Studies and texts of the Faith and Order Commission

 

Faith and Order studies and texts have no independent authority; they gain importance in the ecumenical discussion insofar as they prove helpful to the churches in addressing issues of theology and practice which continue to divide them. Most Faith and Order texts are distributed widely, in order to promote the broadest possible discussion among the churches of issues related to unity. But not all texts are at the same stage of development, or have the same "status" in relation to the Faith and Order Commission itself. Broadly speaking one can distinguish between reports of specific consultations, which reflect only the discussion and degree of agreement among those present, and texts which have been reviewed and revised, as part of a larger study process, by the Faith and Order Commission. Such texts may be sent formally to the churches for reaction; exceptionally a convergence text, such as Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982) and The Church: Towards a Common Vision (2013), is sent for an official church response prepared "at the highest appropriate level".

This emphasizes that Faith and Order texts - as all texts - should be read in light of their origin and intended purpose. This is indicated in the introduction to each text, and these explanations should be noted carefully.

Download the list (.pdf): Faith and Order Official Numbered Publications

I. Unity: The Church and its Mission
The Church: Towards a Common Vision
What can we say together about the Church of the Triune God in order to grow in communion, to struggle together for justice and peace in the world, and to overcome together our past and present divisions? The Church: Towards a Common Vision a remarkable answer to this question. Produced by theologians from the widest range of Christian traditions and cultures, The Church addresses first the Church’s mission, unity, and its being in the Trinitarian life of God. It then addresses our growth in communion – in apostolic faith, sacramental life, and ministry – as churches called to live in and for the world.
The Nature and Mission of the Church - A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement
This extended text (about 18,000 words) 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. The text has been sent officially to the churches for evaluation and response; study groups and individuals are also invited to offer comments and reactions. This text replaces the previous study document The Nature and Purpose of the Church (Faith and Order Paper no. 181, issued in 1998).
Called to be the One Church (The Porto Alegre Ecclesiology Text)
Called to be the One Church (The Porto Alegre Ecclesiology Text) This concise text (about 2,300 words) was adopted by WCC member churches at the Porto Alegre Assembly (February, 2006) as a basis for their renewed commitment to the search for visible unity. It invites the churches into a renewed conversation - mutually supportive, yet open and searching - about the quality of their fellowship and communion, and about the issues which still divide them. WCC member churches are asked to respond officially to the text by the next WCC Assembly; study groups and individuals are also invited to offer comments and reactions.
The Unity of the Church: Gift and Calling - The Canberra Statement
This text developed by Faith and Order is another of the "unity statements" adopted by WCC Assemblies over the years. It is one attempt to indicate the elements of "full communion" among churches.
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper no. 111, the "Lima Text")
This famous text, adopted by Faith and Order at its plenary commission meeting in Lima, Peru in 1982, explores the growing agreement - and remaining differences - in fundamental areas of the churches' faith and life. The most widely-distributed and studied ecumenical document, BEM has been a basis for many "mutual recognition" agreements among churches and remains a reference today.
Towards a Common Date for Easter
In most years Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians celebrate Easter on one date, and Orthodox Christians on another (the year 2007, and again in 2011, will be an exception). This text, prepared by Faith and Order in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches, examines the reasons for this and offers a proposal for reckoning a common date of Easter.
Frequently asked questions about the date of Easter
In 2007 Christians from all traditions will celebrate Easter on the same day, April 8. But in many years major Christian traditions celebrate Easter on different dates, thus giving the impression of a divided witness to this fundamental aspect of the Christian faith. In recent years the desire to find a common date for the celebration of Easter, the Holy Pascha, the feast of Christ's resurrection, has become more and urgent. Initiatives by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches have urged churches to address this issue. This page seeks to provide some answers to frequent questions asked about the date of Easter.
(Previous stage) The Nature and Purpose of the Church: A stage on the way to a common statement
