Plenary on church unity

Ms Lei Garcia is the director of CONTAK Philippines, and former director for partnerships and ecumenical relations of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Mr John Ngige Njoroge is a Kenyan theology student and a member of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria


TITLE Desire For A Common Future

PLOT John and Lei met in the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre. They began talking about their vision of the ecumenical movement and church. Both will share their visions and discuss the challenges of achieving the visible unity. They will tell their hope amidst the challenges brought by the fragmentation of the world and the church.

ACTORS Lei Garcia and John Ngige Njoroge


John : Good to see you again Lei!

Lei : Hey John, how are you?

(John and Lei hug each other)

Lei : It's so good to see many people here at the Assembly!

John : Yeah! It's amazing. So, how do you feel to be a participant?

Lei : Well, I'm very glad to be part of this important juncture in the life of the WCC. And of course, it is my joy to be among those who are praying with Christ for the unity of the divided church. (John 17:20-21)

John : That's great and speaking about the divided church, it is challenging when we look beyond into the texture of the unity we seek, its quality and significance.

Lei : (nodding) So are you saying that the texture of unity means the value and relevancy of the visible unity in our churches? If so, I think this calls for a common Christian identity that invites our churches to a visible unity, which is an expression of a common faith, common mission, and a common witness to the world.

John : Aha! But would a common identity mean anything to the diversified local Christian churches on the ground, when it comes to their spiritual, economical and political struggles?

Lei : I believe so. For example, in the Philippines, our very own pastors, priests, and religious workers were not spared in the recent political killings and repressions because they took the side of the poor and exercised their prophetic voice. So, I firmly believe that a united church is an instrument by which our churches, which constitute the household of God, seek to live and witness to all peoples that the oikoumene may become the oikos of God. The WCC was created precisely to be an instrument to build the household of God?

John : And it shall take place through our collective and mutual involvement.

Lei : You are absolutely right! This could mean that it is in the creation of a better world that we begin to know what it means to be part of the oikoumene. The clearest theological statement we can make is our active involvement in the struggles of the people. Therefore, the heart of ecumenism is being immersed in the world that churches find their unity.

John : Wonderful reflection. But is it possible to achieve this vision with all the fragmentation and brokenness inside and outside our churches?

Lei : Of course, it is possible! Don't you think so?

John : (silently thinking) Well, yeah! I think so, it's just that…

Lei : Come on John, I know you are more optimistic than I am.

John : Okay, I think…. Our common faith in the Triune God, God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit goes beyond our current divisions and quests us not to limit the unity we seek only to a dialogue level but to make it practical in the reality of our everyday life.

Lei : Right, it is possible, first and foremost through the grace of God and our commitment to collectively work for the realization of these visions. And I also think that we can achieve this vision of unity by reordering our relationships, at all levels, into images of wholeness, mutuality and interdependence.

John : Well, realization of these visions calls us to worship together as a community of believers. This confirms God's presence and action in the midst of His people. It renews and keeps alive the relationship between God and His people, which and creates harmony and unity among us.

Lei : Do you think worship, with its widely diverse liturgical practices, is the focal point of the existing divisions among us?

John : Yes, sure, but in the future I hope that we will participate truly into the spirit of worship without pointing at each other as liturgically "right" or "wrong" but rather listen and spiritually benefit from each other's liturgical practices.

Lei : And also, we can achieve this vision of a truly united church if we will internalize that Jesus Christ is the central focus of our being together and any divergences in understanding of who we are as a church and even the style of worship or faith expressions are all but peripheral.

John : That's a good observation, Lei - center and periphery. But of course we also have to recognize that our search for unity is not simple and to achieve it, it needs a lot of trust, understanding and respect for each other.

Lei : I absolutely agree! Thanks John!


(Sound of the drums)

(John and Lei would move closer to each other)

J & L : As the younger member of ecumenical movement,

J & L : we offer our VOICES

Lei : to speak the truth in love

John : to tell the stories of the unknown, outcast, downtrodden, and marginalized

J & L : we offer our EARS

Lei : to listen to each other with respect

John : to carefully listen to the wisdom of the elders

J & L : we offer our FEET

Lei : to tread the path of righteousness and to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming God's redemptive love and justice

John : to dance and celebrate for every gift God has given us

J & L : we offer our HANDS

Lei : to support and be in solidarity with those who suffer

John : to create instruments of peace, not war

J & L : we offer our MINDS

Lei : to think of innovative and creative approaches to deepen our dialogue and to realize mutual accountability.

John : to dream a just world

J & L : we offer our HEARTS

Lei : to beat the rhythm of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation

John : to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, and to receive each other as Christ has received us in his Church.

(John and Lei arms linked)

J & L : Finally, we commit ourselves to a common future of Christian life and witness.

We commit ourselves to our continuing journey in calling one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe (WCC Constitution).

We commit ourselves, through God's grace and our collective response, to transform the world.

We are ready.

Together, sisters and brothers let us walk towards that beautiful day full of love, justice, and peace.

Let us do it!