III. Activities of the JWG, 1991-1998
The unity of the church the goal and the way
The unity of the church as koinonia
The specific focus on the ecclesiology of koinonia (communion) and
the unity we seek provides continuity to the central and ongoing
JWG concern for "the unity of the church the goal and
the way." This same concern is basic to the mandate of the
Faith and Order commission. This commission draws some of its members
from churches which are not WCC members, and since 1968 RC theologians,
approved by the PCPCU, have been full commission members. Through
Faith and Order the RCC continues to have direct active participation
in the WCC.
2. In the period between 1983 and 1990 the JWG itself commissioned
and received the study The Church: Local
and Universal (1990), which was published as an appendix to
its Sixth Report. The document dealt with the fundamental aspects
of the mystery of the church as an icon of the Trinity, the ecclesiology
of koinonia and the relationship of the church local and universal.
It explored the topic from Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant
perspectives and indicated the ecclesial elements required for
full communion within the visibly united church.
Since 1990 this same focus has been developing in: (1) the Canberra
assembly statement The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and
Calling; (2) the JWG commissioned a study document, a series of
reflections by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestants: Ecumenical
Perspectives on the 1991 Canberra Statement on Unity (Faith and
Order Paper no. 163); (3) the Report of the 1993 fifth world conference
on Faith and Order (Santiago de Compostela); (4) the various international
bilateral dialogues; (5) the current Faith and Order study Koinonia:
the Nature and Purpose of the Church; (6) Pope John Paul II's 1995
encyclical Ut Unum Sint, on the commitment to ecumenism; (7) the
process of study and consultation Towards a Common Understanding
and Vision of the WCC; and (8) the PCPCU response (April 1997) to
this draft (November 1996).
The 1991 Canberra statement developed the understanding of koinonia
which is a central focus of the JWG's The Church: Local and Universal.
The nature and purpose of the church, as a community which mirrors
the reality of the Trinity, is "to unite people with Christ
in the power of the Spirit, to manifest communion in prayer and
action and thus to point to the fullness of communion with God,
humanity and the whole creation in the glory of the kingdom"
(The Canberra Statement: The Unity of the Church as Koinonia. Gift
and Calling, n. 1.1.). Despite the continuing divisions between
the churches, they now "recognize a certain degree of communion
already existing among them," and they desire to make this
communion more visible by seeking consensus on the common confession
of the apostolic faith, a common sacramental life, a common mission
and moving towards a common ministry and structures of accountability.
These elements develop the four classical visible properties or
attributes of the church one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
The work of the Faith and Order commission after Canberra has drawn
on the impact of its 1982 document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry
(BEM) and the responses of the churches to it, including the lengthy
one from the RCC. An implicit ecclesiology in BEM requires further
clarification: the nature of sacraments and the relation of necessary
oversight to be exercised in the church in an office which is personal,
collegial and communal. The completed study project Confessing the
One Faith examines the common apostolic faith through the Nicene
creed, and invites the churches to recognize in their own lives
the faith of the church through the ages and to recognize that same
faith in other Christian communities (Faith and Order Paper no.
153, cf. the 1996 study guide Towards Sharing the One Faith; Faith
and Order Paper no. 173).
The 1993 fifth world conference on Faith and Order in Santiago de
Compostela (Spain) drew participants from every continent and ecclesial
tradition who are engaged in Faith and Order concerns in the churches
and ecumenical organizations. The conference could rejoice in the
results of ecumenical dialogue, particularly since the last world
conference in 1963 (Montreal), which was held during the Second
Vatican Council when the RCC was only beginning officially and actively
to enter the ecumenical movement. The sizeable RC presence in Santiago
included the PCPCU president Cardinal Cassidy and 23 delegates,
as well as more than 40 others who were hosts, speakers, younger
theologians, co-opted staff and consultants.
Prior to Santiago the Faith and Order commission developed a study
process involving a series of regional consultations (RCs took part
in many of them), which resulted in the preparatory document Towards
Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness. The report of the world conference
itself explores the nature and meaning of koinonia. The church,
as communion rooted in the life of the Holy Trinity, is to be sign
and instrument of God's intention for humankind. The report reflects
the insights of the bilateral dialogues, including those in which
the RCC is a partner; of united and uniting churches; of the Christian
world communions (including the RCC); and of regional and national
councils of churches (many of which have RCs as full members). It
also explores steps towards the manifestation of koinonia, and identifies
implications of the understanding of the church as one, holy, catholic
and apostolic which are still to be addressed.
