World Council of Churches

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

Ditchingham report (Faith and Order)

01 August 1994

Ditchingham, England, August 1994

This is the report of the first meeting in Faith and Order's study programme on the role of worship in the search for Christian unity. Entitled "So we believe, so we pray" (a rough translation of Prosper of Aquitaine’s lex orandi lex est credendi), the study explores how the worship life of the church may inspire and inform the churches' efforts to express more fully their oneness in Christ. The study also addresses, from a "faith and order" perspective, the issues of eucharistic sharing and recognition of baptism. The report below (1) explores the common ordo or pattern of much Christian worship as a basis for the churches' increasing communion; (2) explores problems and possibilities in the inculturation (local adaptation) of worship in various cultures around the world; (3) offers many examples from local situations of how common worship is already helping Christians to experience - and express - more of the unity which is theirs in Christ; and (4) makes specific proposals for future Faith and Order work in this area.

So we believe, so we pray: Towards koinonia in worship

Report of the Consultation

The fruit and end of our prayer
is to be made one with our Lord
and to live for him in all things

Julian of Norwich
Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 42

In August 1994, 32 Christians from all over the world brought together in Ditchingham (near Norwich), England, many different experiences of pilgrimage. Our reflection on the place of worship in the search for unity at the invitation of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches was shaped by prayer itself. The vision of Mother Julian of Norwich from the past met us and inspired us towards God's glorious promise.

We were well blessed, living for a week in the Community of All Hallows, Ditchingham, under the loving hospitality of devoted sisters in Christ. They shared with us their quiet practice and steeped us in the daily office, whilst graciously permitting us to offer our unfamiliar gifts to them as we celebrated within their midst Christian practices from many cultures and traditions. This colourful variety yielded to a cohesive form. Within the giving and receiving we held together experiences of the unity of worship without which any appreciation of koinonia would be impaired: church and world; word and sacrament; gospel and creation; Christ and culture; life and faith. We recognised that we need one another across the spectrum of Christian memory and cultural experiences and that we are actually part of the growth towards koinonia in worship.

In the middle of the week we were given a poignant sign of this pattern and blend. We had just visited the site of Julian's cell and worshipped in Norwich cathedral when the quintessential nature of the English summertime afforded us the sight of a vivid rainbow. The rainbow elicits a holistic view, since, although its colours may be strong and distinctive, none is isolated from the rest. All blend together, each receiving from and offering to the spectrum, the resultant light being glorious.

So it is, we believe, about our koinonia in worship. There are many strong, distinctive aspects from varied backgrounds. We are not all the same, nor are we made to be; except that what we are is part of a wholeness that is infinitely greater than our monochrome singularity. We need each other to reflect that and we need to be together for God's glory to shine fully in the world. For, like the rainbow, we too are called to reflect the light.

That is the message of this report, throughout which the pattern of pairing appears not because it has been artificially superimposed but because this was our discovery of what is given and required.

In the biblical and theological foundations of our koinonia in worship we have identified, in place of a haphazard scattering of unrelated stones, building blocks fitting together, "mutually re-interpretive juxtapositions, roots in word and sacrament held together" (paragraph 4, below). Building on this are "characteristic pairings" (10) which help to clarify things that have divided us when they should have united us in faith and practice - such as baptism and the eucharist. So we see koinonia which is "renewed and enlivened" (19) both by expressions of perceived truth and the experience of praying together and using common worship resources - the process of reconciliation through the healing of memories. The gospel is then related to life, transforming cultural components by integrating them in worship, taking care over "dynamic equivalence" (37).

Such "pairs" of experience continuously reflect upon each other like colours in the rainbow, belonging together in a pattern. When, therefore, we come finally to note the relationship of our koinonia in worship to the agenda of Faith and Order we are suddenly surprised by the obvious, like the rainbow in the sky, as if it were conceivable that faith and order could ever have been studied independently of our worshipping together (45). So we dare to suggest some fresh perspectives on the totality of faith and order, as if, having seen the glory of the promise of God, we cannot help but share what we have experienced.

Was not this, put another way, what Mother Julian discovered as she prayed and then offered the fruits of her experience to others? As freely as we have received from the gracious hand of God, we humbly offer to the end that our experience at prayer may issue in our oneness in the Lord that we live for him in all things.

1.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the de

(1 Peter 1:3).

Blessed be God's great love which has already given to us the holy koinonia for which we pray through the one baptism into Christ Jesus, which continually founds and forms all the churches.1 Beyond our expectation, God has given us that koinonia as we all, together, being "buried with Christ by baptism into death," are raised with him day after day "by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). That koinonia has been given to us in the common life of the believing community, which is empowered with many gifts by the Holy Spirit, which eats and drinks the "holy communion" of Christ, and which shows forth a foretaste of the communion of the whole creation with God, a foretaste of all peoples reconciled to God and to each other through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.2 The gift we have received is also our calling and task. The koinonia we seek between and within the churches is a koinonia in and through Jesus Christ. It is a participation in the grace and eternal life of God for the sake of the life and salvation of the world.3 "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:9).

2. This crucified and risen Christ, the ground and source and center of our koinonia, is alive today in our midst. Koinonia is found in the scriptures opened to speak of him to our burning hearts (Luke 24:13-32), in the broken bread and cup of blessing which are a participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16), and in the one Spirit in which "we were all baptized into one body" of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).4 Word and sacraments, signs of the presence of Christ, are set forth in the midst of a participating assembly of people who are gathered by the Spirit, blessed with many different gifts, and sent to bear witness with their lives to the same love and mercy of God for all the world which has been shown forth in their assembly.

