Nature and mission of the church

Theologically the church is one; but the historic churches, despite all ecumenical advances, continue to be divided on important issues. This hampers their witness to the triune God and impairs the effectiveness, and indeed credibility, of their mission and witness today.

Among these divisive issues, none is more central than the understanding of the church itself - its identity, its mission in the world, its structure, its authority. These differences have immediate consequences - for example, for the churches' recognition of one another, for their ability to do common mission, to worship together, to pursue common diakonia (service), to deal together with controversial ethical issues, to recognize each others' ministries, and to agree on the question of the ordination of women.

The WCC Faith and Order Commission, as an official world-wide body for theological reflection, is uniquely placed to foster discussion in this critical area. Faith and Order has addressed this central issue of ecclesiology in the study document The nature and mission of the church, sent by the WCC  to the churches for response. The churches strongly affirmed the importance of work in this area by adopting the Porto Alegre ecclesiology text Called to be the one church, and by mandating all WCC member churches to respond officially to the text by the next WCC assembly.

This activity involves organizing an integrated and complementary response process to the two documents, evaluating the results, and bringing these to the WCC central committee and the WCC Faith and Order Commission as input to the ongoing work for the visible unity of the church. Specialists in mission will be involved in the process.

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Related documents

The nature and mission of the church - a stage on the way to a common statement

This extended text was published in December 2005 and is the latest result from Faith and Order's study on ecclesiology. It seeks to express common convictions about the church, its nature and mission, and to identify the ecclesiological issues which continue to divide the churches today.

Called to be the one church (text on ecclesiology)

An invitation to the churches to renew their commitment to the search for unity and to deepen their dialogue.

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