Clearly in the 1990s, koinonia or ecclesial communion has become
central to the discussions of the JWG, of the bilateral dialogues
and of the Faith and Order commission. Pope John Paul II wrote in
his message to the Santiago conference that "a deepened awareness
of the profound mystery of ecclesial communion [koinonia] moves
Christians to confess that God and not man is the source of the
church's unity; it leads them to repent of their sins against fraternal
charity; and it encourages them, under the inspiring work of the
Holy Spirit, to work through prayer, word and action to attain that
fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires."
is also being used to describe different, and perhaps mutually exclusive,
models for the unity of the church, such as communion of communions,
reconciled diversity, visible unity of local churches and conciliar
fellowship. The implications of koinonia for models of unity require
Major Faith and Order studies
Future Faith and Order studies will continue to focus on ecclesiology
A convergence text on the nature and purpose of the church, in a
format and style similar to BEM, will draw on other Faith and Order
studies on hermeneutics, worship and ethics to seek
to move forward on the ministry of oversight, the nature of conciliarity
and the nature of the church as local and universal. Furthermore,
an interdisciplinary process has been initiated on Ethnic Identity,
National Identity and the Search for the Unity of the Church.
2. Common prayer and worship anticipate, express and prepare experiences
of Christian communion or koinonia that both reflect and extend
beyond theological agreements and convergences. So We Believe, So
We Pray (Faith and Order Paper no. 171) explores a common ordering
and scheduling of the primary elements of Christian worship, inculturation
and the ways in which worship already actively fosters the search
for unity of the church. The baptism study focuses on the continuing
pilgrimage of Christians as they seek to express their incorporation
in Christ and their primary consecration as Christians through baptism
into the ministry of Christ and the church.
3. Three reports have come out of a collaborative process of reflection
between Faith and Order and the WCC's Programme Unit on Justice,
Peace, Creation (Unit III) on the relation between ecclesiology
and ethics. The Ronde report Costly Unity (1993) explores koinonia
in relation to the ethical nature and witness of the church as a
"moral community" and emphasizes the essential connection
between the search for the visible unity of the church and the calling
of the churches to prophetic witness and service. The Tantur report
Costly Commitment (1995) offers a fresh discussion of the relation
of eucharist, covenant and ethical engagement. The Johannesburg
report Costly Obedience (1997) takes up the ethical implications
of Christian worship and the role of baptism/Christian initiation
in shaping character, and asks: What are the ethical implications
of the growing koinonia among the churches? What does the churches'
common ethical reflection and action mean for the koinonia which
already actively exists among them?
this same period the JWG published in 1996 its own study, The
Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues: Potential Sources of Common
Witness or of Divisions (cf. below, III, B, 5; and Appendix
Bilateral and multilateral dialogues
The RCC cooperates with the WCC through its full membership of the
Faith and Order commission; and many WCC member churches are engaged
in bilateral dialogues with the RCC, like the Orthodox churches
and the ancient Oriental churches. Others are involved in these
dialogues either on the national level or internationally through
their respective Christian world communions (CWCs), like the Lutherans,
the Methodists, the Reformed, the Anglicans, the Baptists and the
Disciples of Christ. These multilateral and bilateral dialogues
have complementary purposes and thus offer possibilities for coherence
in the service of the one ecumenical movement.
2. The conference of general secretaries of the CWCs, at which Bishop
Pierre Duprey of the PCPCU represents the RCC, is an informal instrument
of information, exchange, reflection and orientation, and organizes
periodic forums on the bilateral conversations. The Faith and Order
secretariat services these forums.
The fifth bilateral forum (1990) highlighted the common themes and
approaches in reference to the Church emerging in and through the
dialogues (cf. The Understanding of the Church Emerging in the Bilateral
Dialogues Coherence or Divergence?, Faith and Order Paper
no. 156, 1991). The sixth forum (1994) explored the different processes
by which churches seek to receive the results of the dialogues and
suggested how they might appropriate these results of the dialogues
by a process of recognition and reception. This process of recognition
also requires attempts to overcome "non-doctrinal" issues
which inhibit the movement towards communion, for example, the memory
of historical events that have polarized communities, the relations
between Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, and the relation
of majority to minority churches in many areas. The report of this
forum also raised the issue of the relation between the local and
universal church in particular, the ability of the local
church to take initiatives in furthering ecumenical relations (Faith
and Order Paper no. 168, 1994).