3. Through the coming of the Spirit, Christian worship is thus a continual meeting with Christ, so that we might be gathered into the grace and life of God. Many different Christian traditions enrich us as we think of the meaning of this encounter: It is a speaking of the gospel of Christ so that we might come to faith. It is grace flowing from the sacrifice of Christ. It is the beginning of the transfiguration of all things in the Spirit of Christ. It is a gift and call for personal holiness according to the measure of Christ. It is the visible manifestation of the incarnation of Christ so that we might be formed in incarnational living amid the "sacrament of the world". It is beholding Christ in the gathering so that we may be able to behold him and love him among the marginalized, outcast and disfigured ones of the world. It is the participation in the Spirit-led meeting as "baptism" and in every shared meal as the "Lord's Supper". It is praise and thanksgiving to the Father through Christ in the unity of the Spirit. But all these understandings depend upon Christian worship being centered in the encounter with God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit enlivening the word and the sacraments. And all these understandings presuppose that this encounter occurs in an assembly which is itself a witness to God's intention with the world and which forms its participants for a life of witness and service. The liturgy of Christians occurs in assembly: it also occurs in the midst of daily life in the world (see Romans 12:1-2).

4. The pattern of this gathering and sending has come to all the churches as a common and shared inheritance. That received pattern resides in the basic outlines of what may be called the ordo of Christian worship, i.e. the undergirding structure which is to be perceived in the ordering and scheduling of the most primary elements of Christian worship. This ordo, which is always marked by pairing and by mutually re-interpretive juxtapositions, roots in word and sacrament held together. It is scripture readings and preaching together, yielding intercessions; and, with these, it is eucharistia and eating and drinking together, yielding a collection for the poor and mission in the world. It is formation in faith and baptizing in water together, leading to participation in the life of the community. It is ministers and people, enacting these things, together. It is prayers through the days of the week and the Sunday assembly seen together; it is observances through the year and the annual common celebration of the Pascha together. Such is the inheritance of all the churches, founded in the New Testament, locally practiced today, and attested to in the ancient sources of both the Christian East and the Christian West.

5. This pattern of Christian worship, however, is to be spoken of as a gift of God, not as a demand nor as a tool for power over others. Liturgy is deeply malformed, even destroyed, when it occurs by compulsion — either by civil law, by the decisions of governments to impose ritual practice on all people, or by the forceful manipulation of ritual leaders who show little love for the people they are called to serve. At the heart of the worship of Christians stands the crucified Christ, who is one with the little and abused ones of the world. Liturgy done in his name cannot abuse. It must be renewed, rather, by love and invitation and the teaching of its sources and meaning. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32), says Jesus. The liturgy must draw with Christ, not compel.

6. Furthermore, this pattern is to be celebrated as a most profound connection between faith and life, between gospel and creation, and between Christ and culture, not as an act of unconnected ritualism nor anxious legalism. Every culture has some form of significant communal assembly, the use of water, speech which is accessible but strongly symbolic, and festive meals. These universal gifts of life, found in every place, have been received as the materials of Christian worship from the beginning. Because of this, we are invited to understand the Christian assembly for worship as a foretaste of the reconciliation of all creation and as a new way to see all the world.

7. But the patterns of word and table, of catechetical formation and baptism, of Sunday and the week, of Pascha and the year, and of assembly and ministry around these things — the principal pairs of the Christian liturgy — do give us a basis for a mutually encouraging conversation between the churches. Churches may rightly ask each other about the local inculturation of this ordo. They may call each other toward a maturation in the use of this pattern or a renewed clarification of its central characteristics or, even, toward a conversion to its use. Stated in their simplest form, these things are the "rule of prayer" in the churches, and we need them for our own faith and life and for a clear witness to Christ in the world. And we need each other to learn anew of the richness of these things. Churches may learn from each other as they seek for local renewal. One community has treasured preaching, another singing, another silence in the word, another sacramental formation, another the presence of Christ in the transfigured human person and in the witnesses of the faith who surround the assembly, another worship as solidarity with the poor. As the churches seek to recover the great pairs of the ordo, they will be helped by remembering together with other Christians the particular charisms with which each community has unfolded the patterns of Christian worship, and by a mutual encouragement for each church to explore the particular gifts which it brings to enrich our koinonia in worship.

8. This pattern or ordo of Christian worship belongs most properly to each local church, that is, to "all in each place". All the Christians in a given place, gathered in assembly around these great gifts of Christ, are the whole catholic church dwelling in this place. As efforts are made to enable local occasions of ecumenical prayer and as local churches are clarifying the full pattern of Christian worship as the center of their life, a groundwork is being laid for local unity. "Local churches truly united"6 will be one in faith and witness, and, amid continuing diversity of expression, one in the practice of the most basic characteristics of the ordo. This same pattern or ordo of Christian worship is a major basis for the koinonia between local churches, a koinonia spanning both space and time, uniting churches of the New Testament times, of the sweep of Christian history and of the present oikumene. Such a koinonia is only enriched by those authentic forms of inculturation which the ordo may have taken in each local church, not diminished.

9. The factors described above along with the renewal of many other dimensions of the churches' worship life have led communities to a deepened sense of koinonia and to rediscover the relationship between their worship and the active fulfillment of their baptismal mission. It does not yet appear what our koinonia in Christ may be. But we know that as we faithfully gather around word and sacrament, signs of the living Christ and of the power of the Spirit, as we faithfully see their connections to all of life, and as we share the sufferings of a church which longs for unity and a world which longs for justice, we participate in an icon of that future which God's great love and mercy is bringing toward all the world. We pray for that future and we already begin to receive it and to become part of it. And, bearing witness to the aching and needy world, we sing praise to the One whose mercy is everlasting and whose faithfulness endures to all generations.

10. In the on-going discussion of many of the ancient issues which have divided us, the above pattern or ordo of Christian worship is immensely helpful. Much clarity may be obtained when discussions about the age of baptism, about the nature of ordained ministry, about the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of Christians, and about social justice are seen in relationship to the pattern of worship and its characteristic pairings.