This text, from the Faith and Order study on Ecclesiology, was issued as Faith and Order Paper no. 181 in 1998. Now superseded by The Nature and Mission of the Church, Faith and Order Paper no. 198, issued in 2005, it is included here to enable comparison of these two texts.
II. Worship and Baptism
One Baptism: Towards Mutual Recognition
One Baptism: Towards Mutual Recognition is an official study text of the Commission on Faith and Order. It is a further development and explication of the insights of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. It links questions of Christian initiation with ecclesiology, mutual recognition of baptism, and the basic bonds of Christian unity. The study text also deals with ongoing and more recent issues that prevent mutual recognition of baptism that impede the visible unity of the Church in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship.
So We Believe, So We Pray: Towards Koinonia in Worship (The Ditchingham Letter and Report)
The "Letter to the Churches" and report from the first consultation (held at Ditchingham, England) in Faith and Order's current study programme on worship in relation to Christian unity. Drawing on the resources of the liturgical renewal movement, and produced together with leading liturgists, this text focuses on the common structure of Christian worship, on issues of inculturation in worship, and on how, through worship, churches are already expressing their unity in Christ.
Becoming a Christian: The Ecumenical Implications of Our Common Baptism
This is the report from the second consultation in Faith and Order's study programme on worship in relation to Christian unity. Mindful of the importance of the churches' "mutual recognition of baptism" as a basis of the ecumenical movement, the text explores the meaning and structure of the baptismal service, issues raised by the inculturation of baptism, and how baptism determines the nature and practice of Christian ethics.
Celebrations of the Eucharist in Ecumenical Contexts - A Proposal
In this unofficial text a number of liturgists, theologians and pastors propose, on their own initiative and responsibility, guidelines for those engaged in planning eucharistic worship to be held in an ecumenical context. The text was produced by a working group at a consultation held by Faith and Order and the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey to reflect on the churches' 10 years experience in using the unofficial "Lima Liturgy".
III. Apostolic Faith
Towards Sharing the One Faith
Faith and Order's Apostolic Faith study explored the meaning of the Nicene Creed as a basis for the faith of Christians and the churches today. The present text is a study guide to the Nicene Creed and to the Apostolic Faith study itself.
IV. Interpretation - The meaning of words and Symbols
A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: An Instrument for an Ecumenical Reflection on Hermeneutics
This text explores the complex but often creative field of hermeneutics - the interpretation of texts, symbols, and rites - and its role in the search for visible church unity. It invites us to reflect on how we approach and evaluate one another's language and symbols, as a contribution to mutual understanding among Christians and churches.
V. Theological anthropology
Christian Perspectives on Theological Anthropology
This text, resulting from the Faith and Order study on Theological Anthropology, explores contemporary challenges to the traditional understanding of humanity as "made in the image of God". It concludes with 10 Common Affirmations as a basis for the churches common reflection - and action - wherever human value and dignity is challenged.
VI. Church and World: Unity and the life of the Church in the World
Participating in God's Mission of Reconciliation - A Resource for Churches in Situations of Conflict
This text results from the study on Ethnic Identity, National Identity, and the Search for the Unity of the Church done by Faith and Order with the collaboration of the WCC?s Justice, Peace and Creation team. It offers resources for churches in situations of tension or conflict, especially where ethnic and national tensions are major factors, and suggests how Christian unity can further the churches? witness for reconciliation and justice.
Ecclesiology and Ethics
These texts are the fruit of the joint study programme on Ecclesiology and Ethics conducted by Faith and Order and the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation team. The results of meetings in Rønde, Denmark; Jerusalem, Israel; and Johannesburg, South Africa, they explore how the churches are called to be a community of ethical reflection - and engagement - in today's world.
Church and World: The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community
This text, the result of Faith and Order's study on The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community, explores the relation between the church's unity and its mission and prophetic witness in the world.
VII. United and uniting Churches
8th International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches
Message from the 7th International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches, Driebergen, The Netherlands, 2002
This text is the report from the most recent international consultation of united and uniting churches. Focusing on issues of unity, mission and identity, this text brings the unique perspective and experience of these churches into dialogue with the wider ecumenical movement.
