World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Costly Unity

This text is the fruit of the joint study programme on Ecclesiology and Ethics conducted by Faith and Order and the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation team. The results of meetings in Rønde, Denmark; Jerusalem, Israel; and Johannesburg, South Africa, they explore how the churches are called to be a community of ethical reflection - and engagement - in today's world.

01 January 1997

Introduction

1. The ecumenical movement suffers damage so long as it is unable to bring the justice, peace and the integrity of creation process (JPIC) and the unity discussion into fruitful interaction. The unity movement has, from its very beginnings, wrestled with issues of ecumenical social witness and action. All understandings of the church have affirmed its nature and vocation as a "moral" community. More recently, the conciliar process of mutual commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation has brought fresh life and energy to the ecumenical scene. Many claim that JPIC has undeniable ecclesial dimensions and that this conciliar process has been among their most profound experiences of "church".

2. Nonetheless, the cleft between ecumenical forces committed to visible church unity and those focussed on witness, service and moral struggle goes deep and exposes a history of differences which runs the length of the modern ecumenical movement. We may well be convinced that unity and moral conviction are two sides of the same coin but we have not yet given that sufficient and satisfactory expression, and further incantations about the search for unity and the search for justice as inseparable do not really help. The compelling task, then, is serious dialogue about long-lived tensions and divisions. This is the reason we have gathered in Rønde, Denmark, 24-28 February 1993.

3. More common ground exists than many have noted. The essential interconnectedness of the search for the visible unity of the church and the quest for justice, peace and caring for creation has been recently and vigorously underscored. The study document of Faith and Order, Church and World: The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community (Faith and Order paper No. 151, Geneva, WCC, 1990), has developed those aspects of the Faith and Order tradition which lend themselves precisely to that interaction. More recently, the proposed revision of the working document for the Santiago Faith and Order world conference summarized this stance.

The church as koinonia is called to share not only in the suffering of its own community but in the suffering of all; by advocacy and care for the poor, needy and marginalized; by joining in all efforts for justice and peace within human societies; by exercising and promoting responsible stewardship of creation and keeping alive hope in the heart of humanity. In so doing it shows its vocation to invite all people to respond in faith to God's love. Diakonia to the whole world and koinonia cannot be separated.1

The same Faith and Order paper continues:

We have learned in the process of this work [Faith and Order, Life and Work, and the International Missionary Council] that all realizations of visible unity between churches entail the renewal of broken relationships between members of the church as well as work for renewal, justice and peace in the world (para. 2, p.25).

The eucharistic vision of the church in Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry includes the following:

The eucharist embraces all aspects of life. It is a representative act of thanksgiving and offering on behalf of the whole world. The eucharistic celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationship in social, economic and political life (Matt. 5:23f.; 1 Cor. 10:16f.; 1 Cor. 11:20-22; Gal. 3:28). All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and blood of Christ (para. 20).

Likewise, and from the other direction, the justice, peace, and the integrity of creation process gave explicit theological-ethical articulation to its central affirmations:

Now is the time when the ecumenical movement needs a greater sense of binding, mutual commitment and solidarity in word and action. It is the promise of God's covenant for our time and our world to which we respond. Thus we affirm: -- that all exercise of power is accountable to God; -- God's option for the poor; -- the equal value of all races and peoples; -- that male and female are created in the image of God; -- that truth is at the foundation of a community of free people; -- the peace of Jesus Christ; -- the creation as beloved of God; -- that the earth is the Lord's; -- the dignity and commitment of the younger generation; -- that human rights are given by God. 2

(cf. Now is The Time, JPIC Final Document,Geneva, WCC, 1990, pp. 12-20.)

4. All this is substantial common ground and a rich beginning. But it does not of itself address the divergent viewpoints which have long existed in the ecumenical movement. To carry the conversation forward we offer the discussion of these pages, using the Canberra statement (1991) as our springboard. In "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", church unity itself is identified as:

a koinonia given and expressed in the common confession of the apostolic faith; a common sacramental life... and a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation (para 2.1).

I. JPIC and the church as moral community

5. The being (esse) of the church is at stake in the justice, peace and integrity of creation process. It is not sufficient to affirm that the moral thrust of JPIC is only related to the nature and function of the church. More than this is at issue. It can be described from two directions at once, the experience of JPIC as a conciliar process and the experience of the church's nature itself. Koinonia is an apt term for both. It is, for example, an empirically verifiable observation that commitment to and working for particular moral causes creates community among people. The experience of JPIC again and again has been that people have been gathered into a fellowship which can be described as koinonia. Involvement in these struggles of human community generates this koinonia and often enlightens doctrine. An "ecclesio-genetic" power is at work here, frequently moving participants to rich liturgical expression and raising deep religious questions for them, questions of faith and commitment. The power of the Holy Spirit is present here ù this is the testimony.