11. The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document7 is itself a model of such discussion of classic points of division in the light of shared liturgical patterns. Thus, for example, when baptism is seen to be a process of both faith-formation and water-washing, believer baptist groups may be able to see themselves as enrolling their young children in a catechumenate, recognizable to many other Christians, while infant-baptizing groups may find their own life-long call to discipleship and learning refreshed, and both groups will find themselves called to a strong celebration of baptism which shows forth its centrality and meaning.8 Future Faith and Order discussions could well be formed according to this model, with liturgical studies a welcome partner in the conversation.

12. Although there have been many positive responses to the BEM text and also bilateral agreements on baptism resulting in some changes in practice, yet there is much work still to be done. In addition to the use among some of the churches of a shared certificate of baptism, further possible steps are the celebration of baptism in common during the Easter Vigil, or the joint construction and use of a common font/baptistery. We also realize that much of what has been accomplished in the area of mutual recognition of baptism is put at risk by churches diverging from the traditional formulae for the administration of baptism in the use of water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

13. With regard to the eucharist, many Christians have come to see that participation in the holy supper is a participation in the one, undivided Christ. They also remember that Jesus welcomed all, without distinction, to eat with him. Some Christians then feel called by God to an immediate openness at the table, to as wide a practice of hospitality at the eucharistic table as possible. Others believe that without the deepest agreement in the apostolic faith and without a fully shared local church life, this mutual eucharistic hospitality is not yet possible. Both groups feel the pain of our divisions. We have felt that pain here, at Ditchingham. But Christ is one, and he is our only source of unity. As we eat and drink from him in the eucharist we nonetheless participate in each other. We need now to continue to ask what that participation means for the development of renewed local churches in full communion with other local churches.

14. We rejoice at the growing sharing of communion between Christians, a growth encouraged by changes in church rules and by exposure to ecumenical contacts. At the same time we acknowledge the increasing impatience of many where such sharing is not possible. This was expressed powerfully by the previous General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Emilio Castro, who said at the Seventh Assembly of the WCC at Canberra in 1992,

It is more and more frustrating that this [eucharistic sharing] has not been realised. We are able to be together in confronting the most divisive problems of humankind, but we are not able to heal our own history and to recognise each other within our common tradition... How can we expect to overcome divisions of life and death in the world when we are not even able to offer together the sacrifice of the Lord for the salvation of the world?9

15. We welcome the statement in the recent Report of the Consultation on Christian Spirituality for our Times (Iasi, Romania, 1994) which said,

For the centrality of the Eucharist is not only a tradition in the majority of our churches, but one of the fruits of spiritual renewal together. The desire for a common eucharistic celebration and sharing arises from the sense of community and koinonia in Christ experienced when members of different churches engage together in the struggle for justice and peace, or commit themselves to shared mission, ministry and witness.10

16. We also endorse the recommendation of the Iasi Consultation to the WCC

that fresh efforts be made towards, and new guidelines be proposed, on eucharistic sharing in time for the Eighth Assembly of the WCC; this would take into account current ecumenical relationships and experiences, the churches' current canonical regulations and the ecclesiology on which these are based, and the degree of doctrinal convergence on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and on the Apostolic Faith Today.11

17. Another help to mutual understanding and respect would be for the churches to act upon the suggestion made at Santiago de Compostela,

We suggest that the churches, while respecting the eucharistic doctrine, practice and discipline of one another, encourage frequent attendance at each other's eucharistic worship. Thus we all will experience the measure of communion we already share and witness to the pain of continued separation. Furthermore, those various expressions of ordinary hospitality which do form part of our liturgies must not be perfunctory gestures, but genuine expressions of Christian affection for each other.12

18. The very ordo or pattern itself outlined in paragraphs 4 to 8 above needs a continued ecumenical clarification. Besides the work already done on baptism, eucharist and ministry, the churches need to address the renewal of preaching, the recovery of the meaning of Sunday and the search for a common celebration of Pascha as ecumenical theological concerns. This last is especially urgent, since an agreement on a common date for Easter - even an interim agreement - awaits further ecumenical developments. Such an agreement, which cannot depend on the idea of a "fixed date of Easter", should respect the deepest meaning of the Christian Pascha, the Nicene decision, the traditions of both East and West, the date of Passover, and the feelings of Christians throughout the world. We welcome all initiatives which offer the hope of progress in this important area.

19. In worship Christians are able to express the koinonia that unites them and at the same time to find that koinonia nourished and strengthened. For it is only as the Christian community together draws nearer to God the Father in common allegiance to Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit that its own koinonia is renewed and enlivened.

20. In the history of Faith and Order, as the Montr‚al World Conference (1963) indicated, there has been strong emphasis on the importance of worship in the ecumenical movement and for theological work in general. It described worship as "the central and determinative act of the Church's life".13 It also laid stress on "the Trinitarian basis of worship and its fundamental ecclesiological relevance".14 The centrality of worship in the life of the Church was also affirmed in the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, of the Second Vatican Council which spoke of the eucharist as the source and summit of the life of the Church.15

21. The Second Vatican Council also issued a decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, which said:

Church renewal...has notable ecumenical importance. Already this renewal is taking place in various spheres of the Church's life: the biblical and liturgical movements....all these should be considered as promises and guarantees for the future progress of ecumenism.16

The Roman Catholic experience following Vatican II with the opportunity for worship in the vernacular and the emergence of the charismatic movement within that Church has opened up similar exciting developments in worship in many parts of the oikumene.

22. At the same time, the fuller participation of the Orthodox Churches in the life of the World Council of Churches in the 1960s brought a new perspective into the life of the Council and of its member churches.

