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Orthodox Participation in thw WCC

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  • Thomas Daniel
    World Council of Churches Update, Up-01-40 / For Immediate Use / 21 November 2001 Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC: Consensus on
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 24, 2001
      World Council of Churches
      Update, Up-01-40 / For Immediate Use / 21 November 2001

      Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC:
      Consensus on consensus as appropriate decision-making method for the

      At the conclusion of its third plenary meeting, the Special
      Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches
      (WCC), meeting in Berekfürdö, Hungary, 15-20 November, released the
      following communiqué:


      The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council
      of Churches (WCC) held its third plenary session, 15-20 November 2001,
      at Berekfürdö, Hungary, at the gracious invitation of the Reformed
      Church in Hungary.

      The Commission is composed of an equal number of representatives
      appointed by the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and
      representatives from other member churches of the WCC appointed by the
      WCC Central Committee. Its co-moderators were Metropolitan
      Chrysostomos of Ephesus (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Bishop Rolf
      Koppe (Evangelical Church in Germany) and in Bishop Koppe's absence,
      Dr Anna Marie Aagaard (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark).

      The mandate of the Special Commission is "to study and analyze the
      whole spectrum of issues related to Orthodox participation in the
      WCC" and "to make proposals concerning the necessary changes in
      structure, style and ethos of the Council" to the WCC Central

      An interim report, summarizing the Commission's work from its first
      and second plenary meetings in Morges, Switzerland, 6-8 December
      1999, and Cairo, Egypt, 23-25 October 2000, was presented to the WCC
      Central Committee meeting in Potsdam, Germany, 29 January - 6
      February 2001. The interim report identified five clusters of

      - issues related to membership;
      - a review of decision-making processes;
      - common prayer;
      - social and ethical issues;
      - ecclesiological issues.

      At its third plenary meeting, the Commission made considerable
      progress. One of the most significant affirmations of the Commission
      was that consensus is the appropriate decision-making method for WCC
      governing bodies. This process intends to insure that all strongly
      held positions will be incorporated in the report or in the process
      of the meeting as a whole, thus contributing to a spirit of common
      work toward unity in the conduct of business in the Council. By
      consensus, the Commission proposed the following definition for
      further consideration:

      The consensus method is a process for seeking the common mind of a
      meeting without deciding issues by means of voting. A consensus is
      reached when one of the following occurs:

      (a) all are in agreement (unanimity);

      (b) most are in agreement and those who disagree are content that the
      discussion has been both full and fair and that the proposal
      expresses the general 'mind of the meeting'; the minority therefore
      gives consent;

      (c) the meeting acknowledges that there are various opinions, and it
      is agreed that these be recorded in the body of the proposal (not
      just in the minutes);

      (d) it is agreed that the matter be postponed;

      (e) it is agreed that no decision can be reached.

      Therefore consensus procedures allow any group of churches, through a
      spokesperson, to have their objections to any proposal addressed and
      satisfied prior to the adoption of the proposal, or on rare occasions
      for any group of churches to stop any proposal until they are
      satisfied that their concerns have been fully addressed.

      It was recommended that, upon the completion of the work of the
      Special Commission, "a parity committee", a group of 12 members - 50
      per cent Orthodox and 50 per cent others - will continue to give
      advice and make recommendations to the Central and Executive
      Committees of the WCC.

      The Commission affirmed the function of the WCC as a necessary
      instrument in facing social and ethical issues. Taking seriously that
      such issues arise out of the life of the churches, and that, at the
      churches'request, the WCC speaks on their behalf rather than in their
      place, the Commission affirmed that consensus methodology in WCC
      governing bodies would address many of the concerns raised on social
      and ethical issues.

      Addressing issues of common prayer, the Commission expressed that
      "Christians need to plead together for divine assistance". At the
      same time the Commission saw the need for careful guidelines for
      common prayer.

      Underlying these discussions was the enduring question of how the
      churches understand themselves in relation to the one Church, the
      Body of Christ. This question was seen to permeate all issues under

      Representatives of the membership study group, who met prior to the
      plenary session of the Commission in Budapest, 12-14 November,
      presented a second interim report, exploring alternative models of
      participation in the life and work of the WCC. With the help of
      members of the Special Commission, the membership study group is
      continuing to prepare a new set of criteria - embracing both
      theological and ecclesial requirements - for the benefit of churches
      applying for membership. It was expected that current member churches
      would find themselves described by these criteria.

      The members of the Commission attended Sunday worship in the Debrecen
      Reformed Great Church and visited the Debrecen Reformed College.
      During the worship, both co-moderators, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of
      Ephesus and Dr Anna Marie Aagaard, addressed the congregation and
      gave an account of the work of the Special Commission. At a lunch
      reception, the presiding bishop of the Reformed Church in Hungary,
      Bishop Dr Gusztáv Bölcskei, as well as the president, Bishop Dr Mihály
      Márkus, and the general secretary, Rev. Dr Tibor Görög, of the
      Hungarian Ecumenical Council welcomed the Commission members. On
      behalf of the Commission members, Dr Aagaard expressed her warmest
      gratitude for the hospitality of the Reformed Church in Hungry and
      thanked Bishop Bölcskei and Rev. Bertalan Tamás for the excellent
      preparatory work and coordination. At the close of the meeting,
      Commission members also expressed their thanks to the WCC staff for
      their hard work on behalf of the group.

      The Commission plans to meet in plenary session in Helsinki, Finland,
      27 May - 2 June 2002, to prepare the final report which is expected
      for the WCC Central Committee meeting to be held in Geneva,
      Switzerland, 26 August - 3 September 2002.
      The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC was
      created by the WCC's eighth assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998.
      Behind the decision to create the Commission were increasingly vocal
      expressions of concerns about the WCC among Orthodox churches. These
      had culminated in a meeting of Eastern Orthodox Churches in
      Thessaloniki, Greece, in May 1998. Central Orthodox concerns as
      summarized by that meeting included some activities of the WCC itself,
      "certain developments within some Protestant member churches of the
      Council that are reflected in the debates of the WCC", lack of
      progress in ecumenical theological discussions, and the perception
      that the present structure of the WCC makes meaningful Orthodox
      participation increasingly difficult and even for some impossible. In
      its action approving creation of the Special Commission, the Harare
      assembly noted that "other churches and ecclesial families" have
      concerns similar to those expressed by the Orthodox.

      For more information on the Special Commission please consult
      or please contact Media Relations Office, Tel: (+41.22) 791.64.21
      * * * *
      cf. WCC Press Update, Up-00-36, of 26 October 2000
      cf. WCC Press Update of 9 December 1999
      World Council of Churches
      Media Relations Office
      Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
      Fax: (41 22) 798 1346
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