Among the featured speakers was Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church, who responded to papers presented by Rev. Dr Susan Durber, WCC Faith and Order moderator, and by Dr Paul Meyendorff, WCC Faith and Order commissioner.
Moderating the discussion was Rev. Dr Stephanie Dietrich, WCC Faith and Order commissioner, who explained that the webinar was continuing the discussion of what it means that the church, in all ways, at all times, exists as a people of God.
“At same time, the division and questions related to the understanding of roles and services in the church and the relation between the whole people of God and the ordained ministry are, and remain to a large degree, unsolved,” she said.
Durber presented on “The Role of Women in the Church: The Faith and Order Conversation in The Church: Towards a Common Vision and the Responses to It.”
Durber acknowledged that many respondents made no comments on the role of women in the church because there weren’t many in the text itself.
“So this is one subject where visible unity in some places seems further away and where more work is surely needed,” she said, further acknowledging that this topic can bring both lively and intense discussions.
Dr Paul Meyendorff, WCC Faith and Order commissioner, presented on “The Threefold Ministry,” beginning with the assertion that The Church: Towards a Common Vision states that almost all Christian communities today have a formal structure of ministry.
“Now looking at the responses, it’s interesting that only about 20 of the responses to The Church: Towards a Common Vision discuss the question of the threefold ministry,” he said. “None of them discusses the issue at considerable length.”
In his response, Farrell pointed out that, despite remaining divergences, The Church: Towards a Common Vision marks progress in the dialogue on ministry in the church, as commented in the official Catholic response.
Without being in agreement on specific forms of ministry, all the churches recognise that ministry belongs to the nature of the church and is necessary for its mission, Farrell said, adding that there is also an increasing convergence on the threefold ministry of bishop-priest-deacon as developed in the church from the apostolic era.
As to the ordination of women, Farrell said, churches generally agree that this dividing question needs to be addressed within the framework of the wider issue of the place of women in the church and on the basis of the baptismal priesthood of all the faithful.
The response of the Roman Catholic Church to The Church: Towards a Common Vision sees the text as "a significant step on the way to common vision of the church but not yet an agreement needed for full communion.”
Durber thanked Farrell for what she described as both a “profound” and “gentle” response.
The webinar was the third in a series that analyses some 80 responses to the convergence document The Church: Towards a Common Vision published in 2013.
The series, which will comprise eight webinars, is being produced by the WCC Faith and Order Commission’s study group on ecclesiology.