23. Since the 1960s there have been significant changes in worship in the churches, and a growing awareness of the catholicity of the Church as the ecumenical movement has continued to bring together Christians of different countries and cultures. Many of those

who once could not even say a prayer together can now celebrate their faith and join in significant acts of worship (e.g. sharing in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in the World Day of Prayer, in the Week of Prayer for [World] Peace, in joint Bible studies and using the common Ecumenical Prayer Cycle).17

We affirm that

through such common prayer and a meeting of minds and hearts on a deeper spiritual level, many are experiencing an "ecumenical conversion", which strengthens at the same time their rootedness in their own tradition and opens them to the insights and riches of the wider Christian community.18

24. During this same period there developed in some places local congregations of Christians from two or more confessions uniting for mission and sharing a common worship life (for example the Local Ecumenical Partnerships in Great Britain and the Cooperating Parishes in Aotearoa/New Zealand). In their own localities they have found it possible to overcome historic divisions on baptism, eucharist and ministry and thus to share fully in eucharistic worship.

25. These developments happened in a period when liturgical renewal was undergirded by developing theological convergences. These convergences were encouraged by the study of BEM and by the results of a number of bilateral dialogues.

26. Theological convergence, liturgical renewal, and the recognition of the indissoluble relationship between worship and mission in Christ's way, are all part of the momentum driving the churches towards koinonia in worship.

27. Not only do Christians pray together, they also increasingly use common worship resources. Whereas for a long time music for worship flowed mainly from Europe to other parts of the world, now there is a greater mutual sharing between the continents. Music from Africa, Asia and Latin America greatly enriched the World Council of Churches' Assemblies at Vancouver (1983) and Canberra (1991) as well as many other gatherings, including the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order (1993), and is now part of the normal diet of worship in many congregations where it was once unknown. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches have also made a significant contribution to the musical resources of the ecumenical movement. The communities of Taiz‚ and Iona have had an influence in many places. The charismatic movement also has contributed a new repertoire of songs and a new musical style.

28. Among some churches there is a movement towards the development of common lectionaries. Through these Christians are rediscovering their common "ownership" of and mutual responsibility for the proclamation of the Scriptures. There is also a growing agreement around the churches' observation and celebration of the liturgical year and many are using ecumenical prayer cycles such as With All God's People.19 We welcome the projects of the Consultation on Common Texts, the Joint Liturgical Group and the English Language Liturgical Consultation20 and encourage further work towards an ecumenical lectionary and calendar.

29. There is now much greater sharing of spiritual and cultural gifts between Christians in their worship. For the Orthodox the place occupied by icons in holy worship expresses the reality of koinonia for "Icons are a witness that the human being, called to live in Christ and the Holy Spirit, is to become a 'participant in the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4)."21 Today icons are coming to play an increasingly important place in the life of prayer of many Christians. Also many have found that the koinonia which they share is expressed and nurtured as they join with those traditions which practise retreats and pilgrimages, and discover new spiritual texts for private devotional use.

30. Liturgical scholars, working from common sources, have come closer to a common sense of the ordines for baptism, the eucharist, and daily prayer. Working with these findings, the renewed liturgies of many churches have a common shape which creates a sense of common heritage of worship among the churches. Often, texts (particularly eucharistic prayers) from our common past, notably those from Hippolytus and Basil of Caesarea, have once again become living texts within the regular worship of liturgical assemblies.

31. In many places ecumenical committees work together to produce common worship texts for use in the churches as well as common services for pastoral occasions such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.

32. Not only does the use of common liturgical material foster reconciliation among Christians but also new liturgies specifically of reconciliation and healing of memories have been, and are being, written and used with effect. For example the churches in Ireland, through the work of such bodies as the Irish School of Ecumenics and the Corymeela Community, have done some solid work in developing and using such liturgies.

33. While we rejoice in these developments and the renewal that has come with them, we recognize that our koinonia is still imperfectly realized, and there are ecclesiological questions which are yet to be resolved. The question of sharing in one eucharist will not be solved by a text (such as the Lima Liturgy), but by theological agreement on eucharist and ministry. In some local situations some practises have gone beyond the level of official theological agreement, thus implying assents to matters of ministry and sacrament which have not been given formally.

34. It also must be acknowledged that although common prayer and worship can and do unite Christians across deep divisions, we cannot be complacent. Communities which have shared common worship and prayer may break down into communal violence, as recent events in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda have shown. Such tragic events reveal that our koinonia may indeed be fragile.

35. It has already been made clear that worship must be both authentic to the Gospel and Christian tradition, and relevant to life. In the quest for authenticity, the relationship between worship and culture is of particular importance. The task involves identifying premises, discerning principles and setting criteria. Interdisciplinary study is necessary.

A. Premises

36. Inculturation is a form of creative activity accountable to both received liturgical tradition and the actual praxis of the church as well as to the integrity of culture; it tends toward the unity of churches in essentials of faith; and it serves as an instrument of evangelization. Cultural diversity of local churches expresses the richness of the entire koinonia. Their worship mirrors the unity and catholicity of the Church. At the same time, inculturation enhances the koinonia of local churches across confessional lines by bringing about a closer cultural resemblance among them in worship.

37. Among the different methods of inculturation, that of dynamic equivalence merits particular attention, because it is partial to the preservation of unity. It consists of re-expressing components of worship with something in the local culture that has an equal meaning or value. In this way inculturation leads to the diversity of cultural expressions within the unity of tradition.

38. Certain observations need to be made regarding culture, namely: that God can be encountered in culture; that Christ awaits to be discovered in every culture; that sinfulness also exists in culture; and that hence the Church is called to evangelize culture in order to bring out more fully the presence of Christ.

