Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to open meeting on Christian unity

News (Sept. 28, 2009) from the World Council of Churches:

World Council of Churches

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will open the meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order, which will take place in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 7 to 14 October 2009.

At this plenary meeting, the 120 members of the commission, which is seen as Christianity’s most representative theological forum, will address the question of Christian unity from new perspectives.

Participants at the Crete gathering will not only address issues that have traditionally divided Christian denominations, but also matters that have become divisive in more recent times even within churches, such as questions of moral discernment.

This new approach will be rooted in a reflection on how churches relate to their sources of theological authority, and developed through case studies illustrating how churches use these references to make moral decisions.

WCC president from Europe Dr Mary Tanner will encourage participants to engage in what she affirms could be the beginning of a new phase in Faith and Order’s history.

The main theme of the meeting “Called to be the One Church” will be addressed by:

— Metropolitan Prof. Gennadios of Sassima, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople;
— Rev. Dr Maake Masango, Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, South Africa;
— Rev. Dr Marianela de la Paz Cot, Episcopal Church in Cuba;
— Dr Minna Hietamäki, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland;
— Sister Ha Fong Maria Ko, Roman Catholic Church, China/Italy.

The discussion on the future of the study “The Nature and Mission of the Church” will be stimulated by contributions from:

— Rev. Dr Paul Collins, Church of England;
— Rev. Dr Hermen Shastri, Methodist Church in Malaysia
— Rev. Dr Viorel Ionita, Romanian Orthodox Church.

From the WCC’s text on ecclesiology: Called to be the One Church:

6. The catholicity of the Church expresses the fullness, integrity, and totality of its life in Christ through the Holy Spirit in all times and places. This mystery is expressed in each community of baptized believers in which the apostolic faith is confessed and lived, the gospel is proclaimed, and the sacraments are celebrated. Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches. We affirm that the catholicity of the Church is expressed most visibly in sharing holy communion and in a mutually recognised and reconciled ministry.

Biographical information on keynote speakers

Bartholomew I was enthroned as Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch in 1991. Previously, he was a member of Faith and Order, and of the central and executive committees of the World Council of Churches. He has a particular interest in the environment and peace-making, and was the preacher at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the World Council of Churches at St Pierre cathedral, Geneva.

Mary Tanner, from the Church of England, is a leading theologian and author who has been involved in the ecumenical movement in a variety of ways over the years. A former moderator of the Faith and Order plenary commission, she was elected as one of the eight presidents of the World Council of Churches at the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre. Tanner was awarded the title of “Dame” by the queen in 2008. She received the honour for her work with the World Council of Churches and with the Anglican Communion.

Metropolitan Gennadios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is a professor of Orthodox theology and canon law in various universities. He is involved in a number of dialogues involving the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, among others. He has been a member of the World Council of Churches Executive and Central Committees since 2002 and is a noted author on contemporary Orthodoxy and ecumenism. He is the moderator of the Plenary Planning Committee for the Crete meeting.

Maake Masango is a professor of practical theology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. A minister and past moderator of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, he was a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which has worked to heal the scars caused by apartheid in South Africa. He received a PhD in Counseling, Theology and Psychology from Columbia University.

Marianela de la Paz Cot, from the Episcopal Church in Cuba, studied theology at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas, Cuba and obtained a master’s degree at the Escola Superior de Teología of São Leopoldo, Brazil. Previously, she worked as a medical doctor. She now teaches pastoral theology in various religious institutions.

Minna Hietamäki is a younger theologian who earned a doctorate from Helsinki University in 2008. Her main fields of interest are ecumenical theology, theology of doctrine, the possibilities of doctrinal consensus and ecumenical education. Her book Agreeable Agreement: An Examination of the Quest for Consensus in Ecumenical Dialogue will be published this year by T&T Clark/Continuum.

Ha Fong Maria Ko was born in Macau, China, and is a member of the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco in Italy. She is professor of New Testament exegesis at the Pontifical Faculty “Auxilium”, Rome, and also teaches at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Hong Kong and at several Roman Catholic seminaries in China. She has written in the fields of biblical hermeneutics, biblical pastoral ministry and biblical spirituality. Most of her publications are concerned with the reading of the Bible in a multicultural society.

Paul Collins is a priest of the Church of England, and a member of the Faith and Order advisory group of that church. He teaches systematic theology at the University of Chichester and has published in the areas of trinitarian theology, the doctrine of deification and inculturation. He is secretary of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network.

Hermen Shastri is general secretary of the Malaysian Council of Churches and an ordained minister of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. He also serves on numerous committees in the country including the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST). He was the local organizer of the previous Faith and Order Plenary Commission meeting, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2004.

