Towards a More Effective Role for the JWG
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.
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
communications, through publications, special visits and meetings
could help the work of the JWG to be better known within its constituencies.
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.
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
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.
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.
second and the third areas also focus on major ecumenical fields,
where joint effort is urgently needed.
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
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.
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.
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.
matters needing specific attention are:
continuing impact and implication of the BEM process;
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";
ecumenical significance and contribution of councils of churches
(cf. chapter III, A.1.D., p. 64 above);
possibility of a more comprehensive ecumenical movement and its
structures (especially with regard to evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal
of and input from bilateral multilateral dialogues.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Churches and Christians towards the year 2000
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.
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).