B. Principles

39. Liturgical inculturation operates according to basic principles emerging from the nature of Christian worship, which is

i. trinitarian in nature and orientation;

ii. biblically grounded; hence the Bible is one indispensable source of worship's language, signs, and prayers;

iii. at once the action of Christ the priest and of the Church his people; hence it is a doxological action in the power of the Holy Spirit;

iv. always the anamnesis of the mystery of Jesus Christ, a mystery which centers on his death, resurrection, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and his coming again;

v. the gathering of the priestly people who respond in faith to God's gratuitous call; through the assembly the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is made present and signified;

vi. a privileged occasion at which God is present in the proclaimed Word, in the sacraments, and in the other forms of Christian prayer, as well as in the assembly gathered in worship; and

vii. at once remembrance, communion, and expectation; hence its celebration expresses hope of the future glory and dedication to the work of building the earthly city in the image of the heavenly.

40. In the process of inculturation it is important to consider seriously also those principles that are inherent in the Church's liturgical tradition, e.g. baptism is normally administered during public worship, and eucharist is celebrated every Sunday.

C. Criteria

41. Liturgical inculturation should observe the following criteria:

i. Theological criteria based on the lex orandi of biblical and apostolic tradition. This tradition refers to the Word of God consisting of reading and preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit; baptism with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; eucharist as the ritual "breaking of bread" in memory of Christ who died and rose for us; the community of believers and its ministers; and social concern flowing from the eucharist.

a. These theological criteria are rooted in the mystery of Christ's incarnation, which is the model of liturgical inculturation, and in the mystery of his death and resurrection whose living presence in the world is the ultimate goal of liturgical inculturation.

ii. Liturgical criteria based on the elements constituting the shape of the liturgy which the churches received in full or in part. These elements refer to baptism, eucharist, and the other forms of public worship such as the service of the Word, and the prayer of the hours (morning and evening prayers and vigils).

a. The basic liturgical components of baptism that emerge from tradition are: proclamation of the Scripture; invocation of the Holy Spirit; renunciation of evil; profession of faith in the Holy Trinity; and the use of water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

b. The usual liturgical components of the eucharist are: the reading and preaching of the word; intercession for the whole Church and the world; and, in accord with the actions of our Lord at the Last Supper, taking bread and wine to be used by God in the celebration; blessing God for creation and redemption; breaking the bread; and giving the bread and the wine. Tradition includes the recitation of the words of institution and the invocation of the Holy Spirit at the eucharistic prayer, and the recitation of the Lord's prayer.

c. The question regarding the use of bread and wine for the eucharist is a sensitive one that needs to be examined closely in the light of Scripture, history, theology, and culture.

d. The basic liturgical components of the service of the Word that emerge from tradition are reading from Scripture, preaching or exposition of the Word, and intercessions for the Church and the world.

e. These components are part of liturgical tradition and should be preserved and transmitted through inculturation. History tells us, however, that a number of liturgical components developed in the course of time through contact with local cultures. While respecting the basic components of Christian worship, the process of liturgical development should remain active even today.

f. Worship not only involves texts and rites but also music, liturgical space, and cycles of time. All of these should be shaped according to the criteria of liturgy and the requirements of local culture.

iii. Cultural criteria based on the components of culture. These are human values such as family, hospitality, and leadership; the people's patterns of language, rites, and the arts; and institutions such as rites of passage and festivals. These are the things with which worship holds dialogue and hence should be closely examined. Cultural elements for integration into the liturgy should possess a "connatural" quality to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. That is why, while churches should respect what is honest, noble, and beautiful in every culture, not everything good in culture is necessarily suited for the liturgy. Furthermore cultural elements should not remain as tokens or as alien bodies that do not relate to Christian worship.

a. It should, however, be acknowledged that some cultural components have been infected by sin, and hence need critique. Critique presupposes both correction and transformation of those cultural components which are integrated into Christian worship. Critique can sometimes involve a break with such cultural elements as are diametrically opposed to the gospel. Critique can also mean that Christian worship has a counter-cultural dimension.

D. Some Necessary Tasks

42. In order to engage fruitfully in the work of liturgical inculturation, we need to examine the received traditions and actual praxis of our own church and how they relate to those of the other churches of the Christian koinonia. Likewise we should explore the nature of inculturation together with its dynamics and methods. Lastly we need to study our own local cultures with their values, patterns, and institutions, and how they can suitably be integrated into Christian worship after due consideration and critique.

43. The church is by its very nature a worshipping community. It exists to praise God, to give thanks to God for God's manifold gifts to creation and to his people, and to invite others to take their place within this circle of celebration. Its worship prefigures that final worship when "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them" will bow before God's throne, singing to the Lamb "blessing and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever" (Revelation 5:12-13).

44. All reflection upon the church and its nature, purpose and mission must touch on the reality of worship, for it is in worship that the church both experiences and expresses the deepest source of its life. When it is at worship the church is whole and it is one.

A. The Importance of Worship for Faith and Order

45. Therefore exploring the experience and meaning of worship, and the role of worship within the churches' search for visible unity, is an essential aspect of the work of Faith and Order. According to its by-laws the aim of Faith and Order is

to proclaim the oneness of the church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ, in order that the world may believe.22

This is why Faith and Order is mandated to promote "prayer for unity",23 and why one of its functions is "to study such questions of faith, order and worship as bear on this task."24 (It should be clear that the "study" of worship does not mean a merely rational or theoretical analysis, for that would be foreign to the nature of worship itself.)

