Faith and Order Group Sees Church as Reflection of Holy Trinity

December 15, 2009 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—The mission and the Trinitarian nature of the Church were discussed at the Fall meeting of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, October 15-17.

The Commission was hosted by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Ray, a Faith and Order commissioner and the Neal F. and Ila A. Fisher Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has participated in the Commission since 1968.

Commissioners heard reports on the work of the Commission and the NCC from Dr. Anton Vrame, Chair of Faith and Order’s Executive Committee; Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC senior program director for the Faith and Order Commission; and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

Dr. Kireopoulos presented the Faith and Order’s 2009 Annual Report and noted the forthcoming publication of two books of ecumenical note: The Ecumenical Movement: Anthology of Key Texts, edited by Michael Kinnamon and Kireopoulos (WCC/Eerdmans, 2010); and Theology in the United States Today: Churches on the Journey, edited by Kireopoulos (Paulist Press, 2010). ,/

Kinnamon noted in his address NCC’s success in renewing its identity as an ecclesial, conciliar reality: a communion of communions, a council of churches. He challenged sending bodies to consider whether ecumenism is integral to their self-identity or merely an appendix. He also spoke about the shape of the NCC’s upcoming 2010 General Assembly in New Orleans.

The Commission also discussed the October, 2009 meeting in Crete of the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission and possible revisions to study group methodologies for the 2012-2015 quadrennium.

The Commission conducts its work principally in the three study groups for each quadrennium. At the Evanston meeting, “Nature and Mission of the Church,” chaired by Dr. Peter Bouteneff (Orthodox Church in America) of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and the Rev. Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell (Reformed Church in America) of the Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa, took up two tasks. The first was a discussion of study group members’ papers on “Church of the Triune God,” the first part of the document, The Nature and Mission of the Church [NMC]. The second was a discussion of a paper prepared by comissioner Brian Paulson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Libertyville, Illinois, on how the study group’s North American context might shape its final quadrennial response. For the March 2010 meeting, the study group will prepare discussion papers on “The Church in History,” the second part of NMC.

“Unity in Mission,” chaired by Dr. Mitzi Budde of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Virginia Theological Seminary and Dr. Don Thorsen,Wesleyan Theological Society and the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University, discussed eight papers of study group members. Members will present another six to eight papers in March 2010. An academic journal has agreed to publish many of these papers. The study group is planning an anthology of papers for seminarians and parish communities.

The “Justice and Salvation” group, chaired by Dr. Terry Cross, Society for Pentecostal Studies, of Lee University, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Theresa Koernke, of the Catholic Washington Theological Union, continued to prepare work for study guides and other literature to help parishes and other church communities reflect on the relationship of justice and salvation.

The October meeting included the fourth session of the consultation, “Ecumenism from the Margins: Christian Unity in the Quest for Justice.” The presenters came from the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and included the Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and Dr. Anne Joh, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology.

The Faith and Order Commission meets every March and October. Its next meeting will be on March 18-20, in New York City, where it will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, which marks the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.

The members of the USCCB delegation present in Evanston were: Dr. Christopher Ruddy of The Catholic University of America, and USCCB field representative; Holy Cross Father John Ford of The Catholic University of America; and Dr. Barbara Sain of Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.