Global commission on Christian unity seeks new path

By staff writers
31 May 2007

A newly appointed commission which includes representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and several Christian world communions (denominational alliances) has met for the first time - seeking renewed commitment to the path of unity at a time of division and suspicion in church and world.

The WCC is the msot representative global inter-church body. But Catholics are not full members, and many independent evenagelical and Pentecostal groups are also outside. The World Council has been effectively seeking an "alliance of alliances" with a loose structure and space for conversation.

The creation of a Joint Consultative Commission between the WCC and Christian World Communions was recommended by the WCC's 9th Assembly, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in February 2006. The global confessional families represented on the Commission include Anglicans, Disciples, Eastern Orthodox, Friends (Quakers), Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed and Roman Catholic.

The Commission's purpose is to discuss and recommend ways to further strengthen the participation of Christian World Communions in the life and work of the WCC. This step towards fostering greater coherence of the one ecumenical movement represents decades of work to create a relationship of trust and partnership between conciliar and confessional ecumenical actors.

The initial mandate of the Commission, as provided by the Porto Alegre Assembly, includes exploring the coordination of programmes, the significance and implications of overlapping membership and the feasibility of a structure for WCC assemblies that would provide expanded space for Christian World Communions to meet, for the purpose of deliberation and/or overall agendas.

The Commission met for the first time in Geneva on 10 May 2007, under the leadership of its moderator, Bishop Nareg Alemezian, from the Armenian Apostolic Church (See of Cilicia) and of the present moderator of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, Rev. Dr Robert K. Welsh, from the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council.

The Commission considered the feasibility of providing space for Christian World Communions in an expanded assembly and expressed its commitment to mapping deeper programmatic cooperation between the WCC and CWCs.

Early in the term of the current WCC central committee, a decision is expected as to whether the next WCC Assembly should be structured so as to gather the churches and offer expanded space to partner ecumenical organizations.

The Commission affirmed the need to continue creative dialogue on the possible formats that might allow different communions to take advantage of an expanded WCC assembly, but also noted some hesitations about the feasibility of such an event based on the varying forms of communion governance. The Commission highlighted the need to further define the nature, style, participation and theological grounding of such an event, offering helpful suggestions for guiding criteria.

The Commission's next meeting will take place from 14 to 15 May 2008 in Geneva. The primary agenda will include mapping existing programmatic cooperation between the WCC and Christian World Communions and identifying potential synergies for future collaboration.

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