world council of churches

Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC
Background materials for sub-committees I and II
(Vilemov, Czech Republic, August 2000)

Introduction
Sub-committee II of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC has been mandated to discuss "the style and ethos of our life together in the WCC". The word "style", and even moreso "ethos", can sound rather vague. They attempt somehow to evoke the way in which things are done within a relationship, the character of that relationship, the atmosphere of a place. And yet even as these are qualities that are difficult to describe acurately, they are at the centre of the tensions experienced in the ecumenical encounter. For while this encounter is endlessly rich and complex, comprising so many different participants at so many different levels, there is an indisputable character to the life of this complex community, a style and ethos which are self-perpetuating.

Among the repeated concerns of Orthodox and other participants in the ecumenical movement are those surrounding the programmatic agenda of the WCC (which issues end up on the agenda, and the manner in which they are addressed), and the worship life of the WCC (its language and style). The task of Sub-committee II is surely not to debate the issues themselves, but to examine together the nature of the de facto style and ethos which characterise WCC life and work. What is the "space" within which we dialogue together and pray together? What is the climate within which programmatic priorities arise?

Furthermore, one might ask, is there any credence to the perception that the WCC, despite its policies of neutrality, is a place where liberal Protestantism prevails, an organization which has lost any theological rigor it once embraced, in favour of a more politicized agenda? Such a perception -- more widespread than most of us would like to admit -- lurks within the many itemized lists of concerns that have been a part of Special Commission dossiers.


Vilemov Dossier Contents

Background documents
Again, "style" and "ethos" imply a broad topic, and the identification of useful background documents has not been a simple task. We have opted for texts which address, either directly or indirectly, the character of the fellowship in the WCC. In addition to the texts included in this dossier, we would also like to draw your attention especially to a text included in the background dossier of Sub-committee III, which is the Joint Working Groupís paper on Ecumenical Dialogue on Moral Issues.

Finally, please consult the selected bibliography for further materials relevant to our subject of discussion.

It is hoped that the present selection of documents will be of use to the deliberations of Sub-committee II and of the Special Commission in general. Staff is available to compile further texts as required for future work.

WCC Mixed Staff Group on the Special Commission



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