Information release on the 7th International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches
This brief text gives general information on the united and uniting churches, their achievements and the special challenges which they face today, as well as background information on their 7th International Consultation.
Message from the 6th International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 1995
This text is the report from the penultimate international consultation of united and uniting churches.
VIII. Forums on bilateral dialogues
International Dialogues in Dialogue: Context and Reception. Tenth Forum on Bilateral Dialogues, 2012
Meeting for the first time outside Europe, the tenth Forum on Bilateral Dialogues met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in March 2012. Following the recommendations on the reception of ecumenical texts from the ninth forum, the meeting in Dar Es Salaam gave special attention to the reception of the achievements of the bilateral dialogues in the Global South. Its recommendations urge the international theological dialogues to be more intentional about questions of membership, methodology, and theological questions about Christian unity that emerge from the variety of contexts in the South.
Many ways to Christian unity? The Ninth Forum on Bilateral Dialogues, 2008
Bilateral dialogues are official talks between two Christian churches or families of churches (often known as Christian World Communions, CWCs). They aim at overcoming inherited divergences often related to doctrine and church order, so that the two partners in dialogue may move to declaring that they are in fellowship. The proliferation of bilateral dialogues as from the 1960s has led to the creation of the Forum on Bilateral Dialogues. The Forum provides space and time for CWCs engaged in bilateral dialogues to exchange information, consult together on emerging issues and trends and reflect on the coherence and integrity of the dialogues. The ninth such forum was held in Breklum, Germany, 10-15 March 2008.
IX. Other study processes
A Church of All and for All - An interim statement
Religious Plurality and Christian Self-Understanding
This unofficial text is the result of a unique collaboration among WCC Interreligious Relations, Mission and Evangelism, and Faith and Order staff, and their respective commissions or advisory bodies. It seeks a new approach to the difficult and controversial issues related to Christian self-understanding in a religiously plural world. The text, which is provisional as it has not been submitted to or adopted by any official WCC body, is shared here as a document for discussion and debate.
X. Other documents from conferences and meetings
Plenary Commission Meeting, Crete 2009
Plenary Commission Meeting, Kuala Lumpur 2004
Cambridge report on Tradition and traditions
Twenty four participants gathered at Westminster College in Cambridge to engage in the first of a series of consultations under the title of Tradition and traditions. The aim of the meeting was to build on the work begun by the WCC in the 1960s and, by paying particular attention to the teachers and witnesses of the early church, to explore further the possibility of discovering, re-discovering or re-receiving some particular sources of authority which might help us together on the way to the unity of the church.
Theological reflection on peace
Faith and Order 75th anniversary celebration
Message from the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, 1993
The Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order took place at Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 3 - 14 August 1993, with its theme "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness". A comprehensive Report of the Conference will be published towards the end of this year. We now publish the Message and the four Section Reports together with the Discussion Paper prepared for the Conference. The Message and Reports are the most tangible results of the World Conference. However, they represent only one important part of this gathering which was marked by common worship and prayer, Bible study, a great number of papers, plenary discussions, a statement by the younger theologians and the many personal encounters between the participants (about 400 in different categories).
Plenary Commission Meeting, Moshi, Tanzania, August 1996
XI. Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Resources
A complete version of the annual brochure jointly edited, jointly published and printed, and distributed by Faith and Order (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Catholic Church) is available online. The brochure includes the outline of an ecumenical worship service, an introduction to the theme for the week, a description of the ecumenical situation in the region from which the original, source material comes and eight sets of daily bible readings and meditations. Traditionally, the week is observed from 18 to 25 January in the northern hemisphere but in other parts of the world it is observed around Pentecost. The resources are offered in the hope that they will be appropriately modified to suit particular local situations and that they will continue to be used throughout the year.