46. Christians long for the day when they can manifest fully the oneness which God has given them in their common baptism into Christ. They are avid for the day when finally they can sit together at the one table of their one Lord. Much patient work has been done, not least by Faith and Order, in exploring the theological and ecclesiological issues which continue to divide the churches. And when those differences have been overcome, it will be through acts of worship, especially baptism and the eucharist, that our full koinonia will be experienced, celebrated and made visible to the world. As expressed by the statement "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling" adopted by the World Council of Churches Seventh Assembly in Canberra (1991),

The unity of the church to which we are called is a koinonia given and expressed in the common confession of apostolic faith; a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship...25

47. Yet even in our present divided state we experience and manifest glimpses of unity, foretastes of full koinonia, in the many common acts of worship in which Christians are already able to join. This is a witness to the astonishing growth in the relationships among Christians and the churches in this ecumenical century.

48. This growing experience of worship with other Christians is directly relevant to the churches' search for visible unity. Many Christians have found that it is through worship with Christians of other traditions that they are most empowered to continue their work for visible unity. And often it is through worship that theological agreements are most effectively brought into the life of the churches, as convergence in doctrine and practice is expressed and experienced within the context of the community gathered in prayer and in praise of God. As one section at Santiago de Compostela said:

[We recommend] that Faith and Order develop strategies and initiatives for promoting the reception on local and national levels of ecumenical agreements, being aware that reception has also a spiritual dimension. This may include...encouraging churches to employ these agreements, whenever appropriate, in prayer life and worship...26

49. Historically Faith and Order has recognized the need to include the aspect of worship within its reflections on theological and ecclesiological issues. For example, the Standing Commission meeting at Louvain (1971) was convinced that:

in all Faith and Order studies the importance of considering the subject in close relation to its expression in worship should continually be remembered. Indeed sometimes such expression may form basic material without which the study cannot yield fruitful results. We have in mind in particular any future studies on catholicity, on the preparation of a common declaration of faith, on the unity of mankind in relation to social questions, and to the diversity of races and cultures.27

The final sentence indicates the extraordinary range of issues for the study of which the Commission thought a sensitivity to worship was essential. We are convinced that this approach is even more important today. All that has happened in and through the ecumenical movement since Louvain - and much has happened since Louvain - underscores the need to bring the theme of worship once more into the work of Faith and Order.

B. The Aspect of Worship in Relation to Future Faith and Order Work

50. The programme of Faith and Order through the next (Eighth) WCC Assembly is outlined in the "Conspectus of Faith and Order Studies 1994-1998"28 agreed by the Standing Commission at its meeting in Crêt-Bérard in January 1994. This includes

i. a focal study on ecclesiology, drawing together the results of recent Faith and Order work, the experiences of the united and uniting churches, bilateral discussions, and other factors;

ii. several (six have been proposed) independent, specialized studies whose results will also contribute to this work;

iii. cooperative work within Unit I of the WCC on worship and spirituality (the Ecumenical Pilgrims project, the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle), and with other Units in the fields of Gospel and Culture (Unit II) and Ecclesiology and Ethics (Unit III); and

iv. four long-standing programmes, including the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and three others (in connection with the United and Uniting Churches, Bilateral Dialogues, and the Joint Working Group) through which Faith and Order relates to particular aspects of the one ecumenical movement.

51. Our reflections at this meeting have shown that worship is linked in important ways to all of these themes, and that paying attention to the dimension of worship would significantly enhance all of these studies. To put it more sharply: without the dimension of worship the studies might yield (in the language of Louvain) "fruitful results", but those results would be partial and perhaps distorted because this integral aspect of the being and life of the church has not been taken into consideration.

C. Fresh Perspectives for Faith and Order

52. We indicate below various specific studies, and ways in which the dimension of worship could be addressed within each. But before this three general points must be raised, for they touch on the orientation and style of Faith and Order work as a whole.

(1) Regional perspectives

53. Faith and Order has shown its commitment to listen more carefully to the distinctive perspectives of the churches in the various regions of the world. Our work at this consultation has shown that the issue of inculturation in and through worship must be part of this process. Through this issue we touch, for example, the following themes:

i. Authenticity and identity: how can the apostolic (authentically Christian) faith be expressed "in each place" in forms which are integral to local culture and respectful of local identity?

ii. Translating vs. transplanting: authentic translation of the Christian faith into the "language" of local cultures allows it to be appropriated by those "in each place". Sadly the Christian faith has often come by a process of transplantation which has confused the content of the faith with the cultural forms in which it is brought.

54. As persons "in each place" gather in worship they present themselves, rooted as they are in a particular time and place, before God who is the Lord of all time and all space. Through a valid process of inculturation all that is good in each culture may become a vehicle for the praise of God. This means that in listening more carefully to the regions Faith and Order must take serious account of their worship life, and not only their formal theological statements. This might involve a systematic study of how worship life is shaped in the various cultures.

(2) Communication: Verbal and Non-Verbal

55. Within worship, words interact with manifold non-verbal forms of communication. All the senses may be brought to the service of praising God and all may be vehicles through which God is present among the worshippers. Through sight and song, through dance, through touch, through smell and taste the presence of God is communicated. The worship space itself plays an important role in this process. There is a special place for silence and stillness in worship.

56. Has the "verbal ethos" of Faith and Order, its focus upon the written word as the bearer of theological meaning, limited its understanding of worship and its importance in the search for Christian unity? If Faith and Order is to engage the issue of worship seriously, it must become more sensitive to visual settings and non-verbal forms of communication.

57. This suggests that Faith and Order should explore new means of communicating with a wider audience. The exposition of the Roublev Icon of the Trinity at the WCC Vancouver Assembly by Prof. William Larareth (then Director of Faith and Order) and Metropolitan Daniel of Moldavia and Bukovina, later produced by Faith and Order as a videotape and widely used in some churches, shows that it is possible for Faith and Order to work creatively in this area.

