An Orthodox response to The Nature and Mission of the Church

 — Mar. 14, 201114 mars 2011

“Without any doubt, ecclesiology remains in our times the crucial issue for Christian theology in ecumenical perspective.” This was one of the conclusions drawn by a week-long consultation in Cyprus at which forty Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox representatives provided a common response to The Nature and Mission of the Church, a 2005 ecumenical text published by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Ecclesiology, or the theological self-understanding of the church, sets out to define the role of the church, its nature and mission, and in the ecumenical setting to explain issues and difficulties that divide churches from one another.

The inter-Orthodox consultation took place from 2 to 9 March and produced an eleven-page report as well as a communiqué detailing highlights of the discussion. It was held at the invitation of the WCC to facilitate the Orthodox churches’ discussion of The Nature and Mission of the Church.

Orthodox participants were joined by several members of the Faith and Order Commission and the WCC staff including general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

The consultation noted that the Faith and Order document draws on a variety of ecclesial traditions and is organized in accordance with western philosophical methods. This approach makes the text “difficult to recognize as characteristically Orthodox” and in the end “it fails to reach the level of a ‘convergence text’,” cautioned the final report.

The communiqué from Cyprus recognizes the 2005 text as a step in the long journey toward the visible unity of the One Church, adding, “We are grateful for the efforts of the Faith and Order Commission and acknowledge all those who worked under difficult circumstances to draft this ecumenical document.”

The consultation stressed the urgency of overcoming separation among churches, quoting St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

The report of the consultation will be presented to the commission with a compilation of suggestions for re-drafting the study document as the quest continues for ecumenical consensus in matters of ecclesiology.

Read also:
Communiqué of the inter-Orthodox consultation
Report of the inter-Orthodox consultation
More information on “The Nature and Mission of the Church” study process
• Press release: Inter-Orthodox consultation begins discussion on the nature of the church (4 March 2011)
• Feature article: Text and Context: The Nature and Mission of the Church (13 October 2009)

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