As a part of the reception process of the convergence document “The Church: Towards a Common Vision,” the ecclesiology study group of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order undertook a wide range of conversations on global Christianity and ecclesiology. This included perspectives from various regions (especially Asia, Africa, and Latin America), denominational families (such as evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and independent churches), and forms of being church (such as ecclesial movements, new forms of monasticism, and online churches) which have not always been clearly or strongly represented in the discussions.
This first of two volumes offers a taste of the insights, contributions, lively dialogue, diverse perspectives, and mutual exchange of ecumenical gifts between the members of the commission and theologians from around the world, which took place through a series of international consultations between 2015-22.
The fruit of this work is offered with the hope that it will contribute towards a clearer, global vision of the church in the 21st century.
In the introduction, the book notes that the World Council of Churches has been concerned with ecclesiology since its founding in 1948. “The Commission on Faith and Order has worked on ecclesiological issues for decades,” the introduction reads. “The work presented here towards broadening the table of conversation does not exhaust all perspectives from the various regions, denominational streams, and forms of being church with which the commission wanted to engage in deeper dialogue.”
Rev. Dr Sotirios Boukis (Evangelical Church of Greece), one of the paper’s editors, said that the series of two volumes offers a taste of the lively dialogue, diverse perspectives, and mutual exchange of ecumenical gifts between the members of the commission and theologians from around the world.
“Most interestingly, although various aspects of ecclesiology from these regions and denominational families may initially seem distant from, or even incompatible with, more ‘traditional' ecclesiologies, dialogue with them unearthed much common ground, which ultimately led to significant growth in convergence,” said Boukis.
Another editor, Rev. Dr Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. (Assemblies of God), said that, for many years, there has been very little contact between Pentecostals and the World Council of Churches. “Just as with the rest of the church, the majority of Pentecostals are found in the Global South,” said Robeck. “This volume has collected 25 chapters by authors from the Global South, most of whom represent different Pentecostal groups.”
Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi (Armenian Apostolic Church, Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), who also edited the paper, is WCC staff who works with Faith and Order.
Drissi reflects that this is the first time that the Faith and Order Commission engaged its work and conversation with the churches who were not yet part of the ecclesiological dialogue. “We are marking now the first steps of this movement since the beginning—from 2015—of the establishment of the ongoing commission,” she said. “The enlargement of the table of dialogue might continue and be reinforced in the future with the establishment of the new commission.”
In that way, Drissi said, Faith and Order could help the process of bringing together the different and various voices from the North, but also from the Global South. “And, as the three editors mentioned in the introduction of this book: ‘...the Commission on Faith and Order is not living in nostalgia for the past, but seeks to be an active and vibrant agent of the ecumenical movement to day which understands the times and sets the stage where the world's greatest and latest developments on ecclesiology are being discussed.’ ”
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