Towards a New Ecumenical Vision

 — Mar. 22, 200722 mars 2007
Revd Dr. Abraham P. Athyal, General Secretary, CCI

The First General Assembly of the Communion of Churches in India (CCI) held at Santhigiri, Aluva, from March 7-10, was a significant event in the history of ecumenism in India. It marked the beginning of a new development of church relationship and common action among the CNI, the CSI, and the Mar Thoma Church . About seventy representatives from the three Churches including their heads and chief office bearers came together to affirm their preparedness to explore new ways of growing in mutual understanding, and a deepening of their experience of oneness in Christ.

In a Declaration read out at a public function to celebrate the event they said ‘We see this as a divine moment to affirm unity in an increasingly divided world. We affirm that this vision for unity and action will capture a holistic vision as we respond to God’s call to discipleship.’ The Communion replaces the ‘Joint Council of the CNI, CSI, & MTC’ that was functioning since 1978, and invites other Churches in India also to join it.

The discussions at the Assembly yielded a number of important insights and affirmations, particularly in relation to the basic principle on which Ecumenism will be practiced in coming years. The model of ‘organic union’ with its implied requirement of a fusion of particular traditions has given way to a vision of unity that required the upholding of plurality. It was realised beyond doubt that in the Indian context the Churches cannot experience their oneness in Christ without accepting the worth of diversity among them. Diversity is not something to be tolerated but to be accepted as essential to unity. The Message to the Churches stated, ‘Diversity is to be celebrated while unity is to be affirmed. The Indian panorama is diverse, socially, culturally, religiously, economically and in several other ways. Diversity should enrich the community rather than fragment it. A similar scenario is seen in the life of the church. Therefore, respecting and accepting each other’s uniqueness amidst plurality as a reality is essential to foster the unity of the churches and humankind.’

There was a genuine search for appropriate mechanisms by which unity could be experienced and maintained. The dioceses and congregations were encouraged to ‘celebrate Communion’ by organizing relevant programmes and projects at the grass-roots level. Ecumenical communities of the people of God at local levels will experience their oneness in practical ways, and will stand forth as a potential sign of unity and solidarity in a world marked by conflicts and divisions.

The Assembly has elected an Executive Committee of 18 members including the chief executives of the three Churches to work out an action plan for the next four years. Besides, there are Commissions and Committees to organise programmes and activities among bishops, pastors, youths, women, and children.

The Theological Commission of the CCI will undertake study of relevant issues relating to faith and practice, with a view to help the Churches adopt their stand in the face of problems that might affect their mutual relationship. The Commission’s work is considered important particularly for the admittance of other Churches into the Communion.

The Assembly received a Common Liturgy prepared by the Commission on Worship and Mission of the Joint Council, which are sent to the Churches for their approval. Apart from the annual celebration of the Festival of Unity there will be more occasions of combined worship and sharing of fellowship at the local level. The publication of the common Lectionary and Diary for the regular use of congregations and individuals will continue.

The CCI has also on its agenda a programme to look at and analyse the religious, political and sociological context of our country. The world is fast changing and the churches should consider it important to adjust themselves to the demanding situations. They are also urged to come together for joint action and witness where natural calamities might occur.

The Assembly ended with a note of hope. The unity we seek is a unity in hope. We look forward to a reality that transcends every human borderline that stands in the way of realisation of God’s ultimate plan to sum up all things in Christ. Church fellowship should not be regarded as an end in itself – it aims at the unity of humankind and of creation in its totality.

Posted: Mar. 22, 2007 • Permanent link:
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