The seventh bilateral forum (1997) explored The Emerging Visions
of Unity in the churches through their participation in bilateral
dialogues and interfaith dialogues and their common witness on issues
of justice and peace. These "emerging visions" were discussed
in the light of the Canberra statement The Unity of the Church as
Koinonia: Gift and Calling. The report reaffirms the challenges
posed by that statement to the churches, in the dynamic process
towards "conciliar unity" (recognizing the ambiguity of
the term "council"). Rooted in different cultural and
geographical milieus, local churches are interdependent in legitimate
diversity And the strong trends of globalization today prompt fresh
insights into the unity of the church and human communities. (cf.
The Seventh Forum on Bilateral Dialogues: Emerging Visions of Visible
Unity in the Canberra Statement and Bilateral Dialogues. Geneva,
WCC Publications, 1997, Faith and Order Paper no. 179).
The Ecumenical Directory and the papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint
this period, two authoritative documents have articulated the theological
foundations and pastoral directions for the internal ecumenical
life and structures of the RCC and for its relations with other
churches and ecumenical organizations: the PCPCU's Directory for
the Application of Principles and Norms of Ecumenism (1993), and
Pope John Paul II's encyclical "on the commitment to ecumenism,"
Ut Unum Sint (1995).
Approved by the Pope, the Ecumenical Directory (ED) "gives
general norms of universal application to guide Catholic participation
in ecumenical activity," so as to guarantee "accordance
with the unity of faith and discipline that binds Catholics together."
But ED "fully respects the competence of local and territorial
church authorities" and recognizes that "many judgments
can best be made at the local level."
comprehensively presents the RC theological foundations for ecumenical
life and action (teaching, attitudes/motivations and spirituality);
the ecumenical formation of all the faithful clergy and laity
(studying the scriptures, preaching, catechesis, liturgy) in various
settings (family, parish, schools, seminaries, theological faculties,
Catholic universities, pastoral ministers' continuing education,
hospitals, lay associations and institutes); "spiritual activities"
(prayer in common; baptismal celebrations; sharing in sacramental
life, especially the eucharist; marriages and mixed marriages; funerals);
ecumenical cooperation and common witness (social and cultural life;
peace, justice and the stewardship of creation; missionary activities;
common Bible translation and distribution; catechetics; medical
work; relief and development work; communications media); and church
structures (college of bishops, bishops' conferences, patriarchal
synods, dioceses and their ecumenical commissions; religious communities
and lay organizations; the PCPCU).
The encyclical Ut Unum Sint emphasizes the RCC's "irrevocable
commitment" to ecumenism as "an organic part of her life
and work," necessary for credibility in evangelization.
everyday ecumenical path is by way of repentance for wrongs mutually
committed, prayer (especially in common), reciprocal visits, study
of shared faith and remaining differences, and cooperation in mission
and in service to human needs.
key word in the encyclical is "dialogue," which is not
simply "an exchange of ideas" (n. 28) but also an exchange
and development of gifts "for the utility and the advantage
of all" (n. 87). Presupposing loving respect between the partners
and a desire for reconciliation, living dialogue includes an examination
of conscience by each. The encyclical observes that "certain
features of the Christian mystery have at times been more effectively
emphasized" in communities other than the RCC (cf. n. 14).
In "the common quest for truth," sensitivity to different
formulations can make possible "surprising discoveries"
which enrich the apprehension of revealed truth.
Pope foresees a "continuing and deepening dialogue" (nn.
77-79) on the way to "that full communion in the one, holy,
catholic and apostolic church which will be expressed in the common
celebration of the eucharist" (n. 78). Reception of the interim
results of dialogue requires a critical analysis and testing for
consistency with the apostolic tradition.
encyclical lists five areas for further work towards "a true
consensus of faith": (1) "the relationship between sacred
scriptures, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and sacred
tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the word of
God" (a formulation entirely in line with developments in Faith
and Order); (2) "the eucharist, as the sacrament of the body
and blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial
memorial and real presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring
of the Holy Spirit" (a vision consistent with the Eucharist
section of BEM); (3) "ordination, as a sacrament, to the threefold
ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate"; (4)
"the magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the pope and the
bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and
an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding
the faith"; (5) "the Virgin Mary, as mother of God and
ikon of the Church, the spiritual mother who intercedes for Christ's
disciples and for all humanity" (cf. 79).