(3) Spiritual Ecumenism

58. "Spiritual ecumenism" refers to the source of our common commitment to the goal of visible unity. This must be a life of worship, bible study, prayer and spiritual discipline which keeps us going in the face of all obstacles and apparent lack of progress. Only within such a broader spiritual context can we forgive one another time and again as we cause pain through misunderstanding or insensitivity. Could the Commissioners of Faith and Order discern on the basis of their own spiritual practise, or that of their communities, a "Rule" for those active in the ecumenical movement, a discipline of prayer or other patterned spiritual practice, which would nourish them in the search for unity and remind them to do all things with charity?

D. Worship in Relation to Specific Faith and Order Study Programmes

(1) The Church as Koinonia - An Ecumenical Study (the focal "Ecclesiology Study")

59. This study must incorporate the dimension of worship in its reflections upon the nature of the church and its unity. We have noted these topics:

i. how worship expresses the nature of the church, and how in worship we experience the reality of the church (through both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication);

ii. the relation between the theological positions of the various churches and their expression in worship (further comparative study of worship forms and content may be needed);

iii. the question of unity and diversity as expressed within worship: what are the criteria for authentic worship practices? How can we enable the practices of particular ecclesial communities to enrich the wider church?

iv. what is the place and role of the worship which we offer together in our ecumenical gatherings? How does it relate to the worship of the various churches? (This is related to the wider question of the ecclesial significance of ecumenical meetings and bodies).

v. is there a "sacrament of presence" which we offer to one another as we attend one another's worship? Can our very presence - even when we cannot participate fully - be understood as a form of "intercommunion"? What does this say about questions of sacramental sharing? Should we put greater emphasis upon those many bonds of communion through which we are given real but still incomplete unity?

vi. a process of inculturation raises profound issues of unity and catholicity. Authentic inculturation often leads to common forms of worship (as well as common theological perspectives) which express a certain unity at the local level. How does this relate to the unity of the church universal? How does it relate to the various traditions or communions of churches to which the different local churches belong?

(2) Towards Koinonia in Worship

60. In this consultation we have begun to explore how the dimension of worship is central to the churches' search for greater visible unity. Many expressed a concern that the work of the consultation be continued for it has become evident that questions of faith and order can hardly be studied independently of worship. The following points among others were noted during the presentations and discussions (cf. also the Recommendations, below):

i. programmatic work

a. there should be further study of the ordines (i.e. the basic pattern and structural elements) of Christian worship. We see here an emerging ecumenical convergence which both expresses and nurtures our path "towards koinonia in worship".

b. there should be further study on inculturation as an exercise of "accountable creativity", and its relation to the unity of Christians "in each place". This could involve collaboration with the Lutheran World Federation Worship and Culture Study.

c. there should be further study of specific examples of how churches and Christians are expressing in worship the koinonia which they already enjoy. These may well offer important learnings for other churches and for the whole ecumenical movement.

d. appropriate initiatives should be encouraged in such areas as the work for a common date for Easter, possible revision of the guidelines for eucharistic services at ecumenical meetings, further work on liturgical expressions (appropriate to different cultural settings) of the convergences reached in Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and efforts to renew and broaden the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

ii. Faith and Order contacts

a. contacts should be developed with liturgists, theologians with special sensitivity to liturgical issues, and worship leaders. This could involve distributing the report and news of this meeting to liturgical journals, including liturgists as participants in Faith and Order meetings, and insuring a Faith and Order presence at meetings of groups such as the Societas Liturgica.

b. consideration should be given in filling places on the Faith and Order Commission to liturgists and theologians with special sensitivity to liturgical issues, as well as worship leaders

(3) Apostolicity and Apostolic Faith Today

61. These issues are pertinent:

i. the historic creeds are frequently used today within the context of worship; this use has developed and changed over time. They are not simply theological statements (Zizioulas, Santiago de Compostela29). Any study of the creeds should include their role within the worship life of the church. Their "meaning" must be explicated with that context in mind.

ii. Faith and Order is currently developing a short "study guide" from the Apostolic Faith study programme. This text should be sensitive to the role of the creed within worship. Could the text itself, or another document, include worship materials?

(4) Ministry and Authority

62. Issues of ministry and authority are closely related to the worship life of the churches, and to possibilities for common worship among Christians from different traditions. (To take an example from ecumenical experience, difficulties with full participation in the Lima Liturgy often arise over the authority of the president. This can be the case even when there is agreement on the text itself.) In light of the relation between these issues and worship:

i. in considering the positions of the various churches on ministry and authority, the study should address questions such as the following: who may exercise leadership in worship? what roles are appropriate in worship for clergy and lay persons? what kind and extent of participation in worship is appropriate? Who decides in such matters?

ii. the study should consider the implications for worship of convergences which are reached on issues of ministry and authority.

iii. the study should be sensitive to how lack of agreement on issues of ministry and authority hampers our ability to worship together.

(5) Ecumenical Hermeneutics: Interpreting and Communicating the One Faith in Koinonia

63. The following points are pertinent:

i. of all the many languages it is the "language" of worship which is particular to the church. The study of hermeneutics must embrace not only theological texts but also worship and how the faith is experienced and expressed in the context of worship.

ii. the study should embrace the wide range of Christian symbols and forms for experiencing and communicating the faith. How can we help all Christians to be nourished by forms precious to particular traditions (icons, for example), so that these can bring Christians together?

iii. different traditions have profoundly different understandings of symbolic forms, and of particular symbols. What is precious to some may seem irrelevant or even unacceptable to others, and sometimes Christians have destroyed symbols of faith precious to other Christians. How can we foster mutual respect and understanding?

(6) Unity of the Church and Nationalism and Ethnic Identity

64. Worship is a powerful means through which Christian communities express not only their Christian faith but also their cultural identity. This study would benefit from considering the following issues:

i. how is the relation between Christian identity and national/ethnic identity expressed in worship? (Comparative study may be necessary here).

ii. how can our worship remind us that as Christians we belong to a worldwide faith that transcends all other belongings and loyalties?