6. At the same time, faith has always claimed the being of the church as itself a "moral" reality. Faith and discipleship are embodied in and as a community way of life. The memory of Jesus Christ (anamnesis), formative of the church itself, is a force shaping of moral existence. The Trinity is experienced as an image for human community and the basis for social doctrine and ecclesial reality. Such explication could continue, but need not, since it all comes to the same point: the church not only has, but is, a social ethic, a koinonia ethic.

7. Yet a number of complex qualifications must be made in treating the JPIC process and the church as, at heart, moral realities.

7.1. To participate in a particular moral cause does not necessarily signify entry into or belonging in the church. To claim that all approved moral action by non-members somehow makes them church members ("latent" or "anonymous" Christians) is a form of ecclesiastical imperialism. We affirm, however, the experience of fellowship and shared witness which extends beyond the boundaries of the church.

7.2. The church, it must be said, is not constituted by or dependent for its ongoing existence upon the moral activities of its members. Its origins and ongoing life rest in the lavish grace and patience of God. However, moral lapses on the part of the members of the church may and often do threaten the credible witness of the church. At this time the church is called to the kind of resistance to the threats to life which JPIC sought to help accomplish. In any case, it is not too much to say that the holiness of the church means the constant moral struggle of its members.

7.3. Given the ambiguity and complexity of so many concrete moral challenges, it is not to be expected that all the members of a particular church, or all church organizations in a particular region, will arrive at the same moral decision in each particular situation. Christian freedom encompasses sincere and serious differences of moral judgment.

7.4. This observation is not an opening of the door to wholesale moral relativism, however. There are boundaries, and it will always be the case that certain decisions and actions are in contradiction to the nature and purpose of the church and the central teaching of the gospel. Instructive past instances of this are those German Christians who uncritically pledged allegiance to the Nazi state, and those South African churches which supported apartheid. In both cases those concerned excluded themselves from the church of Jesus Christ. They were guilty of what Visser ‘t Hooft described as "moral heresy". Here the being of the church is at stake. It should be added that heavy caution is in order when the stakes of moral judgment are this high, since the boundary is one which draws the line between true and false church. What is both safe to say and important is that serious moral struggle over life issues is always required of the church by its very nature.

7.5. Not all moral concerns carry equal weight, of course. We believe that the church is now called to respond above all, as JPIC did, to threats to life as a moral imperative. Given its role as God's co-worker in the created order and as the proclaimer of the gospel of salvation, the church is bound by its nature and purpose to act decisively when life itself is threatened by whatever forces ù economic, political, military and through damage to the environment. Issues of survival are the most compelling for the church.

7.6. Moral issues and struggle often represent the line between "cheap" unity and "costly" unity. Cheap unity avoids morally contested issues because they would disturb the unity of the church. Costly unity is discovering the churches' unity as a gift of pursuing justice and peace. It is often acquired at a price. Consider the struggle for independence in Namibia or the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa. Forces tried to play off Roman Catholics against Lutherans, Anglicans against Methodists, and indigenous African churches against historic denominations. Genuine unity was discovered in joint struggle, often breaking new ecumenical ground (witness the Kairos document and its ferment). In other cases costly unity is precisely to transcend loyalty to blood and soil, nation and ethnic or class heritage in the name of the God who is one and whose creation is one. It is the unity of the church accomplished on the way of the cross, paid for by the life of Christ and the lives of the martyrs, whose witness inevitably included moral witness. This is unity which, by God's grace, breaks down dividing walls so that we might be reconciled to God and one another. JPIC as a process has often borne testimony to this costly unity. Its enemy is cheap unity ù forgiveness without repentance, baptism without discipleship, life without daily dying and rising in a household of faith (the oikos) that is to be the visible sign of God's desire for the whole inhabited earth (the oikoumene).

8. These comments about moral struggle and unity made, we go on to say that the threats to life today only intensify gratitude to God for the gift of life itself. All creation bears the stamp of holy things. The church, in its whole bearing, should, as a moral community, help foster a "sacramental" orientation towards life, just as the church understands itself, its being, its mission and witness on a sacramental and eucharistic basis. There is no better place to begin than with the moral meaning of the sacraments themselves. Baptism, for example, is at the heart of the church insofar as the baptized become the effective witness ù martyr ù to gospel values in the world. Questions of faith and moral and social questions are inseparable from the act of Christian witness that baptism mandates. Eucharist as a sacrament of communion, to cite a second example, is real food for a scattered people in their moral struggle, to heal the brokenness of human being and community. The church sees both its inner unity and solidarity with others as expressions of sharing the bread of life. The sacraments as person-shaping rites can lead us into sacramental living.

