Primates of the worldwide Anglican communion would up their meeting here last week with a pledge to work for multilateral disarmament and and end to the worldwide nuclear arms race.
The heads of 27 provinces of the 63.9 million-member Anglican church, who met for a week in closed sessions at Washington Cathedral, also supported stepped-up negotiations on unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
In a statement that recognized the absolute pacifist position but did not embrace it as the only Christian position, the churchmen said that the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT II) between the United States and the Soviet Union "must be resumed and pursued with "determination." They pledged to "work for multilateral disarmament and to support those who seek, by education and other appropriate means, to influence those people and agencies who shape nuclear policy."
Archbishop Alastair Haggart of Scotland said that, in the churchmen's view, "appropriate means" might include civil disobedience and public demonstrations.
On unity with Roman Catholics, the primates endorsed the progress thus far of a worldwide Anglican-Catholic study commission at work for nearly a decade. In a carefully worded statement, they expressed hope for "sacramental sharing between our two communions is and when" the statements of agreement worked out by the commission are approved by the two churches.
Asked when such agreement might be reached, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Robert Runcie, said that "a great deal depends on when the Roman Catholic Church is able to pronounce on the subject," He said he hoped that "it may be possible to issue some statement," even if it reflects only the hopes for Anglican-Catholic unity, when Pope John Paul II visits Canterbury next year.
Several years ago Runcie's predecessor urged Pope Paul VI to permit members of the two churches to receive holy communion at each other's altars. But Roman Catholics have traditionaly insisted that there must be complete agreement on doctrine before intercommunion is allowed.
The archbishop of Canterbury said there was no discussion at the meeting here of ordaining women to the priesthood, a step already authorized by four of Anglicanism's 28 provinces, including the United States and Canada. Within the Anglican communion's tradition of virtually complete autonomy for each province of the church, this is a question that is left up to each one to decide. There has been tentative agreement, however, that no province will consecrate a woman bishop without consultation with the other provinces.
In a statement on world poverty, the primates called for a more equitable sharing of the world's resources. But they warned that "it would be a serious delusion, especially in our more affluent societies, to imagine that poverty is confined to a lack of material resources, though primary poverty may indeed be located there. There is also intellectual, social and cultural poverty, and most of all, poverty of spirit, expressed not in terms of humility but in the spiritual malnutrition which is a consequence of our ignoring God."
On internal church matters, the primates agreed to meet again in 1984 and called for another session of the Lambeth Conference, the traditional gathering of all Anglican bishops worldwide, probably in 1988. The primates also proposed the conference be held in Africa instead of England.