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Orthodox Participation

Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC

The Orthodox churches were part of the WCC from its beginning. Along the way, they raised certain questions about WCC positions and practices. In response to these questions, the WCC's 8th assembly in December 1998 created a Special Commission to address Orthodox concerns about WCC membership and the council's decision-making style, public statements, worship practices and other issues.

The commission's report was received in 2002 and key recommendations went to the WCC's 9th assembly for approval. Its main recommendations related to:
- the centrality of ecclesiology: the commission reminded WCC member churches that their commitment to the fellowship of churches implies a corresponding commitment to the study of ecclesiology, or what it means to be the church;
- praying together: having affirmed the need to pray together, the commission suggested that worship at WCC gatherings like assemblies, central committee meetings and other large-profile meetings be clearly defined as either "confessional" or "interconfessional" common prayer;
- taking decisions: the council was to move from majority rule to a "consensus" form of decision-making.

The commission also challenged the WCC to design new categories of membership through which churches may participate in the council.

The commission's suggestions and recommendations provide WCC member churches with new opportunities for growing together. The period until the 2006 assembly allowed the council to test how these recommendations would work in practice.

The special commission's proposals on consensus decision-making, for example, were tested at the 2005 central committee meeting, and the method was then used at the WCC's 9th assembly in 2006. Recommendations on common prayer were also applied at the 9th assembly, where the prayer life was organized as either inter-confessional or confessional services.

The 9th assembly affirmed "this important achievement of the Council deepens the relationships among member churches and helps dispel misperceptions between families of churches".

It stressed the importance of the commission's work and of subsequent efforts to "grow into the consensus process of discernment for decision-making, and engage in the reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement". It also welcomed revisions to the constitution and rules of the WCC on consensus and a clarified understanding of membership in the WCC.


Click to read more on the process and documentation