the RCC's conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome
the Church "has preserved the visible sign and guarantor of
unity... in fidelity to the apostolic tradition and the faith of
the fathers" (n. 88), John Paul II acknowledges that "the
ministry of unity of the bishop of Rome... constitutes a difficulty
for most other Christians" (ibid. ). Thus he invites "church
leaders and their theologians" (n. 96) to "a patient and
fraternal dialogue" concerning the "exercise of this necessary
ministry." A number of WCC member churches have expressed appreciation
for this invitation. For ecclesiological and historical reasons,
however, many churches have great difficulty in discussing the primacy
of the bishop of Rome and would prefer a wider dialogue on the need,
nature and structure of a universal ministry of oversight.
Encyclical spells out the significance of Faith and Order a number
of times. It refers in an affirmative way to "the steady work
of the Commission on Faith and Order" (n. 78, note 129). Speaking
of the renewal and conversion required in ecumenism, the Pope cites
various documents which help foster these attitudes, including "the
principle documents of the Commission on Faith and Order" (n.
17) and "in particular, the Lima Document Baptism, Eucharist
and Ministry (January 1982); and Confessing the One Faith"
(note 28). The Contribution of the Fifth World Conference on Faith
and Order is mentioned several times (n. 78, note 129; n. 45, note
77; n. 89).
1998, the Faith and Order Commission completed its response to Ut
Unum Sint. The response acknowledges the fine place given to its
work in these words: "We in the Faith and Order Commission
are grateful for the recognition given to our work throughout the
encyclical letter. This recognition of Faith and Order work implies
a relationship with all ecumenical communities engaged in the ecumenical
task." It welcomed the spirit of humility of the Encyclical
evident in such phrases as "dialogue of consciences" and
"dialogue of conversion." The Commission highlighted the
Encyclical's decision on the relation between unity and diversity
and on the recognition of ministries. On the issue of primacy, where
satisfaction was expressed for the manner in which this question
is treated in the Encyclical through emphasis on a ministry of unity
not of power and of service, the Commission affirmed
its intention to study the issue in the context of the question
of the need for "a universal primacy in the organizational
dimension of the life of the Church of God on earth."
Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC
Within the World Council of Churches, the meaning of ecumenical
commitment and the WCC's role in the ecumenical movement have been
the subject of an extended process of study and consultation under
the theme "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the
WCC" (CUV). Mandated by the WCC Central Committee in 1989,
this study has focused on the formulation of a policy document to
be presented to the Eighth Assembly of the WCC in 1998 on
the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the WCC's founding and at
the dawn of a new century and a new millennium as a kind
of "charter" for ecumenical commitment. The text as adopted
by the WCC Central Committee in September 1997 reflected more than
150 responses to an earlier draft from WCC member churches and ecumenical
JWG has followed this process closely through briefings by WCC staff,
sharing of materials and discussions, recognizing the direct bearing
of its results on future working relations between the RCC and the
WCC and its member churches.
In mandating the CÜV process, the Central Committee in 1989
referred explicitly to the Council's relationship to churches which
are not members. Accordingly, Roman Catholic perspectives were solicited
from the beginning; and an observer from the PCPCU attended the
December 1995 consultation which produced the original draft of
the document. When a second version was shared with WCC member churches
and ecumenical partners in November 1996, general secretary Konrad
Raiser invited the PCPCU to respond; and an extended response was
sent to Geneva in April 1997.
From the perspective of the WCC, the draft (and the text as adopted
by the Central Committee in September 1997) states:
We give thanks to God that the Roman Catholic Church is, since the
Second Vatican Council, an active participant in the ecumenical
movement and a valued partner in numerous ways with the WCC (especially
through the JWG and participation in the commission of Faith and
Order). The member churches of the WCC and the RCC are inspired
by the same vision of God's plan to unite all things in Christ.
It is inconceivable to us that either the WCC or the RCC could pursue
its ecumenical calling without the collaboration of the other, and
we firmly hope that both will look for ways to deepen and expand
this relationship in the years ahead, particularly since the RCC
has in recent years become part of a growing number of local, national
and regional ecumenical bodies of which many WCC member churches
are also part. While membership in the WCC is by no means the only
way for churches to work together on a worldwide level, some member
churches of the WCC which already have bilateral relations with
the RCC believe that the fellowship of the WCC is impoverished by
its absence from this circle of churches.
