Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > JWG > Sixth Rep. | CONT. > IV

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Prospectives for the Future
   APPENDIX A - select
   APPENDIX B - select


1. Towards a More Effective Role for the JWG

The JWG is dedicated to its mandate. In a happy atmosphere it has fulfilled difficult tasks and tried to meet vital priorities. But its status, its heavy agenda, the sensitive nature of the issues it deals with, short annual meetings and limited financial resources do not allow it to cover the whole pattern of relationships between the RCC and the WCC.

    Further work is needed to strengthen its role. This could be done. Composition, working methods, financial resources and staffing could be improved. Possibilities should be explored of holding some meetings in different countries. This could stimulate local contacts and make the JWG more effective.

    Better communications, through publications, special visits and meetings could help the work of the JWG to be better known within its constituencies.

    Given the limited time and resources available to the JWG, its agenda should be more limited in scope and better use could be made of the time spent together. While continuing to devote part of its agenda to reviewing cooperation between various programs of the WCC and the departments of the RCC, the JWG should in future give greater attention to assessing both the ecumenical situation and important developments in various regions of the world, particularly at local level. In some cases these reviews could be done through written reports. The JWG should concentrate on developing topics of crucial importance for church unity and common Christian witness.

    The signs of the times continue to be a challenge to all churches and a call to renewal and unity. The demands of WCC/RCC relationships call for renewed joint efforts to achieve the goal of visible unity of the Church and the renewal of human community. Credible Christian witness, mutual respect and growth in truth and love must be sustained and further developed.

2. Proposal for Future Work

    After assessing its activities over the past 7 years as well as the development in the ecumenical situation, the JWG proposes the following priorities for the next period:

A) Ecclesiological Dimensions of Ecumenical Work;

B) Ecumenical Education and Formation;

C) Common Witness and Mission.

    The first area provides continuity on the central and on-going concern for the unity of the Church - the goal and the way, and places emphasis on ecclesiological issues, such as: the ecclesiology of communion and the unity we seek.

    The second and the third areas also focus on major ecumenical fields, where joint effort is urgently needed.

    A) There are many indications that both in bilateral and multilateral ecumenical dialogues the understanding of the nature and mission of the Church is becoming a central topic. This is so because ecumenical conversations so far have led to the recognition that many of the remaining difficulties in the theological dialogue have their roots in different ecclesiologies, especially in different concepts of the place and mission of the Church in God's saving and transforming action. Closely connected with this are: 1) the question of authority in the Church, 2) the relations between Church and humanity, 3) the ecclesiological basis of a common Christian witness and service in a broken world crying out for reconciliation and renewal. "The ecclesiology of communion" integrates a number of basic ecclesiological concerns within a coherent vision.

    Through its work on "The Church - Local and Universal" and other topics the JWG has already been involved in the new ecclesiological debate. This debate will continue and the JWG should be an active partner in it. The Group may again choose a specific aspect of ecclesiology for its own contribution.

    The question of "the unity we seek" remains important on the ecumenical agenda. There has been an emerging ecumenical consensus on the conditions and expression of the goal of visible unity, as witness the statements of the WCC Assemblies from New Delhi (1961) up to Nairobi (1975). However, since 1975 developments in bilateral dialogues and Faith and Order studies, new relationships between the RCC and other churches, experiences in church union negotiations, changes in ecumenical perspective have all made necessary a re-statement of "the unity we seek" which should build on the New Delhi and Nairobi statements.

    The 1991 Canberra Assembly is expected to take up this task. It will be a major responsibility of the JWG to evaluate such a re-statement, to assist in its interpretation and application and to monitor and support further steps towards this goal.

    Among matters needing specific attention are:

—the continuing impact and implication of the BEM process;

—the continuing development of the Faith and Order studies on "Towards the Common Expression of the Apostolic Faith Today" and "The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community";

—the ecumenical significance and contribution of councils of churches (cf. chapter III, A.1.D., p. 64 above);

—the possibility of a more comprehensive ecumenical movement and its structures (especially with regard to evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal movements).

—developments of and input from bilateral multilateral dialogues.