65. We were reminded early in our meeting of the challenge which the churches posed themselves at the Third World Conference on Faith and Order at Lund in 1952:

Should not our churches...act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately?30

Much progress has been made, not least in the field of worship. We have been encouraged by the growing recognition of a pattern for Christian worship shared by the churches as their common inheritance, and by our explorations of how the one gospel of Jesus Christ can be celebrated by those "in each place". We have rejoiced to hear how in worship Christians are expressing and experiencing that degree of koinonia which they already enjoy. And we have been heartened to see how through worship the results of theological agreements are being experienced within the lives of the churches, thus nurturing their search for unity.

66. And yet we know that in worship, as in other areas (as acknowledged in the World Council of Churches Canberra Assembly statement "The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling"),

churches have failed to draw the consequences for their life from the degree of communion they have already experienced and the agreements already achieved.31

We know also that where serious theological differences remain between the churches, it is often in worship that they become most immediately - and painfully - visible. Thus despite progress in implementing the Lund principle much remains to be done toward that day when we can experience and express in worship that full koinonia which is ours within the one body of Christ.

67. In our own worship in Ditchingham we affirmed and celebrated together (as at the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order) "the increasing mutual recognition of one another's baptism as the one baptism into Christ".32 But how far have Christians and the churches drawn the implications of that common baptism, that common belonging to the one body of Christ, for worship? The words of Lund continue to challenge us: how far have the churches consistently and seriously applied them in their worship? What difference would it make if they were seriously applied?


By general affirmation the plenary agreed the following:

  • We recommend that the report of this consultation be transmitted to the Faith and Order Standing Commission for its consideration and use.
  • We recommend the publication of this report with the papers and other related documents so as to make the work of this consultation more widely available. We strongly recommend that the material be translated into other languages.
  • We recommend the translation of the "Letter to All Christians" into other languages to enable as wide a distribution of this text as possible.
  • We recommend that the findings of this consultation be transmitted to the appropriate bodies for consideration in the process of preparing worship material for major WCC meetings, e.g. the Mission Conference (Salvador, 1996) and the Eighth Assembly (Harare, 1998).


  1. See The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling", 2.1, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia: Santiago de Compostela 1993, ed. by Thomas F. Best and Günther Gassmann, Faith and Order Paper No. 166, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1994, pp. 269-270.
  2. See Ibid., 1.1, p. 269.
  3. See Ibid.
  4. See Koinonia in Scripture: Survey of Biblical Texts", by John Reumann, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., pp. 37-69.
  5. Report of the Section on Unity, 1, in The New Delhi Report: The Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 1961, ed. by W. A. Visser 'T Hooft, ed., London, SCM Press Ltd., 1962, p. 116.
  6. Report of Section II on What Unity Requires, 3, Breaking Barriers: Nairobi 1975, ed. by David M. Paton, London and Grand Rapids, SPCK and Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976, p. 60.
  7. Faith and Order Paper No. 111, Geneva, World Council of Churches, 1982.
  8. See Ibid., Baptism, 16.
  9. Report of the General Secretary", in Signs of the Spirit: Official Report, Seventh Assembly, ed. by Michael Kinnamon, Geneva and Grand Rapids, WCC Publications and Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991, p. 167.
  10. Geneva, World Council of Churches, Unit I - Worship and Spirituality, 1994, p. 11.
  11. Ibid., p. 19.
  12. Section III Report on Sharing a Common Life in Christ, 17, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 248.
  13. Report of Section IV on Worship and the Oneness of Christ's Church, 106, in The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: The Report from Montreal 1963, ed. by P. C. Rodger and L. Vischer, Faith and Order Paper No. 42, London, SCM Press, Ltd, 1964, p. 69.
  14. Worship Book: Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, Santiago de Compostela 1993, Geneva, Commission on Faith and Order, 1993, p. vii; see The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order, op. cit., pp. 69-80.
  15. I: I.10.
  16. II.6.
  17. Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness: A Discussion Paper", Section on Sharing a Common Life in Christ, 76, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 269.
  18. Ibid.
  19. With All God's People: The New Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, compiled by John Carden, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1989.
  20. See for example The Revised Common Lectionary, The Consultation on Common Texts, Norwich, The Canterbury Press, 1992, and Praying Together, English Language Liturgical Consultation, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1988.
  21. Some Experiences of Orthodoxy in the Search for 'Koinonia'", by Sophie Deicha, publication pending, p. 2.
  22. By-Laws of the Faith and Order Commission", 2, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 309, emphasis added.
  23. Ibid., 2.c.
  24. Ibid., 2.a, emphasis added.
  25. 2.1, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 269, emphasis added.
  26. Report of Section IV on Called to Common Witness for a Renewed World, 40, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 262.
  27. Report of Committee II on Worship Today, 5, in Faith and Order, Louvain 1971: Study Reports and Documents, Faith and Order Paper No. 59, Geneva, World Council of Churches, 1971, p. 218, emphasis added.
  28. See Information: Faith and Order", March 1994, pp. 1-3; also in Minutes of the Meeting of the Faith and Order Standing Commission, Faith and Order Paper No. 167, Geneva, Commission on Faith and Order, 1994, pp. 95-100.
  29. See The Church as Communion: A Presentation on the World Conference Theme", by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 108.
  30. The Third World Conference on Faith and Order held at Lund, August 15th to 28th, 1952, ed. by O. S. Tomkins, London, SCM Press Ltd., 1953.
  31. 1.3, in On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, op. cit., p. 269.
  32. Daily worship, Ditchingham Consultation, 22 August, 1994; cf. daily worship, Santiago de Compostela, 9 August 1993, in Worship Book: Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, op. cit., p. 12.