Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ecumenical news update: Pan-Orthodox council announced, Baptist-Methodist dialogue begins

Baptist World Alliance-World Methodist Council joint delegation
Catching up on sharing on Ecclesial Theology some recent ecumenical news:

At a meeting of the archbishops of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches at the Phanar in Istanbul March 6-9, they issued a "Message of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches" which announced that "The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016." This Pan-Orthodox Council would be the first such assembly since the Second Council of Nicaea in AD 787, reckoned by many churches as the Seventh Ecumenical Council. In Orthodox perspective, this could be considered the Eighth Ecumenical Council, since as Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy Ware) notes in his book The Orthodox Church, "...the Orthodox Church also believes that, if it so desired, it could by itself convene and hold another ecumenical council, equal in authority to the first seven. Since the separation of east and west the Orthodox (unlike the west) have never in fact chosen to summon such a council; but this does not mean that they believe themselves to lack the power to do so." (It should be noted that there was a Fourth Council of Constantinople in 879-80, an attempt at East-West reunion, that some regard as an Eighth Ecumenical Council.) At the very least, the 2016 council has the potential to be something of an "Orthodox Vatican II."

In other news, the bilateral international ecumenical dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council had its initial meeting January 30-February 5 at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Below is the official communique from the meeting as posted on the World Methodist Council Ecumenical Relations page:

Communique from the Bilateral Dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and The World Methodist Council

Representatives of the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council met January 30-February 5 at the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. The meeting was the opening round of conversations in the first international dialogue between Methodists and Baptists. The overall theme of the dialogue is faith working through love. The delegations were welcomed by the Provost and Executive Vice President of the University, Dr. J. Bradley Creed, as well as Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church and Rev. Dr. Mike McLemore, Director of Missions for the Birmingham Baptist Association.

Participants discussed presentations on the history, theology, and contemporary global situation of Methodists and Baptists. The dialogue is co-chaired by Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban, Superintendent Minister of the Cambridge Methodist Circuit and minister of Wesley Methodist Church in Cambridge, England, and Rev. Dr. Curtis Freeman, Research Professor and Director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina. Rev. Dr. Paul Chilcote, Dean of Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, and Rev. Dr. Fausto Vasconcelos, BWA director of Mission, Evangelism, and Theological Reflection, serve as co-secretaries.

Other members of the Methodist delegation present were Dr. Ulrike Schuler, Professor at the Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany; Rev. Malcolm Tan, Pastor of Barker Road Methodist Church in Singapore; Rev. Lauren Matthews, Minister, Umngeni Circuit, Natal Coastal District, Methodist Church of Southern Africa; and the Rev. Christine Gooden-Benguche, Secretary, Jamaica District Conference, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas. The additional Baptist members present were Rev. Dr. Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol, Professor of Biblical Exegesis, Catholic Institute, Paris, France; Rev. Dr. Timothy George, Chair, BWA Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity and Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama; and Rev. Dr. Stephen Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Theology, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. Also attending were Rev. Professor Robert Gribben, chair of the ecumenical relations committee of the WMC, from Melbourne, Australia, and Rev. Dr. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the BWA.

The participants worshipped together each day drawing on the two traditions, and attended the Sunday service at the Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham. They made a pilgrimage to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where they met with Rev. Carolyn McKinstry, author of the book While the World Watched based on her experience as a survivor of the 1963 bombing of the church. They then visited the Civil Rights Institute where they particularly noted the participation of local churches in the struggle for racial justice.

The meeting next year is planned for Singapore where they will take up the conversations on the nature of the church with special attention to justification and sanctification.

5th February 2014

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