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WCC: Nature and mission of the church: the "BEM" of the 21st century?

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  • Fr. John-Brian
    http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pr-04-26.html World Council of Churches - News Release Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2004
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      http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pr-04-26.html

      World Council of Churches - News Release
      Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@...


      For immediate release: 31 July 2004

      Nature and mission of the church: the "BEM" of the 21st century?


      This document "will become a major ecumenical instrument for the fulfillment
      of Jesus' prayer" for the unity of Christian believers, stated Metropolitan
      Dr Gennadios of Sassima from the Ecumenical Patriarchate today, as he
      introduced the study "The nature and mission of the church" to the World
      Council of Churches (WCC) plenary commission on Faith and Order.

      Addressing the 28 July to 6 August, 2004 plenary commission meeting in Kuala
      Lumpur, Malaysia, Gennadios recognized the difficulties of the present
      ecumenical scene: "The Christian world is still in 'schism' (…) unity of
      faith has fallen apart (…) unity of love has cooled (…) The body of Christ
      has been utterly disrupted," he said, adding: "Only the hope of unity has
      not been fully lost."

      Gennadios, who is one of the vice-moderators of the Faith and Order
      commission, explained that the purpose of this study process is to promote
      mutual understanding and convergences regarding the purpose and mission of
      the church, and "to reconcile the hostilities and divisions of the past".

      "It is our hope and we are optimistic that by God's grace we will continue
      together, and this ecclesiology project will become a major ecumenical
      instrument" for the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer for the unity of
      Christians, he concluded.

      Speaking after Gennadios, Bishop John Hind, from the Church of England,
      highlighted that the document bears the hope of becoming - "ultimately, and
      however long it takes" - a "convergence text on the church analogous to the
      (…) text on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" (BEM).

      One of the biggest successes of the Faith and Order commission was the
      approval in 1982 in Lima, Peru, of a fundamental convergence text on
      "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," known as BEM, which dealt with three of
      the main doctrinal church-dividing issues. The document is now in its 37th
      edition in English with some 500,000 copies in circulation in over 35
      languages worldwide.

      In his turn, Rev. Dr Peter Lodberg from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of
      Denmark emphasized that "the next important step is to take ownership in the
      churches of the ecclesiological agenda," at both the "church leadership and
      congregations at the local parish levels."

      In the following plenary discussion, Bishop Dr Hilarion of Vienna and
      Austria from the Russian Orthodox Church emphasized the importance of
      recognizing that the churches are profoundly divided.

      "Statements contained in the document, such as the statement that there is
      'communion real but not fully realized' tend to overlook the fact that there
      is no real communion but Eucharistic communion, which we do not have, and
      therefore we should not deny that and pretend that we have achieved what we
      have not." He exhorted the commission "to take more seriously the tragedy of
      the division among Christians".

      The study being "still in draft form and in a 'penultimate' stage,"
      according to Gennadios, it has not yet been released to the public. A
      possible publication of the text after it has been further revised is
      envisaged for the next WCC assembly in February 2006, although the
      commission will take up the study again afterwards.


      Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
      media@...
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