9. From its side the efforts for justice, peace and creation have so very often pointed to the essential place of worship and spirituality in our life together. Community is nurtured, hope is sustained, forgiveness is offered, bread for the journey is shared, new energy is discovered. We find a bridge between ecclesiology and ethics in our experience of worship and the deepening of spirituality.

10. The eschatological dimension of both the unity of the church and of JPIC must be affirmed. While the requirements of each will finally be met in God's time and in God's way, that does not invite passivity on our part. On the contrary, our active participation in the concerns for the unity of the church and for justice, peace and the integrity of creation align us with God's final work of fulfilment, just as that final fulfilment prods us to battle the threats to life and claim life itself as the treasure entrusted to us.

II. Koinonia and its implications

11. Koinonia is the term proposed as a description for that unity sought by Faith and Order and the conciliar process of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. It entered ecumenical usage in the bilateral dialogues, where its Greek form proved useful in some contexts as a broadening of the Latin communio. Koinonia is used in some bilaterals to describe the goal of "communion" without organic union following the removal of possible doctrinal obstacles.

12. The implications of koinonia unfold in the discussion of several dimensions: the notion of Christian ethics itself, the concepts of covenant, conciliar fellowship, unity and diversity, the local and the global, and relationships with unofficial movements inside and beyond the church as such.

Koinonia and ethics

13. When in the New Testament koinonia refers to the interaction or sharing of believers within the local Christian community, it must be understood as referring to a concrete community of obedience. There can be no doubt that "following Christ" meant very practical things for the early Christians, matters that often brought them into tension and conflict with the surrounding world. Likewise, the intimate connection we find in the New Testament between baptism and newness of life (Eph. 2:1-10) reminds us that choosing to belong to the community implied conscious moral choices.

14. In the course of history, this original and strong relation between faith and moral life was changed and in some cases also weakened. As the church grew and became more institutionalized, and as it became a factor to be reckoned with in the public accession of imperial power in the western world, Christian obedience tended to become formalized; on the one hand along lines of penitence and on the other hand along the lines of compliance with "public orders". Even in churches where a basic connection between liturgy and life was maintained, the sense of radical obedience found in the New Testament ù and in later history exemplified by martyrs and saints ù diminished.

15. The need to develop "ethics" as a particular discipline arose in modern times as people were faced with the growing complexity of social life. Ethics became the effort to deal with the moral dimensions of this complexity on the basis of autonomous reason, individual judgment and communication by argument. Christians became aware of the growing cleavage between the substance of their tradition and the "foreign" world, and thus were challenged to match this development of ethics by finding ways of relating gospel and world, faith and life, more explicitly.

16. Christian ethics thus developed in different ways: both in alliance with secular approaches (Christian socialism, Christian liberalism) and in opposition to these, when there was a sharp awareness of the basic difference between allegiance to Jesus Christ and allegiance to some modern ideology. In most cases, however, the emphasis on the individual was taken for granted. As theologians spoke about the life of "the Christian", personal and social-political responsibilities were distinguished.

17. It was an important development when the ecumenical movement, particularly the ecumenical council on Life and Work, began to institutionalize social ethical reflection as reflection of churches with a responsibility to each other and to the world. This effort, which was fuelled by events like the church struggle in Germany in the 1930s and later by analyses of neo-colonialism, dependence and structures of poverty and injustice, helped many Christians to overcome earlier habits of believing in which a certain distance between faith (as the "real" life of the community) and moral life was maintained, or in which the only connection was found in the observance of a certain personal lifestyle.

18. Recently, on the basis of these developments, Christians have sought to recover the fundamental relation between ethics and koinonia, between moral life and community, and to seek inspiration on the New Testament witness on this point. One of the valuable insights developed in this context is that the community of disciples rather than the individual Christian is the bearer of the tradition and the form and matrix of the moral life. Christian ethics, in this perspective, becomes the reflection on the life of the community in the context and the perspective on the problems of human life in general.

19. Koinonia in relation to ethics does not mean in the first instance that the Christian community designs codes and rules; rather that it is a place where, along with the confession of faith and the celebration of the sacraments, and as an inseparable part of it, the gospel tradition is probed permanently for moral inspiration and insight, and where incessant moral counsel keeps the issues of humanity and world alive in the light of the gospel. As such the community is also essentially a place of comfort and support. For some this might mean a consistent emphasis on non-violence; for others a permanent response to the guilt-and-forgiveness dimension of all human life; for still others an effort to recover a sense of calling and covenant in the experience of individual and social life. In all cases, koinonia implies an offer to all human beings involved in moral struggles and in need of frameworks and perspectives. When the moral life of the Christian community is spoken of as witness, this is an essential aspect of it.

Koinonia and other biblical images for the church

20. The proposed revision of the Santiago working document already contains an extended discussion of koinonia. But supplementary comments are needed.