    During the next period the JWG should further deepen the study of New Sources of Division: Ethical Issues (cf. III. A. 1. C., pp. 63-64).

    The report and the recommendations of the consultation (1989) on Mixed Marriages (cf. III. A. 1. E., pp. 64-65) should be studied particularly for its ecumenical and ecclesiological implications.

    Major demographic changes, refugees and migrant workers make more urgent problems of Inter-religious marriages. A new study on this question should be undertaken in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the WCC Sub-unit on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths.

    B) Further study on Ecumenical Formation (see III. A. 2., p. 65) should embrace the wide field of Ecumenical Education. Promoting work for unity, transforming the life of Christians so as to bring about deeper conversion of heart and renewal of the Church, should extend to the education of priests, pastors, theologians and laity.

    C) During the 1990s the call for common Christian witness in missionary endeavors "so that the world may believe" (cf. John 17,21) should continue to be a major task for the JWG (cf. above III. A. 3. and 3a., pp. 65-66).

    The JWG should further explore ecumenical approaches to "Dialogue and Proclamation of the Gospel." This could be done in collaboration between the WCC sub-units (CWME, Dialogue) and RC partners.

    The JWG should also go on moving Towards Common Perspectives on Social Thought and Action. During the past period there have been difficulties in tackling some social issues, such as apartheid, JPIC, and with some of the instruments used, e.g. SODEPAX and the JCG. The JWG has called a special meeting to examine these problems, to discern successes and failures and to make recommendations for the future. Its report will be given to the Executive Committee for the JWG for consideration in the next steps of collaboration.

    The JWG recognized that throughout the world, ecumenical cooperation at local, national and regional     levels between WCC member churches and the RCC often flourishes, with fruitful results in common witness and mission. The JWG recommends that in the future more account be taken of such ecumenical collaboration and its significance evaluated.

    D) Further, the JWG recognized that new issues are arising in the world which may call for ecumenical collaboration. These include the considerable spiritual and ideological challenges for the whole world coming from the events in Central and Eastern Europe and in other regions. The response of churches to these theological, economic, political and social issues could be strengthened through ecumenical cooperation. The role of the churches and their life together in such changing societies, and the kinds of solidarity and fellowship they may need from churches elsewhere, could be part of the JWG's future concern. Likewise, the global ecological crisis, newly recognized as an urgent matter of survival, may well call for joint responses.

Future decisions about official WCC/RCC cooperation in any of these areas should be carefully considered in the Tight of the recommendations to come from the meetings on these subjects.

    E) Besides these aims, the JWG could continue to monitor collaboration on matters which may arise from major ecumenical events. The need to give attention to the results of the JPIC World Convocation has already been mentioned. The 7th Assembly of the WCC at Canberra in February 1991 will certainly provide new ecumenical impetus. The theme of the Assembly "Come Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation," can open up fresh dimensions in theological exploration, spiritual understanding, and hope for God's presence and action in the world.

    Likewise, Roman Catholic events, such as the General Synod of Bishops in 1990, and the Special Synod of African Bishops, the centenary of the first social Encyclical Rerum Novarum, 1991, can open new paths to explore in this relationship. The JWG encourages openness to the Spirit as we consider the ecumenical implications of these events. They could provide room for increased collaboration between the WCC and RCC.

    F) Churches and Christians towards the year 2000

    As we approach the end of a millennium, the attention of churches and peoples throughout the world will be focused upon hope for the future. This historical turning point will provide a natural occasion for all Christians to reflect on the state of their ecumenical relationships, recommit themselves to unity, and strengthen their common witness for the sake of the world's salvation. The next JWG to serve after the Canberra Assembly could take the responsibility of coordinating the responses to the Assembly made by the WCC member churches, the RCC and, if possible, other non-member churches. It may be hoped that the churches might offer together to the world a Christian vision of unity and renewal, of social, economic, and spiritual life which can contribute to the work for a stable and just world as we enter a new millennium. This goal might be considered by the newly established JWG.

The JWG renews its hope that it will continue to serve as an instrument of unity and ecumenical collaboration between the two partners. It will try to open hearts and minds to the gifts of the Holy Spirit who leads all Christians to unity (cf. Gal 5:22-23).

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