Friday, October 30, 2009

The tenth anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

In honor of the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation:

Ten Years of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists to Commemorate the Event on October 30 and 31 in Augsburg

AUGSBURG, Germany/GENEVA, 15 October 2009 (LWI) - Several commemorative events will be held in Augsburg, Germany on 30 and 31 October to celebrate the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) between the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church ten years ago.

During a special worship service on Reformation Day in 1999, the LWF and the Vatican affirmed that mutual condemnations on the decisive question of justification that had been repeated for centuries no longer applied to the teaching of the respective churches. At the 2006 World Methodist Conference in Seoul, South Korea, the member churches of the World Methodist Council formally affirmed the JDDJ.

The highlight of the upcoming commemorative celebrations will be a ceremony on 30 October at 19:30 hrs in the Golden Hall of the Augsburg "Rathaus." Greetings by the Lord Mayor of Augsburg Dr Kurt Gribl; by Bishop Dr Johannes Friedrich of Munich, presiding bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany; and by Bishop Dr Walter Mixa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Augsburg, will be followed by brief introductions to the topic by the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) Walter Cardinal Kasper, and by LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko. Prof. em. Eberhard Jüngel from Tübingen will deliver the keynote address titled "What Does Our Happiness Have to Do with Our Blessedness?"

On 31 October from 09:00 hrs, presentations related to the JDDJ will continue in the Golden Hall. Speakers will include the long-serving bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany Dr Walter Klaiber of Tübingen, and the former president of the German Bishops' Conference Karl Cardinal Lehmann of Mainz. The PCPCU president and the LWF general secretary will give the closing remarks. The festivities will conclude with an ecumenical worship service in the Augsburg Cathedral and a reception in the Michael Sailer Hall.

Kasper, Noko and Klaiber will address a press conference hosted jointly by the LWF, PCPCU and the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany on 30 October at 15:00 hrs at the "Hollbau" Annahof in Augsburg.

This is a joint press release by the media offices of the Lutheran World Federation, Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and the Diocese of Augsburg.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Receptive Ecumenism

One of the most encouraging aspects of my participation at the recent WCC Faith and Order Commission meeting was the evidence I encountered in the form of paper presentations, discussions, and informal conversations that "receptive ecumenism" as an approach to ecumenical engagement is gaining traction. In a glossary appendix to my forthcoming book Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity, I define "receptive ecumenism" as follows:

Receptive ecumenism—An approach to ecumenical dialogue according to which the communions in conversation with one another seek to identify the distinctive gifts that each tradition has to offer the other and which each could receive from the other; given expression by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical on ecumenism *Ut Unum Sint (“That They May Be One”): “Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some ways it is always an ‘exchange of gifts’” (§ 28). Some *interconfessional dialogues, such as that between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council, have worked toward concrete proposals for the exchange of ecclesial gifts.

Paul D. Murray, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University (UK), has been one of the major voices advocating and exploring the possibilities of receptive ecumenism, especially through his leadership of the ongoing Receptive Ecumenism project at the Centre for Catholic Studies. A virtual version of the Centre's January 2009 conference on "Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning: Learning to Be Church Together" is online (click on conference title above).

I close this post with the Centre's brief explanation of receptive ecumenism:

The essential principle behind Receptive Ecumenism is that the primary ecumenical responsibility is to ask not “What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?” but “What do we need to learn from them?” The assumption is that if all were asking this question seriously and acting upon it then all would be moving in ways that would both deepen our authentic respective identities and draw us into more intimate relationship.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Ecumenical Theology and/as Systematic Theology"

My article "Ecumenical Theology and/as Systematic Theology" appears in the October 2009 issue of the journal Ecumenical Trends (vol. 38, no. 9: pp. 6/134-9/137 and 15/143). The issue is not available online, but here's an excerpt from the introductory section of the article for those who don't have access to a library that carries Ecumenical Trends:

There is now an ecumenically shared commitment to ecumenical formation as indispensable to preparation for pastoral ministry, evidenced by the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (1993) and the World Council of Churches Programme on Ecumenical Theological Education working document “Magna Charta on Ecumenical Formation in Theological Education in the 21st Century” (2008)....Yet in the absence of more intentional efforts in ecumenical formation, the average ordinand is either unaware of the significant strides toward visible unity in faith and order that have emerged from the bilateral and multilateral dialogues or else regards them as mildly interesting but of little relevance to the practice of congregational ministry. Pending needed curricular revision, professors of the individual biblical, historical, theological, and practical disciplines can re-envision their courses so that their learning outcomes include ecumenical formation as it relates to the subject matter. As a systematic theologian, I am convinced that this can best by accomplished in my own discipline if ecumenical theology is understood as a specific form of systematic theology that is systematic in its own right, is informed by other expressions of systematic theology, and in turn can serve as a source for systematic theological construction.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Faith and Order: Emerging coherence and changes of patterns

I'm now back home from the WCC Faith and Order meeting in Crete and enjoying being back in the routines of family life and teaching. This article on the WCC web site summarizes the proceedings of our meetings; papers, responses, sermons, and other documents from the meeting are available on this page.

In a future post I will offer some reflections on a promising and encouraging new approach to ecumenical engagement called "receptive ecumenism," which figured prominently in some of our discussions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Update: Baptist voices in the WCC Commission on Faith and Order

Thanks to the kindness of a fellow commissioner from Ethiopia, we now have a photo of the four of us. From left: Arthur Ko Lay, Steve Harmon, Ruth Gouldbourne, Glenroy Lalor.

Baptist voices in the WCC Commission on Faith and Order

Since I am representing the Baptist World Alliance under the category of Christian World Communions representation on the WCC Commission on Faith and Order, I want to call attention to the participation of other Baptists in the meeting here in Crete. In the photo above Rev. Dr. Ruth Gouldbourne, pastor of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London (UK) and previously on the faculty of Bristol Baptist College, speaks from the floor of a plenary session this morning. There are two other Baptist commission members present: Rev. Arthur Ko Lay, pastor of Judson Memorial Church of the Myanmar Baptist Convention in Yangon, Myanmar, and Rev. Glenroy Lalor, Lecturer in Theology and Baptist Warden at the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Stories and Photos from the Crete WCC Faith and Order Commission meeting

The World Council of Churches news service is posting news stories and photo galleries from the 2009 plenary meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order in Crete, which concludes tomorrow. In a future post after my return (following recovery from jet lag and catching up on teaching up responsibilities), I'll summarize some personal experiences and observations from the meeting.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Program personalities for 2009 WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission Meeting

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who as the Patriarch of Constantinople is the "first among equals" in the leadership of the Eastern Orthodox churches, will open the meeting of the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order in which I will participate later this week in Kolympari, Crete, Greece. This recent WCC press release previews the meeting; this page provides biographical information on Bartholomew I and other keynote speakers for the sessions. I invite blog readers to pray that God's Holy Spirit might grant all plenary commissioners discernment during our discussions.