The Faith and Order Commission is a unique body, bringing together theologians and church leaders from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions – women and men, lay and ordained – with several places reserved for younger theologians.
In this its first meeting, the commission considered plans for the 2025 world conference commemorating the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea shaped the creed that is still used by most Christian churches today, and the Faith and Order conference in 2025 will ask “Where now for visible unity?” The commission heard research on Nicaea and its continuing influence, and considered how to use the conference and the anniversary to bring Faith and Order work to a wider audience.
Commissioners also looked further ahead, forming study groups to take forward theological work in the areas they identified as most important for ecumenical study. One study group, on “the church in and for the world,” will focus on questions of peace, violence and reconciliation. Another, on “being human: discerning humanity in the image of God” will take forward work on moral discernment and on theological anthropology. A third will consider ecclesiological questions under the heading “being church towards visible unity.”
The commission members reflected on how de-colonial thought, the digital revolution, global migration, and other large-scale changes in our context might affect how they do their theological work.
The study groups are planning to use a wide range of methods, with members of some groups preparing papers to reflect on their own contexts, and some groups seeking opportunities to engage with Christian communities not currently involved in WCC work. Online meetings will give the study groups opportunities to stay in touch more frequently throughout the year, and online spaces can be used to build up a “bank” of shared resources.
Commission members also spent time getting to know each other, and learning about the unique context of the church in North Sulawesi. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, but Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, is known as the “city of a thousand churches” – and 13 of those churches welcomed commission members on Sunday morning. Young people from local churches served as stewards during the commission meeting.
Rev Dr Stephanie Dietrich, moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, said: “We were overwhelmed by the warm and generous welcome from our Indonesian brothers and sisters, and we are so grateful to everyone who has enabled this meeting to happen. As a commission we have a long road ahead of us, but we are full of hope and eager to begin our work.”