican II (21 November 1964). "Orientalium Ecclesiarum". vatican.va. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Archived from the original on 1 September 2000. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (28 May 1992). "Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as communion". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. n. 9. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Gribble, Richard (18 November 2010). "Part IV: Roman Catholic Theology". The Everything Guide to Catholicism: A complete introduction to the beliefs, traditions, and tenets of the Catholic Church from past to present. Avon, Massacnusetts: Everything Books. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-4405-0409-9. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
- CIC 1983, c. 908.
- CCEO 1990, c. 702.
- Justin Martyr (1870). " The First Apology of Justin Martyr". In Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James; Coxe, A. Cleveland. The writings of Justin Martyr and Athenagoras. The Ante-Nicene Fathers: the writings of the fathers down to A.D. 325. 2. Translated by Marcus Dods (American ed.). Buffalo: Christian Literature. Wikisource. ch. 66.
- "Principles And Norms On Ecumenism". Vatican.va. Archived from the original on 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2015-09-08.
- CIC 1983, c. 844.
- CCEO 1990, cc. 908, 1440.
- "Our History". St Zaia Cathedral. Middleton Grange, NSW, AU. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- CCEO 1990, c. 671.
- "Guidelines for admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East". Vatican.va. Archived from the original on 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2015-09-08.
- "Churches in communion". anglicancommunion.org. London: Anglican Communion Office. Archived from the original on 2015-03-13.
- Vatican II (21 November 1964). Lumen gentium. vatican.va. n. 23.
- "In full communion". anglicansonline.org. Society of Archbishop Justus. 25 July 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-07-30.
- "[About 2012 meeting of Traditional Anglican Communion College of Bishops]" (PDF). traditionalanglicancommunion.org (Press release). Traditional Anglican Communion. 1 March 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 April 2012.
- "History". The Porvoo Communion. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "ELCA shares significant actions with ecumenical, global partners" (Press release). Chicago, IL: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 26 August 2009.
- "Agreement & Statute". leuenberg.net. Vienna: Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.
- Armagh, Robert; Graham, W Winston (26 September 2002). "Church of Ireland and Methodist Covenant". Church of Ireland. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- Council approves interim pacts with Episcopalians, Lutherans
- "An Anglican-Methodist Covenant" (PDF). Methodist Publishing House and Church House Publishing. 2001. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "History of the Covenant". An Anglican-Methodist Covenant. The Methodist Church and the Church of England. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
- Code of Canon Law. Prepared under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of America (from 2001 Latin-English print ed.). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2003-11-04 – via vatican.va.
- Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Prepared under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of America (from 1992 Latin-English print ed.). Rome, IT: Èulogos SpA. 2007-07-17 – via intratext.com.
- "On Receiving Anglican clergy into the Catholic Church: Statement of the bishops of England and Wales given on April 15, 1994". EWTN.com. Irondale, Alabama: Eternal Word Television Network. Archived from the original on 2001-02-09. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
- Keating, Karl. "How to Become a Catholic". catholic.com. Catholic Answers. Archived from the original on 2001-12-17. Retrieved November 7, 2015.