Joint Commission Of The Theological Dialogue Between The Orthodox Church And The Oriental Orthodox Churches
Recommendations On Pastoral Issues
Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Chambesy (Geneva), Switzerland
Recommendations on Pastoral Issues (1990)
The Joint Commission of the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, at its meeting at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Chambesy, Geneva from September 23rd to 28th 1990, received a report from its Joint Pastoral Sub-committee which had met at the Anba Bishoy Monastery in Egypt from 31st January to 4th February 1990. The report was the starting point for an extended discussion of four types of pastoral issues :
I. Relations among our two families of Churches, and our preparation for unity.
II. Relations of our Churches with other Christian Churches and our common participation in the Ecumenical Movement.
III. Our common service to the world of suffering, need, injustice and conflicts.
IV. Our co-operation in the propagation of our common faith and tradition.
I. Relations among our two families of Churches
1. We feel as a Joint Theological Commission that a period of intense preparation of our people to participate in the implementation of our recommendations and in the restoration of communion of our Churches is needed. To this end we propose the following practical procedure.
2. It is important to plan an exchange of visits by our heads of Churches and prelates, priests and lay people of each one of our two families of Churches to the other.
3. It is important to give further encouragement to exchange of theological professors and students among theological institutions of the two families for periods varying from one week to several years.
4. In localities where Churches of the two families co-exist, the congregations should organise participation of one group of people – men, women, youth and children, including priests, where possible from one congregation of one family to a congregation of the other to attend in the latter’s eucharistic worship on Sundays and feast days.
5. Publications (a) We need to publish, in the various languages of our Churches, the key documents of this Joint Commission with explanatory notes, in small pamphlets to be sold at a reasonable price in all our congregations.
(b) It will be useful also to have brief pamphlets explaining in simple terms the meaning of the Christological terminology and interpreting the variety of terminology taken by various persons and groups in the course of history in the light of our Agreed Statement on Christology.
(c) We need a book which gives some brief account, both historical and descriptive, of all the Churches of our two families. This should also be produced in the various languages of our peoples, with pictures and photographs as much as possible.
(d) We need to promote brief books of Church History by specialist authors giving a more positive understanding of the divergencies of the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries.
6. Churches of both families should agree that they will not rebaptize members of each other, for recognition of the baptism of the Churches of our two families, if they have not already done so.
7. Churches should initiate bilateral negotiations for facilitating each other in using each other’s church premises in special cases where any of them is deprived of such means.
8. Where conflicts arise between Churches of our two families, e.g. a) marriages consecrated in one Church being annulled by a bishop of another Church; b) marriages between members of our two families, being celebrated in one church over against the other, c) or children from such marriages being forced to join the one church against the other, the Churches involved should come to bilateral agreements on the procedure to be adopted until such problems are finally solved by our union.
9. The Churches of both families should be encouraged to look into the theological curriculum and books used in their institutions and make necessary additions and changes in them with the view to promoting better understanding of the other family of Churches. They may also profitably devise programmes for instructing the pastors and people in our congregations on the issues related to the union of the two families.
II. Relations of our Churches with other Christian Churches in the world
10. Our common participation in the Ecumenical Movement and our involvement in the World Council of Churches needs better co-ordination to make it more effective and fruitful for the promotion of the faith which was once delivered to the saints in the context of the Ecumenical Movement. We could have a preliminary discussion of this question at the Seventh Assembly of the W.C.C. at Canberra, Australia, in February 1991 as well as in regional and national councils of Churches and work out an appropriate scheme for more effective co-ordination of our efforts.
11. There are crucial issues in which our two families agree fundamentally and have disagreements with the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. We could organise small joint consultations on issues like
(a) the position and role of the woman in the life of the Church and our common Orthodox response to the contemporary problem of other Christian communities concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood,
(b) pastoral care for mixed marriages between Orthodox and heterodox Christians,
(c) marriages between Orthodox Christians and members of other religions,
(d) the Orthodox position on dissolution or annulment of marriage, divorce and separation of married couples,.
12. A joint consultation should be held on the burning problem of Proselytism, vis-a-vis religious freedom to draw up the framework of an agreement with other Churches, for the procedure to be followed when an Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox person or family want to join another (Catholic or Protestant) Church or vice-versa.
13. A special joint consultation should be held on the theology and practice of Uniatism in the Roman Catholic Church, as a prelude to a discussion with the Roman Catholic Church on this subject.
14. We need to have another joint consultation to co-ordinate the results of the several bilateral conversations now going on or held in the past by Churches of our two families with other Catholic and Protestant Churches.
III. Our common service to the world of suffering need, injustice and conflicts
15. We need to think together how best we could co-ordinate our existing schemes for promoting our humanitarian and philanthropic projects in the socio-ethnic context of our peoples and of the world at large. This would entail our common approach to such problems as :
(a) hunger and poverty,
(b) sickness and suffering,
(c) political, religious and social discrimination,
(d) refugees and victims of war,
(e) youth, drugs and unemployment,
(f) the mentally and physically handicapped,
(g) the old and the aged)
IV. Our co-operation in the propagation of the Christian Faith
16. We need to encourage and promote mutual co-operation as far as possible in the work of our inner mission to our people, i.e. in instructing them in the faith, and how to cope with modern dangers arising from contemporary secularism, including cults, ideologies, materialism, AIDs, homosexuality, the permissive society, consumerism, etc.
17. We also need to find a proper way for collaborating with each other and with other Christians in the Christian mission to the world without undermining the authority and integrity of the local Orthodox Churches.