2. The PCPCU response acknowledges a "developmental continuity"
in the RCC's "reception" of "a new ecumenical tradition
of reflective experience... with other Christians and communions
at the local, national and world levels, and as a result of the
RCC's active participation in the WCC," which likewise has
experienced "the developmental continuity of its ecumenical
vocation during its fifty years of common life."
Especially in the light of Ut Unum Sint, the PCPCU response reflects
on the common ground or basis of ecumenism and "the one ecumenical
movement"; on a common vision seeking to hold together the
interrelated dimensions of the churches' faith, life and witness;
and on a common calling based on the reality, though imperfect,
of the koinonia already existing between the churches.
The PCPCU response concludes that the "ecumenical understanding
and commitment of the RCC is, in general, coherent with the present
affirmations of the WCC member churches and of the WCC as they are
expressed in the proposed Vision Statement."
The PCPCU also responded to proposals in the CUV draft for revisions
of present WCC structures and possible new structures, in the light
of the implications these would have for future RCC collaboration
in the life and work of the WCC and solidarity with the WCC and
its member churches.
National and regional councils of churches
February 1993 the WCC and the PCPCU cosponsored the third international
consultation of NCCs, held in Hong Kong. The theme was The NCCs
as Servants and Advocates of Unity. Out of the 88 NCCs around the
world, 55 include the RCC as full members through its bishops' conferences.
Also through the bishops' conferences the RCC is a full member of
the regional councils of churches in the Caribbean, the Pacific
and the Middle East. Within these national and regional councils
the RCC has direct contact with many WCC member churches. Of the
120 participants in Hong Kong, 17 were Roman Catholics, six of them
bishops representing their national episcopal conferences.
consultation considered the NCCs as instruments of expressing communion
(koinonia) between the churches and of giving common witness, noting
that their work of reconciliation often makes NCCs national advocates
in times of social-political crisis. At the same time, there was
acknowledgment of the problems facing many NCCS: among them, finding
competent resource persons for both the theological and the social
ethical reflection; limited financial resources; fostering relations
with regional councils of churches and the WCC. Many NCCs must act
on a crowded ecumenical stage where more and more agencies with
overlapping goals are competing for fewer and fewer resources of
personnel and money Yet the consultation acknowledged that a preoccupation
with the sharing of financial resources and development projects
too often overshadows the essential task of NCCs to search for Christian
a written message to the Hong Kong meeting, PCPCU president Cardinal
Edward Cassidy observed that collaboration through full RC membership
in an NCC causes difficulties if the ecclesiological implications
of the fact that local Catholic churches are "within the framework
of the communion of faith and discipline of the whole Catholic Church"
are forgotten. Furthermore, since a NCC should be governed by the
norms set down by the member churches and should have only the authority
which these constituents give it, an NCC's constitution should "seek
to foresee how a satisfactory exercise of common concern can leave
room for member churches to dissent from such action when they cannot
in conscience be part of the same."
often engage in joint action or issue statements on difficult
ethical and moral questions. "It is important," Cardinal
Cassidy noted, "that such issues be studied with due regard
for the moral teaching of the member churches, and above all taking
into account the objective content of their ethical positions."
Regarding this last point, the JWG recommends that NCCs use its
study document The Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues (1996;
cf. Appendix B).
Nevertheless, as the preparatory document for the Hong Kong conference
suggested, the insistence of churches on "greater ownership"
of an NCC carries the risk that the council will lose "its
ecumenical vocation of being a pioneer that can take on issues and
explore new avenues when the churches as such are as yet reluctant
to do"; indeed, the churches may be even content to be "one
step removed" from such engagement.
