Inter-Orthodox consultation looks at nature and mission of the church

By staff writers
March 8, 2011

A week-long inter-Orthodox consultation is concluding its work, with some forty senior church participants, in Ayia Napa, Cyprus.

The aim of the consultation, which began on 3 March 2011, is to offer distinctly Orthodox insights as part of a world-wide discussion of the doctrine of the Church, or 'ecclesiology'. The gathering is hosted by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

Those taking part come from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, church leaders, university professors, theologians, men and women as well as youth, most of whom are members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order.

They are discussing the WCC Faith and Order document 'The Nature and Mission of the Church' and producing a common Orthodox response to what has been described as "this important theological text".

After a Te Deum celebrated by Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus in the historic monastery of Ayia Napa, Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, co-moderator of the consultation, expressed gratitude to the archbishop for his generous hospitality, extended regularly to inter-Orthodox and ecumenical gatherings, and highlighted the archbishop’s life-long struggle to overcome dividing lines, in his own country and elsewhere in the world.

"Unfortunately," Metropolitan Gennadios added, “walls of separation and division still exist in the world and one of our priorities as Orthodox is to continue our struggle for peace, reconciliation and friendship among peoples and nations.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos underlined the importance of the theme. “Orthodox theology is primarily ecclesiological,” he said. “Christianity cannot be understood except as the church”.

By his incarnation, the archbishop continued, Jesus Christ made all human beings part of his own body. Orthodox contributions to ecumenical theological reflection consist in the fact that Orthodoxy, rather than defending a “confessional” interpretation of ecclesiology, shares the existential experience of the church.

The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC General Secretary, expressed appreciation both to Archbishop Chrysostomos for his hospitality, which is a tangible sign of his ecumenical commitment, and to Metropolitan Dr Vasilios of Constantia-Ammochostos, moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, for hosting the consultation in his diocese and for his many contributions to the work of Faith and Order.

The General Secretary of the world churches' body referred to the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC a decade ago and stressed the Orthodox contribution to both ecclesiological reflection in general and to the ecclesial character of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches in particular.

The General Secretary concluded by reminding participants of the forthcoming peace convocation in Kingston, Jamaica. “Our task will be to affirm that we aim at being one, so that the world may believe that a just peace is possible. We know that in this island there is a struggle for justice and peace. It is as part of our journey towards unity and common witness that we participate in this struggle.”

More on the Nature and Mission of the Church study process -

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