21. Are the different communions ready to see that communion between them ù koinonia ù whether in matters of faith or of ethical responsibility, calls for steps toward structures of mutual accountability? The fifth world conference on Faith and Order will ask if the churches can take further steps towards "conciliar communion". At the very least, this phrase means being responsible to one another in witnessing to faith in Jesus Christ, and to the implications of this faith for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. How long will the communions refuse to be challenged by what unity really requires?

22. We must keep in mind that koinonia is only one of several images for the church in the New Testament. It stands alongside expressions such as "people of God", "body of Christ", and the "temple of the Holy Spirit". Indeed the term "church" (ekklesia) itself is an image. Each image for the community formed by the gospel carries with it a particular emphasis and context of meaning. Koinonia's primary reference appears to be to the interaction or sharing of believers within the local Christian community. The use of this term to refer to wider relationships is an extension which needs to be carefully considered.

23. What is the potential of koinonia for this purpose? It is important to see that the term means more than merely sharing as such. It means participation in something held or known in common (Acts 2). There is, for instance, koinonia in God, in the Holy Spirit, in Christ, in the faith, in the body of Christ, in the blood of Christ. This alone suggests wider usage. Paul uses koinonia to describe relations between churches in different cities. The collection he takes up for the church in Jerusalem is itself called a koinonia. The New Testament usage here and elsewhere marks an extension of the term from what is familiar and homelike to use for building bridges to other, different, communities in faith. This is a bold theological move, especially when Paul extends the calling of Israel to include the Gentiles. The koinonia of which he speaks refers, then, beyond ethnicity and family to a community which exists on the basis of the gospel. Just so, our understanding of koinonia can expand outward to mean a communion in which we share, in Jesus Christ, a common vision for a newly just, peaceful and responsible world, despite imperfect communions and still-fractured relationships.

24. When koinonia is understood in this still larger sense, as it is in the JPIC process, we begin to be grasped by the imperatives of unity and catholicity in a new way. With this sense of koinonia, there emerges the possibility of a new ecumenical beginning in which the JPIC and Faith and Order movements can share.

The Concept of covenant

25. Part of the content of koinonia is concretized by covenant. We are acutely aware of misunderstandings of this term which arose at Seoul. The problem lay in the assumption of some that covenant might only mean a compact or common undertaking among human beings. We intend the word here, however, in its full biblical meaning as a relationship initiated by God: a promise to which God is faithful despite all his peoples' failures and transgressions. Thus a covenant between human beings carries the biblical sense only if it is made before God with the intention of obedience to God's covenantal requirements. To enter into this covenant means we accept the conditions under which God sets us in the midst of creation.

26. Some ecumenical documents have turned the noun "covenant" into a verb, "covenanting". This can leave the impression that, since the grammatical subject of the verb is usually ourselves or other human beings, God's authorship of the covenant is being forgotten. For this reason, some may wish to avoid the verbal form altogether. Where it is used, it must be made clear that the covenant involved is still God's, that the covenanting taking place is before God, and that a mutual acceptance of God's conditions and God's commands as best we understand them is indicated.

27. Covenant is an exceedingly rich biblical notion. It is clear, for example, from God's covenant with Noah, that God cares for all of God's creatures, and indeed that the covenant has to do not only with all living things but with creation itself. In Jeremiah, the punishment of God's people for transgression of the covenant is pictured as creation returning to chaos (Jer. 4:23,26-27). Likewise, the restoration of the community of faith is accompanied by the restoration of the natural environment. Furthermore, the use of the term "covenant" in the New Testament does not annul, but rather fulfils, though not in a supercessionist way, the covenant with Israel. In this context the implications of the covenant for seeking and doing justice become clear.

28. Numerous New Testament references, particularly in Ephesians and Colossians, fill out these meanings, connecting covenant once again to the renewal of creation. The "new covenant in my blood" of the eucharist further binds God's calling of the community of faith to the transformation of the created order. The deepest purpose of the covenant has been made manifest through the incarnation, cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

29. A crucial issue raised by the JPIC movement is precisely the question of ecclesiology in relation to creation, redemption and eschatology. The covenant notion offers helpful perspectives, as already noted. Yet we must not allow "covenant" to carry the full weight of what we have to say about gospel, history and creation. There are other grounds for developing this relationship and its implications.

30. However these inquiries may go, it is important to insist that any contemporary reaffirmation of God's covenant with us as God's people have specific content in the same way that ancient Israel's obedience had the content of Torah as interpreted by the teaching of the prophets. In short, the covenant needs to be spelled out in some sort of social creed. We offer as an example of such content the "Criteria for Economic Policy" contained in Part IV of Christian Faith and the World Economy Today, produced by Unit III of the World Council of Churches. 3

Conciliar fellowship

31. Our intention is not to use the theme of koinonia as the sole model for the unity we seek. In particular, this term must not be interpreted as meaning acceptance of our present denominational structures so long as they are "in communion". That would make koinonia only a synonym for "reconciled diversity". We need to look at what the JPIC movement does with the notion of conciliarity. Perhaps it provides a way of returning to this notion (as, for example in the term "conciliar fellowship" adopted at the Nairobi assembly) and giving it a fuller meaning.

