Reports by Ellen K. Wondra
Commission on Faith and Order, June 17-24, 2015, Monastery of Caraiman, Busteni, Romania
Following the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013, the Commission on Faith and Order was reconstituted and had its first meeting at the Monastery of Caraiman near Busteni, Romania. The Commission comprises 49 members from 5 continents, supplemented by 5 WCC staff members, 3 consultants, and 1 guest. In addition to TEC, two other churches of the Anglican Communion are formally represented: the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
This was the first meeting for about two-thirds of the Commissioners. Much of the meeting entailed orienting new members and reviewing the purposes and procedures of Faith and Order. The Commission’s primary purpose is “to serve the churches as they call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one Eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe.” Over the next eight years, this work will be carried out within the framework of the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.
Considerable time was given to building a consensus about major task areas for Faith and Order for the next few years. Three general areas of study were discerned, along with initial areas of focus:
- The Church on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Today’s World
- Theological and ecclesiological foundations of pilgrimage, justice and peace;
- Proclaiming and confessing Jesus Christ with one voice in a multireligious, multicultural world;
- Church facing the issues of justice, peace and creation; issues of migration, racism, economic justice
- Pilgrimage Towards a Common Vision of the Church (with attention given to specific themes of authority and anthropology):
- Promote the reception and response to the ecclesiological study The Church: Towards a Common Vision and analyze official responses;
- give further attention to bilateral dialogues engaging the theme of the church;
- indicate further work to be done;
- use The Church as a means for dialoguing with “newer” or “emerging” churches on their understanding of the church;
- convene a consultation exploring the progress made from Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry to The Church: Towards a Common Vision;
- study ecclesiology in relation to pneumatology (i.e. the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church);
- reflect on newer ecclesial movements and expressions
- The Church on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace Engaged in Moral Discernment:
- Proceed with the moral discernment project on the basis of what has already been accomplished;
- prepare study materials for its use and discussion locally;
- organize a consultation in which points of agreement, methods, and differences are clarified;
- explore what processes are at work when a community decides to change its moral position on a particular issue.
- Two small working groups, one on authority, both in relation to moral discernment and in relation to ecclesiology; and another one on anthropology.
For the remainder of the meeting the study groups met and organized their work for the coming two years. All Study Groups are expected to meet at least once before the next Commission plenary in Summer 2017.
Participation in the Commission on Faith and Order offers TEC an opportunity to participate in the shaping of the worldwide ecumenical agenda—a possibility not presently offered by the Anglican Communion—and to learn from other churches in regard to important issues such as justice and peace, and moral discernment in relation to ecumenical ecclesiology. These are both important themes within TEC as well as between TEC and its dialogue partners. TEC’s representative is a member of Study Group 2, working on responses to The Church and on fostering relations with “newer” and “emerging” churches, including evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
Meeting of Study Group 2, Pilgrimage Towards a Common Vision of the Church, June 16-20, Klasztor Ojców Dominikanów, Krakow, Poland
At this meeting, Study Group 2 divided into two subgroups: Subgroup 1 to discuss WCC engagement with “newer” and “emerging” churches (including Pentecostal, evangelical, and charismatic churches); and Subgroup 2 to assess responses to the WCC convergence document The Church.
Subgroup 1 has identified seven categories of ecclesiology with which a Faith and Order dialogue can be engaged. A 3000 paper for each ecclesiology will be completed by January 2017. is planned to provide by January 2017. The objective of these papers is to ask: “How do these ecclesiologies respond to TCTCV?”. Connections with the leaders of mentioned churches will be also planned. The members of the Sub-group 1 have considered that there is no need to meet again before the Commission 2017. The work can be done by videoconferences. A first contact after Krakow’s meeting will take place in September 2016, organized by the F&O’s Secretariat.
Subgroup 2 discussed 19 of the 20 responses to The Church received thus far. Nineteen of these responses are from Europe, Australia and North America; one is from India. The group discussed how to elicit more responses from the Global South and non-Anglophone churches; and how to discern the significance of the low number of responses from these areas. The responses are largely welcoming and positive towards The Church, with various points of critique, mention of issues that are still contested, and many comments on themes that need further elaboration. The group identified a number of common themes that group members will investigate more carefully in the responses:
- Apostolic faith in relation to the historic episcopate; authority and primacy
- The role of laity and synods
- The relationship between the local and universal Church
- Definition of legitimate diversity, the nature of unity, the nature of authority and the theme of moral discernment.
- Koinonia – a theme that is received positively, but requires more elaboration
- The theme of sin in relation to the church as such
- Sacraments and the sacramentality of the church
- Further work on Chapter 4
The deadline for responses is December, 2016, with responses expected from TEC, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox churches. The subgroup will meet via Skype or a similar platform, and face to face in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2017.
The Episcopal Church’s representative, Ellen Wondra, a member of Subgroup 2, will work with TEC to produce a response to The Church before January 2017. A draft response will go to the meeting of Executive Council in October 2016, for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on World Mission and, it is hoped, Executive Council as a whole. Dr. Wondra will also review responses to The Church to discover how they consider the theme of koinonia.
(The Rev.) Ellen K. Wondra, PhD
Research Professor Emerita of Theology and Ethics
Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation