V. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE (1998-2005)
Over the seven-year period of its mandate, the JWG has tried to
meet its given priorities. But its overloaded agenda, the sensitivity
of many of the issues it dealt with, its short annual meetings
and the limited financial resources at its disposal did not allow
the JWG adequately to assess the ecumenical situation and specific
developments at regional, national and local levels, or to cover
the whole pattern of relationships between the RCC and the WCC
and its member churches.
In the face of its limited resources of time and staff, the JWG
had to limit the scope of its agenda and carefully ration the
time spent together.
The JWG strongly recommends that two general priorities should
be continued in the next period.
i) Both the WCC and the RCC are committed to a common, integrated
vision of the one ecumenical movement which tries, in its diversity
of expressions, emphases and activities, to hold together the
interrelated dimensions of the churches' faith and life, mission,
witness and service. But, in the words of the PCPCU response to
the WCC's draft statement on CUV, "the oneness of the movement
is both blessed with authentic diversity and often challenged
and burdened with contradictions, even conflicts, and with competing
criteria of judgments concerning what are ecumenical successes,
stand stills and setbacks."
ii) The JWG should be alert to those tensions which may threaten
the coherence of the movement in its diversity. Addressing the
social, economic and political concerns which profoundly affect
the quality of life for all human communities is an essential
ecumenical task. But attention to these should not come at the
expense of attention to the theological divisions and unresolved
issues of Christian faith which remain stumbling blocks to .achieving
the visible unity which is the goal of the ecumenical movement.
These are stumbling blocks as well for the churches in carrying
out their essential missionary task and in maintaining their dialogue
in community with people of other world faiths and secular ideologies.
In this context, the JWG should continue to focus on those fundamental
issues which are obstacles to achieving full koinonia of the RCC
and the WCC member churches, and on those common concerns which,
when addressed by the WCC and the RCC together, manifest common
witness to the reconciling love of God.
The JWG recommends these specific priorities for the next period
of its mandate:
Issues affecting koinonia
The ecclesial consequences of common baptism. The implications
of recognizing the common baptism of Christians on ecclesial communion
and liturgical practice.
The ecumenical role of interchurch marriages. The ecclesiological
implications of the sacrament of marriage in between Christians
of different churches and their family life.
Local, national and regional councils of churches which have RC
churches as full members. The practical and ecclesiological implications
of membership of councils of churches, and their instrumental
role in the growth of koinonia.
Church and church law. The impact of ecumenical agreements and
dialogues on actual church legislation and on relations between
ecclesiology and canon law/church law/church discipline.
Common concerns facing the WCC and RCC
The stances of Conservative Evangelicals and Charismatic/Pentecostals
towards the ecumenical movement and its present structures. The
establishing of dialogue.
Christian fundamentalists: an ecumenical challenge? The impact
of fundamentalisms on the ecumenical commitment of churches, and
of dialogue with the major issues which Christian fundamentalists
The place of women in the churches. The further recognition and
integration of the gifts of women in church life and society,
and the appropriation of the findings of the Ecumenical Decade
of the Churches in Solidarity with Women on the life, structures
and witness of the churches.
Ecumenical education. The development of appropriate ecumenical
education for church members, students and clergy on the fundamentals
of the Christian life in the search for the manifestation of the
unity of the church within a pluralist society.
Rome, February 10, 1998
Service 97 (1998/I-II) 62-80]