32. We note with interest the phraseology of the proposed revision of the working document for Santiago: "... further work of Faith and Order should focus on right structures serving a conciliar communion (cf. Canberra statement, para. 2:1) of churches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and an authentic exercise of authority" (p. 19, para. 17). In the context of JPIC we can see where such "conciliar communion" could be of assistance. In the questions both of diversity/unity and locality/universality, conciliar communion could serve as an indispensable frame of reference. Such conciliar communion could be a framework within which divergent views might vigorously engage each other within koinonia. As issues of justice enter the unity debate, we need to ask what models of conciliar communion best promote the church's witness.

33. As noted earlier, ecumenical accountability among the churches is weak. There need to be structures of accountability even before conciliar communion is achieved. May conciliarity in some form be possible even before full communion is established? The JPIC movement has pressed for this in order that we may give a united witness to justice, peace and the integrity of creation. We urge the churches to get into a habit of conciliar accountability, even as we are on the way to a fuller relationship. Of course all efforts to develop such conciliar practice must be fully transparent and above board, or they will not earn the churches' cooperation and respect.

34. As it considers conciliar communion, Faith and Order should look into the very practical matter of ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Complex administrative structures have been added to the life of the churches in this century without giving them ecclesiological meaning. There is danger that these structures will become bureaucratic, in the pejorative sense, precisely because they are not ecclesiologically accountable. In what sense, if at all, is the reality of bureaucracy taken into account in ecclesiology? What is the relation between bureaucracy and the accountability needs of conciliar relationships? Nearly every church today maintains some sort of office to deal with relationships to other churches and to ecumenical bodies. The World Council of Churches itself has moved in a bureaucratic direction. Can koinonia be expressed bureaucratically? Can bureaucracy be the vehicle of the Holy Spirit?

The local and the global

35. We face a complex set of issues regarding local insights and initiatives on the one hand and global issues on the other. In the contemporary world every local issue has its global implications, and every global issue asks for local response. Yet there are often blockages at both ends. Not all JPIC issues have achieved adequate local translations. And local groups of Christians often fail to catch the global reality in which they live.

36. Yet it is too simple to think only of two levels. The "local" means different things in different circumstances. It may mean a neighbourhood, or a nation, or a region of the world. And sometimes an issue may be global in its importance, yet not susceptible of any single explanation or formula so varied are its ramifications in different places. Sometimes a global issue is such that it comes to expression most clearly in some particular locality, whose Christian people then have special responsibility for defining its significance for the rest of the oikoumene. Sometimes an essentially local issue can only be clearly seen when its global aspects are grasped. We need new forms of expression for both the local and the global, depending on the issue and the setting in which it can most trenchantly be formulated.

37. In this connection it is important to recall the theme of catholicity as an attribute of the church, together with the developments of this theme at the New Delhi and Nairobi assemblies. At New Delhi we lifted up the local dimension without forgetting the universal, speaking of "all in each place" bound together in "a fully committed fellowship". At Nairobi we lifted up the universal dimension without forgetting the local, speaking of "conciliar fellowship". Together these themes help us envision a universal koinonia of mutual commitment embracing local oikoumenes across the globe. The JPIC process has been a formidable instrument for this.

Diversity and unity

38. Diversity has long been an important ecclesial fact and theme. But we sense that the situation has changed. What used to be diversity has now in many places become fragmentation and brokenness. In many places each congregation is virtually unique in its interpretation of the faith. Localism in the church goes beyond "congregationalism" as a polity. The latter is principled and has an understanding of the church universal. What we see today amounts to a resurgence of tribalism, hardly a synonym for the diversity we have claimed and cherished.

39. Differing expressions of the apostolic faith corresponding to different cultural situations have long been known and understood. Already in the early church, the apostolic faith existed in many cultures and languages, with widely differing customs, including liturgical texts and forms. As the New Testament shows, diversity of this sort can indeed lead to conflict. Koinonia in conciliar structures allowed that controversy to be dealt with in love and responsibility. So it may be today. No one doubts that many different customs, liturgies and theological formulas represent legitimate forms of Christian faith and practice, or that controversy is to be expected and made creative within the fellowship.

40. There is an important difference, however, today. Diversity used to be considered acceptable and containable because there was a universal framework of theological understanding acknowledged by the whole church. Now the universal framework of Christianity itself is under radical attack. In the absence of clarity about what is to be believed "at all times, everywhere, and by all" (Vincent of Lérins) local variety looks quite different and raises questions which cause great difficulty.