Week o f Prayer for Christian Unity
Week of Prayer is one of the oldest and most widespread expressions
of that "spiritual ecumenism" which is the heart and wellspring
of the ecumenical movement. The preparation of annual materials
for the Week of Prayer has created a stable and enduring collaboration
between the RCC (through the PCPCU) and the WCC (through the Faith
and Order commission).
many persons the Week of Prayer each year is their main, if not
only, ecumenical experience. In the context of frequent talk about
the present difficulties and delays in the ecumenical movement,
the Week serves as a strong affirmation of the churches' continuing
commitment to the search for visible unity and provides a local
experience of the catholicity of the universal church.
annual text originates in the work of ecumenical groups in a single
country or region in recent years, Germany, Belgium, Zaire,
Ireland, England, Portugal, Sweden and France. The text they provide
is then developed by the international preparatory group and offered
to all the churches for responsible local adaptation. This task
often inspires fruitful collaboration among the churches within
NCCs and other ecumenical bodies. Recent themes reveal an awareness
of preparations for the year 2000; but the wide variety of ecumenical
and social contexts in which the Week of Prayer is celebrated requires
sensitivity and discretion in relating it to the millennium year
JWG notes several issues which continue to challenge the churches
as they celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: how to
inspire prayer and work for unity not only during one week, but
throughout the whole year; how to encourage creative local adaptation
of the material; and how to bring new Christian partners into the
experience of common prayer for unity. Attention has been given
to broader collaboration in observing the Week and to the fact that
there are several widely-observed prayer events throughout the year.
Thus the material for 1996, "Behold, I Stand at the Door and
Knock" (Rev 3:14-22), was prepared with the participation of
official representatives from the world bodies of the YWCA and YMCA.
JWG affirms the Week of Prayer as one of the most enduring and widespread
ecumenical experiences, and urges that all the churches participate
actively in the local adaptation, distribution and use of the materials.
Cooperation between the PCPCU (Rome) and WCC Program Unit on Churches
in Mission: Health, Education and Witness (Unit II)
PCPCU has continued to facilitate increasing RC collaboration with
the work of the WCC's Programme Unit II, through the availability
of RC mission experts as consultants and, since 1984, of a full-time
RC consultant based in Unit II of WCC staff in Geneva. This latter
post has been occupied by a member of a RC missionary community
of women; at present the consultant is Sister Elizabeth Moran of
the Missionary Sisters of Saint Columban. The role includes liaison
with the other appointed RC consultants, and with leaders of RC
missionary congregations and RC missiologists in Roman universities
and elsewhere. In addition, since 1989 four representatives from
the International Unions of Superior Generals of Women and of Men
have been full members of the WCC's Conference on World Mission
collaborative relationships with WCC staff have been enhanced by
an exchange of visits. A delegation of eight persons from Roman
Curia staff and missionary communities and a professor of missiology
visited Geneva in 1995 to become acquainted with the work of the
WCC, especially Unit II; in turn, WCC staff concerned with the church's
role in education in pluralistic societies visited Rome in 1996
and 1997. The PCPCU and the Unit II stream on education jointly
sponsored in 1996 a consultation in Rome, at which WCC staff met
representatives of RC religious congregations of men and of women
whose primary ministry is education in schools. Participants listened
to one another's experiences in responding to those education challenges
which face the churches in increasingly pluralistic societies.
invited participation of ten official RC consultants to the 1996
conference on world mission and evangelism (Salvador Bahia, Brazil)
continued this important development of WCC-RCC relationships. The
conference theme "Called to One Hope The Gospel in Diverse
Cultures" points to yet another area in which Christians could
be seen working together in bringing much-needed hope to a complex,
culturally diverse and broken world.
The year 2000
In its Sixth Report the JWG highlighted that the end of the millennium
provides a natural occasion for all Christians to reflect on the
state of their ecumenical relationships, and to recommit themselves
to unity and strengthen their common witness. As the new millennium
begins, the churches could offer to the world a Christian vision
of unity and renewal, of social, economic and spiritual life which
contributes to a stable and just world.
2. The JWG considered the celebration of the year 2000, especially
in the light of the invitation in Pope John Paul's apostolic letter
Tertio Millennio Adveniente (1995) to promote ecumenical initiatives
of Christians "to turn together to Christ, the one Lord, and
to strengthen their common witness; to celebrate the Spirit as the
source of hope and unity; and to work together for a civilization
of love' , founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity,
justice and liberty which find the full attainment in Christ."
A WCC representative was invited to participate in the RCC's central
committee for the celebration of the Jubilee Year (February 1996).
RC representatives were invited to informal meetings organized by
the WCC (June 1996, May 1997) with secretaries of CWCs and ecumenical
partners who are planning celebrations to mark the year 2000.
