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Dialogue between orthodox and protestants is first priority for churches in dialogue

Conference of European Churches – Office of Communications

Press Release No.07-24/e 25 May 2007

COMMISSION OF CEC

Facilitating the continuation and the reception of theological dialogues between the Orthodox Churches and the Churches of the Reformation is one of most important priorities for the Churches in Dialogue Commission, the theological commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

The annual meeting of the Churches in Dialogue Commission took place from 18-23 May 2007 at the Orthodox Academy of Volos, Greece, at the invitation of the Church of Greece. His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitrias and Almyros welcomed the participants and underlined the ecumenical commitment of his Church. On 21 May he hosted a reception for the 25 participants, coming from 13 European countries. The meeting was chaired by the co-moderators of the Churches in Dialogue Commission, Archbishop Yeznik Petrossian, Armenian Apostolic Church, and Canon Elizabeth Fisher, Church of England.

The Commission reviewed the various ongoing projects. High priority was given to the project on the evaluation of theological dialogues between the Orthodox churches and other member churches of CEC. A Finnish researcher, Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, was recently appointed to work on this project for a 9-month period (see our press release of 16 April 2007). The Churches in Dialogue Commission decided to organise a consultation on this evaluation process in the framework of the next Commission meeting, which will take place from 23-27 June 2008 in Pullach, Germany.

The Commission is also very interested in inter-religious dialogue. Participants agreed to produce a survey and an evaluation on official documents from CEC member churches and from the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of the theology of religions. Material on this issue will be presented at the 2008 Commission meeting, together with a paper on relations between majority and minority churches, from both theological and sociological perspectives.

The Commission stressed the importance of continuing the “Research in European Mission” project. The first phase of this project, a 3-year study led by Rev. Darrell Jackson from the UK, came to an end at the beginning of this year. A consultation on the future of the mission project will be held in Geneva on 2-3 July 2007, with the participation of all sponsoring bodies.

On 22 May a consultation took place between the Churches in Dialogue Commission members and European representatives of the Faith and Order Commission (the theological commission of the World Council of Churches, WCC). The theme of the consultation was the recent document “The Nature and the Mission of the Church” (December 2005, see link at the end of this release). This document seeks to express common convictions about the church, its nature and mission, and to identify the ecclesiological issues which continue to divide the churches today.

Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze, who works on Faith and Order at the WCC, gave a general introduction to the WCC study document, and John Hind, Bishop of Chichester, UK, vice-moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, introduced the document’s theological content. Prof. Friederike Nüssel presented a paper on the limits of diversity from the viewpoint of the Evangelical Church in Germany and Ms Xanthi Morphi from an Orthodox viewpoint. In the light of the discussion which followed, the Churches in Dialogue Commission decided to study the question about how far the WCC study document reflects the self-understanding of the following church traditions: Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox and Reformed. By summarizing responses from these four main traditions, the Commission will seek to give a common answer to the various questions. The Commission also appealed to all churches in Europe to study “The Nature and Mission of the Church” document and to send their responses to WCC.

“The meeting of the Churches in Dialogue Commission in Volos was a very constructive one”, said Prof. Viorel Ionita, Director Designate of the CEC Churches in Dialogue Commission. “The decisions on the different agenda items, the consultation with Faith and Order as well as the experience of the worship and spiritual life in the Church of Greece were very encouraging moments for the future work of the Commission. We are grateful to the Church of Greece for having graciously hosted this meeting and especially to CEC Central Committee member Ms Katerina Karkala-Zorba for all the practical arrangements”.

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The document “The Nature and Mission of the Church” can be found at: http://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/i-unity-the-church-and-its-mission/the-nature-and-mission-of-the-church-a-stage-on-the-way-to-a-common-statement.html

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.

For more information:
Luca Negro
CEC Office of Communications
Phone +41 22 791 64 85 or 791 63 25
Fax +41 22 791 62 27
e-mail: Luca.Negro@cec-kek.org
Web-site: www.cec-kek.org