41. How can such diverse expressions of the faith be kept in communication with one another? How can one speak of accountability in such situations? These are problems for which at the moment we have no adequate answers. We suspect that one reason for our dilemma is lack of confidence about the nature of our faith at the centre. The many local versions of faith have no clear affirmation of faith at the centre to which to respond.

Relationships with movements and groups

42. There are questions here at two levels. The first involves ecclesial relations with Christian movements which may not feel the sense of accountability that should be present in the established organs of the church. The JPIC perspective makes clear that much of the energy in seeking justice and peace is to be found in groups of this kind. They bear an important witness to official church bodies.

43. In many cases relationships to such movements raise the question of the "laity" in a new form. It is clear that lay groups can do much to move the JPIC and Faith and Order agendas forward, and that in doing so they will often form their own policies and take their own initiatives. The problem is one of authority and representation. If much of the energy on social issues in a church is in the hands of the people, how does the church take account of that fact in its official relationships? We need to see the church as a movement of the people of God, not merely as a structure. We need to say more about the whole people of God. We recommend another look at the first paragraphs of the ministry text of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. This is a classic statement about the whole people that needs to be remembered. The Santiago document does not say enough about the "people of God" in this larger sense.

44. But there is also the issue of cooperation with people of good will outside the Christian faith whose goals and methods seem similar to ours, and whose knowledge and commitment often exceed what we can muster. These are other "koinonias" having their own structures, relationships and priorities.

45. We must not underestimate the theological importance of these relationships with people of other faiths or no faith. Many of us who despair about the church's commitment to JPIC issues find better koinonia in collaborating with people outside. This is no mere theoretical problem. It is an existential problem for growing numbers of Christians today who sense that on some issues ù environmental degradation for example ù there may not be time to wait for the churches in their official structures to respond.

46. How are we to look at such relationships? It is still our own faith, our vision of the gospel, that guides us as we reach out to others. We may try to see the church as a sounding board, or as a medium of expression, for movements rooted outside it. For many people the church can call attention to what is going on in the world. At the same time, it is possible in the light of Jesus Christ to look at forms of caring koinonia outside the church as movements of the Holy Spirit gathering people to serve God in ways they may not fully understand. In humility, the church may seek to point to what the Spirit is doing outside its visible boundaries, as well as within, thus witnessing to the wider work of God in the world of creation.

III. Different analyses and responses

47. There are many overall assessments of the direction history is going. Each sketches the story being enacted in our world in a different way and each affects the churches' response. For some, the predominant trend is the triumph of democratic capitalism. Trends in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, despite setbacks, are interpreted to mean that one side "won the cold war", with incalculable benefits to humankind. For others, the salient trend is toward one form or another of communitarianism. The "civil society" of peoples' participation, mutual responsibility and initiative over against the state is seen in motion everywhere and as the promise of the future. Still others feel that, however important such trends may be, they are overwhelmed by evidence of the degradation of the human condition. Starvation, pollution, ethnic cleansing, political oppression, the AIDS epidemic: these tell the true story, and our only course is to resist and do what we can; most ominous of all, the life support systems of the planet are being slowly shut down and the great struggle for survival begins. Yet another school claims that global technologization and its economic accompaniments have rendered irrelevant all great ideas and struggles. There will be no more crusades and no more drama: we will simply be managed by instruments of our own creation. History as turbulent and creative human drama is at an end. Finally, there are those who see nothing new at all. Passing events are simply rearrangements of perennial plagues and sins: scarcity, human pride, the lust for power, wealth and glory.

48. Our response is forged from what we see around us and the clues we choose to interpret the whole. They shape the church itself and interact with its basic stances toward the world. Thus we must also take into account the diversity of responses within Christianity. There are at least five: (1) the state of the world means that this is the end of history, that the Second Coming is rapidly approaching, and therefore the primary task is to convert and baptize; (2) the world has always been this way, the poor will be always with us, there will be wars and rumours of wars ù the best response of the churches is contemplative withdrawal and prayer for the world; (3) the church must offer an example of an alternative society that models itself on the values of the Kingdom of God; (4) in light of the situation in the world, the church needs to take a leading role, even giving direction to initiatives for justice and peace; and (5) the church has to enter into the struggles of the people, not leading the process but sharing in it.

49. In different measures, all these approaches are present in our churches. The problem is not with the diversity, but with our use of various approaches for competitive or defensive purposes and with the paralysis this creates both in our response to injustice and broken community, and for genuine dialogue with one another.

