The head of the main grouping of Anglican, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations in Europe has proposed the creation of a Council of European Churches that would also include the Roman Catholic Church.
The Rev Jean-Arnold de Clermont, a French Protestant who is president of the Conference of European Churches, made the proposal in a speech given in London on 21 February at a meeting of CEC and representatives of Europe's Catholic bishops.
"I would... suggest that we find the ways and means to come out of our present institutional structures and set ourselves the task in the next 10 years of creating a Council of European Churches, bringing together Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," said de Clermont, who retired recently as president of the Protestant Federation in France.
De Clermont said he was making the proposal following a European ecumenical assembly held last September in the Romanian city of Sibiu that brought together 1500 delegates, and was organized by CEC and the Council of European (Catholic) Bishops' Conferences (CCEE).
He said that at Sibiu it seemed that the highest representatives of the various denominational families were setting aside "any expectation of a patient resolute quest for unity" in the face of institutional and doctrinal blockages.
"I had the feeling that I was hearing pleas justifying ecumenical stagnation, arising out of a desire not to expose oneself to challenges from others," said the French cleric, according to a text of his speech released in Geneva by CEC.
"The status quo is all the more pleasant when it is between friends, but it does not seek full visible unity," he told the London meeting of the CEC-CCEE joint committee. "It is not within our competence to make a decision without having a whole process of consultation with our churches," he said about his proposal for a Council of European Churches. "But I would at least wish to check with you whether you consider that placing such a challenge before us would serve the cause of Christian unity."
There are already three regional ecumenical bodies with the Catholic Church as a full member - the Caribbean Conference of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Pacific Conference of Churches - as well as some national bodies in countries such as Brazil and South Africa.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]