3. The JWG recommends that its parent bodies propose to the local
churches ecumenical studies on the significance of common baptism,
possibly leading to mutual recognition of baptism in each local
place; and on common profession of faith as proposed in both Tertio
Millennio Adveniente and the Faith and Order study Confessing the
One Faith (1991). It also raises the question of whether there could
not be common local events for, reconciliation among Christian traditions
in places where there have been tensions.
4. The JWG has also highlighted the ecumenical potential of a worldwide
"common celebration" of the new millennium, noting that
its preparation would require careful involvement on the part of
all ecumenical partners. Such a celebration, the JWG proposes, could
focus on the possibility for Christians to confess together the
apostolic faith and could offer common social witness by affirming
the principles of the jubilee such as reconciliation, rights to
and responsibility for the land, forgiveness of debts and the like.
The ecumenical dialogue on moral issues
As noted above, the past 35 years have seen a consistent development
of multilateral and bilateral dialogues on those doctrinal differences
which helped to cause and perpetuate divisions among the churches.
These dialogues, in many of which the RCC has been an active partner
with WCC member churches, are revealing convergences and developing
common affirmations on such classically divisive issues as scripture
and tradition; baptism, eucharist and ministry; the local and universal
church; Christian unity and mission.
2. But during these same decades Christian responses to pressing
personal and social moral issues were prompting discord, even threatening
new divisions within and between the churches. Yet these same issues
could become church-reconciling means of common witness. The challenge
is urgent for three main reasons: (1) the fraying of the moral fabric
of many societies as traditional moral values and positions are
questioned and new and complex ethical issues arise, which press
upon the consciousness and conscience of all human beings; (2) the
genuine expectation, both in and beyond the churches, that they
together can and should offer moral guidance to their members and
to society at large; (3) the need for the churches, as a family
of one moral community in a pluralistic society to be in dialogue
with others and to evaluate their moral insights and judgments
since moral discernment is not the exclusive preserve of Christians.
During its present mandate the JWG has offered its own study document
The Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues. Potential Sources of
Common Witness or of Divisions (1996; cf. Appendix
B). This document offers ten guidelines for ecumenical dialogue
on moral issues.
The JWG study does not analyze specific controversial moral issues
as such in an attempt to arrive at ethical norms, but rather suggests
ways of conducting the dialogue. It outlines the common sources
and the different pathways of moral reflection and deliberation,
as well as the different authoritative means of moral discernment
which churches use in arriving at ethical decisions and in communicating
them to their members. While intended primarily for dialogues at
local, national and regional levels in which RCs are partners, this
document may also be useful for other bilateral and multilateral
Common witness, religious freedom and proselytism
Already during its first five-year mandate, the JWG recognized the
urgency of a joint study on Christian witness, common witness, religious
freedom and proselytism.
2. The 1970 JWG study document Common
Witness and Proselytism clarified the meaning of some key
terms in this discussion. These descriptions, although they addressed
and reflected the concerns of that time, could be kept in mind
in reading the two subsequent JWG study documents Common Witness
(1982) and The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common
Witness (1996; cf. Appendix C):
- by common witness is meant the witness that the churches, even
while separated, bear together, especially by joint efforts, by
manifesting before men and women whatever divine gifts of truth
and life they already share and experience in common;
- by civic religious freedom is meant that each person or community
has the right to be free from any coercion on the part of social
groups or human power of any kind; so that no individual or community
may be forced to act against conscience or be prevented from expressing
belief in teaching, worship or social action;
- by proselytism is meant whatever violates the right of the human
person, Christian or non-Christian, to be free from external coercion
in religious matters, or whatever in the proclamation of the gospel
does not conform to the ways God draws free men and women to respond
to God's calls to serve in spirit and in truth.
3. The most recent study document has been produced because of the
rise of new situations where people are vulnerable in a variety
of ways. Allegations are being made about the practice of proselytism
and antagonistic competition in missionary activity For example,
those involved in evangelistic activities appear to ignore the Christian
reality of other churches, or their particular pastoral approaches.
Missionary strategies may include reevangelizing baptized members
of other churches. In the new climate of civic religious freedom
in some countries at the present time certain churches maintain
that their members are being put under pressure to change their
The present study places the problems of civic religious freedom
and proselytism in the context of church unity and common witness.
Such an approach makes it possible for the churches, in the dialogue
of "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), to deal with
tensions over accusations of proselytism in specific situations
with reciprocal trust. The study has in fact been one of the basic
texts used by the WCC's Unit II for its own 1997 document Towards
Common Witness, a call to adopt responsible relationships in mission
and to renounce proselytism.