50. Within the ecumenical movement, and the WCC specifically, different analyses have been set forth to undergird the Christian concern for social justice, and to indicate a common vision of society which the churches could share and promote. These specific perspectives remained open for further debate and evolved in the course of the years. In the 1950s, the "responsible society" predominated. In the 1960s, with the rise of the challenge of the third world, the model of development and rapid social change became the emphasis. The 1966 Church and Society world conference examined different social-ethical views of changes, including revolutionary action for justice. In the late 1970s the Just, Participatory and Sustainable Society (JPSS) became prominent, attempting to bring together various approaches (with the theme of "sustainability" making a contribution to emerging global awareness). And in the 1980s Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation took centre stage.

51. Often the tendency has been to canonize one position and to reject the others, therefore denying the diversity of analyses or of contexts within which churches have their faith, life and witness. Almost every view is at least partially true. None can claim the whole truth.

52. Nonetheless, even amidst this plurality of perspectives, we do not approach the changing world situation as a tabula rasa. In Seoul, we adopted ten affirmations and basic criteria for discernment of the path our moral life should take and sensed a moral centre around which we can all gather. In our ongoing work on ecclesiology and ethics no debate is closed. We are provided a place for serious engagement, making clear that no analysis or action is imposed and no participant is regarded with contempt.

 

Conclusion

53. The ecumenical movement suffers damage so long as it is unable to bring the justice, peace and the integrity of creation process and the unity discussion into fruitful interaction. We have sought in this document to show that such interaction is both possible and promising. The appendices indicate how this process can now be carried forward in specific ways.

Appendix I

Suggestions to Faith and Order for Santiago de Compostela

1. We recognize with gratitude that the Faith and Order commission in its preparation for the Santiago world conference and the process of study after the conference has set out a promising road of reflection in which the concerns alive in the JPIC process are taken seriously. We hope that this paves the way for future cooperation within the WCC that will enhance the effectiveness of the Council in its communication with member churches and others, and thus strengthen the witness of the church in the world.

2. We strongly recommend sharing the report of our consultation with the delegates to the Santiago world conference. We feel that this report strengthens and supplements insights found in the proposed revision of the Santiago working document, "Toward Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness", and that it can help delegates see how specific Faith and Order concerns might be placed in a wider framework of common ecumenical challenges.

3. We have noticed that the proposed revision of the Santiago working document "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness" is a vast improvement compared with the original version. That is particularly the case for the addition of the section on humanity and creation (I.2) and for many elaborations in the text which emphasize the moral dimension of the Christian life. There remain, however, points at which we have hesitancies or would suggest different wording:

3.1. As to page 1, paragraph 1, we would generally welcome more serious attention to the divergence that can be observed among the various ways of interpreting the world situation, and especially to the way that divergence affects the unity of the ecumenical response. It is a source of concern for us that we are no longer on solid common ground in this respect, and that the chaotic world situation tends to strengthen disagreement and division, and consequently uncertainty and anxiety in the relations among the churches.

3.2. We feel that the Canberra statement on unity does not yet deserve the status of "classic ecumenical text", but that it needs further work. We suggest that the Santiago conference devote a part of its energies to just this work.

3.3. We would appreciate more serious attention to the fact that the implementation of the call to unity requires different methods and emphases in different parts of the world. Interchurch dialogue may not be the only or most appropriate instrument everywhere. The issue of non-theological factors takes on particular relevance here.

3.4. We note that the document contains no reference to the dialogue with Judaism. We are convinced, however, that any document that deals with "covenant" should include a consideration of the bond with the Jewish people.

3.5. We wonder whether the term "ethical living" (IV.2) is an improvement over "discipleship".

Appendix II

Suggestions to the World Council of Churches

1. We are grateful to the WCC for calling this consultation as a joint effort between Unit I and Unit III. We feel that it was timely and necessary. We have made a beginning with a discussion of the fundamental issues involved, but also feel very strongly that it was only a beginning. The process leading eventually to specific forms of integrating previously separated emphases in WCC work needs to be continued, and certain steps have to be taken in order to ensure that it does not come to a standstill. We regard the Faith and Order world conference in Santiago in August 1993, the Unit III Commission meeting in October 1993, and the meeting of the central committee in 1994 in Johannesburg as landmarks that should play a specific role in this regard. We recommend that before too long another consultation be organized to move the discussion further. Above all we would urge a new official impetus to the JPIC programme as a central WCC focus. It would greatly help local churches and groups to receive an unambiguous signal from the WCC on this point. The development of the ten affirmations of Seoul as a kind of ecumenical catechism might be a suitable instrument here.

