WCC Faith & Order issues are relevant for Mennonites

 — Dec. 15, 200915 déc. 2009

WCC dialogue questions relevant for Mennonites says Neufeld

by Steve Plenert, Mennonite World Conference News Service

[Strasbourg, France] How and where does the global church discuss issues such as the nature and mission of the church, sources of authority and moral discernment in the churches? One long-standing forum for important discussions such as these is the Faith and Order Plenary Commission of the World Council of Churches. This body, while not officially decision-making, gathered in Kolympari, Crete, 7-13 October 2009.

The topics mentioned were the key themes of the conference under the heading, “Called to be the One Church.” More than 150 participants from many countries and a wide range of church traditions gathered to listen, discuss and dialogue.

Mennonite World Conference was also invited to participate. Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay, who is the chair of MWC’s Faith and Life Commission, represented MWC. He made the long trip to the beautiful setting in the Mediterranean Sea to hear what might be relevant for the global Mennonite fellowship.

“I was impressed about the seriousness of the theological discussion and the very earnest search for unity and agreement in theological issues. In Mennonite circles lately there is great hesitation about dogmatics and creedal discussions. But creeds and theology are the software according to which to a large extent churches tick. The search for unity in the body of Christ definitely also has to do with a search for believing and confessing together,” says Neufeld.

His comments are echoed by the opening words of Patriarch Bartholomew who stated, “Because unity is finally a gift of God, it demands a profound sense of humility and not any prideful insistence.” His call to the “never-ending search” for unity of the church, also pointed out that it “is also an ever-unfolding journey.”

Marianela de la Paz Cot, of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, described interchurch and interfaith dialogue as sources and meeting points of opposing views and potential polarization, but she argued that this provides “an opportunity to develop a deeper unity.”

The argument raised familiar questions on the issue of interfaith and interchurch dialogue: When must respect for others’ beliefs give way to a prophetic critique of idolatry? At what point is faith in Christ compromised?

Neufeld comments, “I am sure that the three big topics of Faith and Order – moral discernment in the church, sources of authority, and the nature and mission of the church – are as relevant for Mennonites as for any other Christian denomination. Moral discernment on peace issues and gender issues has been a topic for decades for us. Till now we are far too humble to discuss forces of authority or even use the word ‘authority.’

“Structural and sacramental unity do not seem to be key issues at this moment in the Faith and Order movement,” says Neufeld. Participants noted a tendency to give more space to an “ecclesiology from below” based on the concrete experience of “being church in a particular context” rather than describing the church theoretically “from above.”

Neufeld suggests that “reconciled diversity, humble recognition of the limitations of our own denominational convictions and traditions, as well as an appreciation for the gifts in history entrusted to the different denominations seems to be a way not to fear dialogue. The better dialogue partners are informed and convinced about their convictions, the more free they can speak with each other and to each other.”

Mennonites have things to learn from and contribute to gatherings such as the Faith and Order Plenary Commission as the themes are clearly relevant to our on-going task of being faithful to our calling as the church of Christ in the world.

Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.

Posted: Dec. 15, 2009 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=622
Categories: DialogueIn this article: ecclesiology, Mennonite, Mennonite World Conference, theology, WCC
Transmis : 15 déc. 2009 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=622
Catégorie : DialogueDans cet article : ecclesiology, Mennonite, Mennonite World Conference, theology, WCC

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