The JWG recommends the use of its 1996 study document in ecumenical
formation programs, and in the education of missionaries and of
those engaged in diaconal service. It may also serve as a basis
for conversations with churches and missionary groups who are not
in direct relations with the WCC or with national and local councils
Ecumenical formation (Appendix D)
Carrying out a mandate given to it in 1985, the JWG completed
in 1993 Ecumenical Formation: Ecumenical Reflections and Suggestions
(cf. Appendix D).
The perspectives underlying ecumenical formation center on an understanding
of the church as a koinonia which embodies unity and diversity.
Ecumenical formation is described in the JWG document as an ongoing
process of learning within the various local churches and world
communions aimed at informing and guiding people in the one movement
which, inspired by the Holy Spirit, seeks the visible unity of Christians.
In this process of formation, mutual sharing and mutual critique
take place in the context of the participants' rootedness in Christ
and in their own traditions. The document identifies the importance
of both informal contacts in daily life and formal courses of study
in institutes, focusing on the specific literature of the ecumenical
movement, including its history.
2. The JWG's basic concerns are developed further in the 1993 Ecumenical
Directory (ED). Exploring the nature and content of ecumenical formation
with regard to the whole Christian community, ED emphasizes formation
through preaching, catechesis, liturgy and the spiritual life. The
PCPCU text also offers guidelines for the formation of those engaged
in pastoral work. It emphasizes the ecumenical dimension of theological
disciplines, and outlines a specific course in ecumenism for theological
faculties, for RC universities and for specialized ecumenical institutes.
3. This section of ED was in turn developed in greater detail in
a November 1997 document which the PCPCU addressed to each bishop,
to the synods of the Eastern Catholic churches and to the national
bishops' conferences: The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation
of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work.
4. Together, ED and The Ecumenical Dimension constitute the fullest
explication of ecumenical education and formation by any church
or Christian world communion. The JWG encourages that wherever prudent
and feasible, such RC training be conducted with Christians of other
traditions, since this is one of the most fundamental learning experiences.
The JWG also suggests that the Directory be discussed by religious
educators on the local and national levels.
Ecumenical Institute, Bossey
Since 1946 the WCC's Ecumenical Institute in Bossey outside Geneva,
has provided opportunities of ecumenical formation for thousands
of pastors and lay persons from many parts of the world. Its residential
sessions create an atmosphere in which mutual understanding of and
respect for diverse Christian traditions and a realistic understanding
of the ecumenical movement are fostered by living, learning and
praying together. The formative element when the students pray together
the Lord's prayer or recite together the creed is evident.
The JWG welcomes the recent emphasis on shaping a core curriculum
for Bossey which would include exposure to the some of the major
concerns arising in the on-going bilateral and multilateral dialogues,
among them reflection on the creeds and on baptism, eucharist and
2. WCC-RCC collaboration at Bossey continues. The faculty of the
Ecumenical Institute includes a RC professor, Fr Serapio Kisirinya
(Uganda); and a PCPCU staff person (Msgr John Mutiso-Mbinda) sits
on the Bossey board as an observer. Since 1978, students of Bossey's
annual graduate school of ecumenical studies have enjoyed, as part
of the program, a one-week visit to Rome, prepared by PCPCU in consultation
with the Bossey staff. The students learn more about the RCC through
direct contact with persons in various offices of the Roman Curia,
institutions of higher learning and worldwide religious communities
of women and of men whose headquarters are in Rome. Students typically
show particular interest in hearing about RC approaches to Christian
unity to issues of justice and peace and to questions related to
family life. A private audience with the Pope is a high point of
the week's experience.
Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE)
WCC's program on Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) and its
predecessors have worked with the RCC for many years, both directly
and indirectly. The most recent visible example of this partnership
was the RC participation in the preparatory study process which
shaped the agenda of ETE's August 1996 global consultation on the
viability of ecumenical theological education today (Oslo, Norway).
pre-consultation process involved regional colloquiums which explored
ways of fostering viable ministerial formation and theological education
from ecumenical perspectives. ETE's constituency is not only churches
but also associations of theological schools in various regions.
At every stage RCs in these associations have been visible. The
Oslo consultation brought together church leaders, theological educators,
students, representatives from funding agencies and from ministerial
formation boards. The PCPCU sent a delegation of six persons.