2. We realize that several issues remain to be considered in the general area of ecclesiology and ethics before anything like a common framework can become visible and convincing. The WCC should continue to consider the ways different traditions express in their ecclesiologies binding and shaping approaches to ethical questions (the liturgy after the liturgy, status confessionis, building the kingdom of God, etc.). This process should, however, be directly linked to local experiences of the interconnectedness of faith and action and move between an investigation of the moral substance of traditions and the moral experience of the people of God today. Out of this dialogical process the meaning of such key terms as "conciliar process", "covenanting", and "koinonia" can be explored as further linkage of JPIC and the visible unity of the church. Units I and III together have chief responsibility for this. Significant beginnings have already been made, we add, in the overlooked document of the WCC executive committee, Kinshasa 1986, "Initial Hypotheses on the Ecclesiological Dimensions of the Ecumenical Process of Covenanting on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation", and in the Faith and Order study document Church and World: The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community (Faith and Order Paper no. 151, Geneva, WCC, 1990).

3. In our consultation we have again realized the importance of "ecumenical memory". Beside the presence of people who could bring alive for us the concerns of local contexts, we were greatly helped by the presence of those who had been involved in WCC work, be it in Faith and Order or in Church and Society and JPIC. They saw to it that we would not repeat earlier discussions but could take due note of previous points of debate and consensus. Against this background we want to express our wish that the WCC make an explicit effort to protect and develop such ecumenical memory by consciously creating and sustaining a "community of elders" in the ecumenical movement. Our concern is that sometimes people are invited to participate in the work of the WCC who have no previous experience except perhaps the attendance of one assembly. Therefore, the need for adequate ecumenical formation should be honoured. Nurturing new voices remains critical for the ecumenical future.

4. In relation to the previous point we want to express some serious concern about the use of the "quota system". Obviously, one of the tasks of the WCC is to organize the ecumenical debate in ways which enable full participation and exchange between a range of views. Only in this way can the discussion move forward to new common insights and commitments. The basic purpose of the quota system is to ensure precisely such participation. It is our experience, however, that through legalistic application the system has become self-defeating and that it now narrows rather than ensures constructive exchange. In some cases the expertise required for the debate has been eliminated. We suggest, therefore, that the principle of the quota system be used with more freedom, and in respect of the needs for a realistic organization of the ecumenical debate.

5. We wish to underline the need for a more conciliar style of working in and among the various offices of the WCC. Our consultation has made us realize to what extent various concerns and programme emphases have grown into separate establishments which tend to defend their vested interests over against each other. Misunderstandings and conflicts between different departments in the WCC form one aspect of this; much more serious, however, is that the separate establishments also institutionalize their relations with local churches and groups in separate ways. This strengthens and sometimes even creates serious divisions within and among churches on the local level. There is an urgent need for the WCC to develop a coherent image. Much internal change seems to be required to achieve this.

6. A more conciliar style will be facilitated by cultivating the art of listening. Participants in dialogue again and again need to translate into their own vocabulary terms that others use rather than attempt to impose their own vocabulary. Similarly we need a basic respect for different starting points ù the activist, the academic, the ecclesiastical, for instance. Special mention should be made of expertise, both expert knowledge and analysis which help test our assumptions and perspectives. We also must question forms of meetings and decision-making that have a built-in cultural bias that interferes with full participation or where significant constituencies such as women and youth are underrepresented.

7. We also point out that the WCC lacks instruments appropriate to the changed situation for support of local ecumenism and collective global witness. It is essential for a system of dialogue to be in place which enables local ecumenism to challenge the forms of global ecumenism, and nurtures mutual accountability between the two.

List of Participants

Anna Marie Aagaard, Denmark (Co-moderator)Agnes Abuom, Kenya Paul A. Crow, Jr., USA P. Patelisio Finau, Tonga Islands James H. Forest, USA Bonnie Greene, Canada Bert Hoedemaker, The Netherlands Anton W.J. Houtepen, The Netherlands Margot Kässmann, Germany José Miguez-Bonino, Argentina (Co-moderator)Erica Dolly Mphuthi, Lesotho Lewis S. Mudge, USA D. Preman Niles, Sri Lanka Rüdiger Noll, Germany Johg-Wha Park, Korea Larry Rasmussen, USA Neville Richardson, South Africa Ioan Sauca, Romania Silvia Regina de Lima Silva, Brazil Veronica Swai, Tanzania Louise Tappa, Cameroon Constance Tarasar, USA Juan Antonio Vera-Mendez, Puerto Rico Lukas Vischer, Switzerland Zacharias Mar Theophilus, India

WCC staff

Unit I, Unity & Renewal:
Ion Bria, interim Unit Convenor
Evelyn Appiah, programme assistant, Lay Centres desk
Thomas Best, executive Secretary, Faith and Order

Unit III, Justice, Peace & Creation:
Jae Shik Oh, interim Unit Convenor
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, executive secretary, Economy, Ecology and Sustainable Society
Peony Wong, administrative assistant, Economy, Ecology and Sustainable Society

 

Notes

1. "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness," rev. version, 12 February 1993, para.17, p. 13.

2. Cf. Now is the Time, JPIC Final Document, Geneva, WCC 1990, pp. 12-20.

3. Geneva, WCC Publications, 1992.