Viorel Ionita is an archpriest of the Romanian Orthodox Church, professor of church history at the Orthodox theological faculty of the University of Bucharest, Romania, and director of the Churches in Dialogue Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). He played an important role in the drawing up of Charta Oecumenica – Guidelines for the Growing Cooperation among the Churches in Europe, which was launched in 2001 by CEC and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences. He has written numerous studies on church history, ecclesiology, ecumenism and mission.

Metropolitan Karayiannis studied at the theological faculty, University of Athens, Greece, and at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He completed a PhD on the topic “Distinction between essence and energies in God according to Saint Maximus Confessor”. In 1996 he was appointed Bishop of Trimithus, and in 2007 Metropolitan of Constantias-Ammochostos. Since 2006, he is the moderator of the Faith and Order Commission.

John Gibaut is director of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order, and a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada. He is canon theologian of the Diocese of Ottawa, associate professor in the faculty of theology at Saint Paul University, Ottawa and adjunct professor in the faculty of divinity, Trinity College, University of Toronto. He has been involved in numerous dialogues between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.


  1. Can someone help me understand on what basis the Orthodox Church can justify being a member of the WCC?

    It seems to me that since the Orthodox, like the Catholics, believe that they are THE church the Orthodox would opt for some sort of observer status (again like the Catholics) that would allow them to participate in the WCC without being a member “church.” (After all, how can a church that thinks it is THE church be an official part of an organization that lumps all “churches” together?)



  2. In my opinion, there is no justification for the Orthodox Church to remain
    part of the World Council of Churches. I recall reading about the 1991
    assembly in Australia which featured some rather bizarre presentations
    by feminist and other radical “theologians” whose views were more pagan
    than Christian.

    The WCC is a left wing organization masquerading as a religious institution.
    It is incompatible with the Orthodox Church and the reputation of the
    Orthodox suffers by being associated with the WCC. The same can be said
    of the National Council of Churches in the United States. I cannot figure
    out why the Orthodox Churches continue to remain in such institutions.

    It is better in my opinion to concentrate on the problems of Orthodox unity.
    The Ecumenical Patriarchate is prepared to pray with Protestants and
    Catholics, but ordered the forcible expulsion of traditionalist Monks
    from the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos, and he refuses to
    have any contact with Old Calendar Greek Churches.

    Better in my view to abandon Ecumenism outright and begin the process
    of repairing the damage done by Meletios Metaxakis who changed the
    Calendar in the name of Ecumenism and inflicted damaging blows to the
    unity of the Church.

    Dialogue with the Old Calendarists, an effort to resolve the Ukrainian
    Church problem, and granting Autocephaly to America would be a far more
    productive effort for Orthodoxy than continuing dialogues with the non
    Orthodox that are going nowhere.


  3. Theodoros,

    RE The WCC is a left wing organization masquerading as a religious institution. It is incompatible with the Orthodox Church…

    Just to clarify. Would the problem then be not with an understanding of what “The Church” is (as I indicated above), but with the liberal leaning of the WCC? Thus, if there was a Protestant group that likewise considered all churches equal – but they held conservative religious opinions – the Orthodox Church should be OK with membership in that group?

    RE … Old Calendarists… the Ukrainian Church… Autocephaly to America would be a far more productive effort for Orthodoxy

    I understand what you are saying, but it does seem reasonable to me that the EP – as a senior representative of Orthodoxy – would want to maintain some sort of international presence and dialogue.


  4. To Greg,

    The Orthodox Church can continue to maintain itself as the one Church
    with an interest in bringing in those who claim to be Christians but are
    not Orthodox. I do accept that the initial participation of the Orthodox
    in the Ecumenical movement was well intended, but has drifted from its
    goals. The purpose of such an endeavor should have been of making the
    others Orthodox, and that goal has failed miserably.

    If there was a Protestant group that was conservative but believed all
    Churches were equal, this would not be an acceptable position but there
    could be a starting point for discussions for a certain amount of time.
    If nothing happens, the dialogue could be politely terminated. A case in
    point is the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremias II in the sixteenth century
    who held meetings with the Lutherans but when they refused to accept the
    Orthodox Church and its claims, he politely terminated the dialogue.

    As for the EP wanting to maintain some sort of international presence and
    dialogue. The Church of Constantinople’s credibility and authority comes
    from the Orthodox belief in Conciliarity. Constantinople must reflect the
    interests and perspectives of all local Orthodox Churches. The Phanar cannot
    simultaneously claim to be representing Orthodoxy with other confessions
    while there are continued crises within Orthodoxy.

    The Phanar has to get its own house in order. This means in my opinion that
    its attention should be focused on healing the splits within Orthodoxy first
    and foremost.


  5. Theodoros,

    Thanks for the historical perspective and the reply.


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