THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN CHURCH AND WORLD
This report was put into its final form and approved in March, 1977, by the joint commission responsible for it, and it was presented to the authorities under whose auspices the dialogue took place. The Executive Committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity have accepted the proposal put forward in the letter accompanying the report, signed by the co-Presidents of the Commission (see below), and have arranged that the report be sent for study by the Episcopal Conferences and by the Churches which are members of the World Alliance. For that same purpose of study it is agreed that it may also be published. The positions taken as a result of that study will be jointly evaluated by a new mixed Commission that will be set up by mutual agreement.
Attention is drawn to the status of this document: at this stage it remains exclusively the responsibility of the Commission which prepared it and it does not constitute a document of the authorities under whose auspices the dialogue took place.
To the sponsoring authorities of the Roman Catholic/Reformed Joint Study Commission, The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church and The World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
In writing this letter, we the co-chairmen of the Joint Study Commission wish to set on record on behalf of all the members of the Commission our deep sense of appreciation for the privilege of having shared together in these years of study. Above all we wish to testify to our sense of gratitude to our God, whom we seek to serve, for all that has been given to us of his grace in this venture of learning together in the things of the faith. While there are certainly remaining differences of a substantial nature our work evidences a remarkable series of convergencies [AB1] and agreements.
In submitting this official report of the Reformed/ Roman Catholic dialogue, we would respectfully request that the following matters be considered by our appropriate authorities.
We believe it to be very important that:
1) After due reflection the respective authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches submit this report for the widest possible study, e.g., in episcopal conferences of the Roman Catholic Church and in member churches of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and in theological seminaries and faculties of both constituencies.
2) After a due period for study and reflection within the respective constituencies reactions be requested by a mutually agreed date.
3) Consideration be given to the appointment of a new Joint Commission, having some continuity with that whose work is now ending, which new Commission would have the task of evaluating together the reactions received from the partners in dialogue.
4) Many questions still require careful theological discussion which a reading of the report will demonstrate. Along with these there will be issues arising from the process of study and reaction to the report. All this material along with the original theological mandate proposed by the preliminary meeting in Vogelenzang (1969) will help to clarify the agenda for the next phase of the dialogue.
5) As soon as this report has been received by the sponsoring bodies, consideration be given to the eventual joint publication of this report in book form, including a selected symposium of the position papers presented throughout the dialogue.
With regard to those points mentioned above the undersigned indicate their availability for consultation, if required.
We conclude this letter by emphasizing the strongly expressed belief of the members of the Commission that the growth in understanding registered in the years of dialogue behind us should he further developed in continuing work. In the previous paragraphs we have therefore outlined some of the steps which could serve as a part of the next phase of theological conversations between the two partners.
On behalf of the Joint Study Commission, Respectfully submitted,
Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., Roman Catholic co-chairman David Willis, Reformed co-chairman
Consultations between Representatives of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches
and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church.
1. “The Presence of Christ in Church and World” is the topic treated in the series of dialogues between representatives of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. The choice of that topic and the enabling process for such a series at the international level go back to informal conversations among participants from both bodies who were present at the Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches. These proved sufficiently promising for the Executive Committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to meet in June, 1968, to “explore elements in the new situation that may make the initiation of Reformed/Roman Catholic dialogue wise at this time”. The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II made it clear that readiness for such dialogue existed also on the Roman Catholic side. As a result, two preliminary meetings between staff of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity were held, one in Geneva in November of 1968, and one in Vogelenzang (Holland) in April of 1969. These two preliminary meetings affirmed the desirability and feasibility of proceeding with official Reformed/Roman Catholic conversations on a world level.
3. In doing so, neither body wished to detract from the importance of similar, more-or-less official conversations which had been going on for some time at the national level in Holland, France, Switzerland, the United States and other countries. Such national discussions have the advantage of being able to focus on problems common to the Church in the local situation. Since they are undertaken with the aim of being responsible to their respective official sponsors and of engaging them in the issues, these national dialogues deal with matters of considerable consequence, such as the significance of the mutual recognition of Baptism. Still, there are limitations which restrict the full significance of national talks. In many countries and areas dialogues are not occurring nor are likely to occur soon—areas, for example, where Christians are persecuted or where either Reformed or Roman Catholics are a restricted minority, or in areas where both find themselves in a society which severely discourages reconciling conversations among Christian bodies. Even where there are national dialogues, they often are conducted independently of other conversations going on between the same bodies in other contexts, which leads to much unnecessary duplication. Moreover, because of the worldwide implications of some of the issues under discussion, and because of the need to influence the centres of universal authority and coordination, it was felt that the international dialogues were called for as ways of exploring new avenues in Reformed-Roman Catholic relations and of making wider use of the results already being obtained at the national level. It is therefore understood that the dialogues at various levels are complementary.
4. In deciding to proceed with these official conversations at the international level, both Roman Catholic and Reformed officials were mindful of the utility of bilateral consultations with other partners then underway. These would not be duplicated, though, since there are tensions which are peculiar to the relations between these two traditions. Both parties were convinced that by addressing the other in these bi-lateral consultations they would be exercising a responsibility each feels for the other and which both feel would be mutually enriching. Both parties were strongly motivated by the need to keep the discussions in the broader perspective of how these would advance their common concern to manifest the relevance of Christ in the world today.
5. The Geneva meeting in November of 1968 chose for the session in Vogelenzang the theme “The Presence of Christ in Church and World” “...because it seemed to have a bearing not only on the ultimate salvation of man but also on his life and happiness here and now. It was also expected that the discussion on the presence of Christ in Church and World, especially the meaning of his saving humanity, would tend to bring to light the differences between the two communions and that an honest appraisal of these differences could help the two traditions to overcome them and discover together what they must do in order to become more credible in the eyes of the world”. (Joint Report, Vogelenzang, April 17-19, 1969).
6. The expectations for this theme were borne out. Its discussions at Vogelenzang uncovered a need to attend to three traditional problems related to the central one of understanding the Lordship of Christ today: Christology, ecclesiology, and the attitude of the Christian in the world. Though the problems are traditional ones, the Church confronts them in a new form today: the historical conditions which shaped their earlier formulations have radically changed, developments in the secular world cry for urgent attention, and the findings of the historical sciences and biblical exegesis demand new perspectives on inherited positions. So fruitful and demanding were the results of the initial exploration of this theme that it was mandated as the theme for the subsequent official conversations which began in Rome in April of 1970. The subtopics of the series were: “Christ’s Relationship to the Church” (Rome, Spring, 1970), “The Teaching Authority of the Church” (Cartigny, Switzerland, Spring, 1971), “The Presence of Christ in the World” (Bièvres, France, Winter, 1972), “The Eucharist” (Woudschoten-Zeist, the Netherlands, Winter, 1974) and “The Ministry” (Rome, March, 1975). (For details of themes, subthemes, authors and participants see Appendix).
7. Each delegation to these meetings was comprised of five permanent members, a staff person from each sponsoring office, and one consultant from each communion, appointed for his special expertise in the subject under consideration at a given session. The names of the regular teams, the special consultants and the staff persons involved are listed at the end of this report.
8. Each meeting lasted five days and followed a regular pattern. Four position papers, two from each team, circulated in advance. Each of these papers was discussed in plenary, and subcommittees were appointed to bring to the plenary a report which summarized the initial discussion of these position papers. The whole consultation then went through these reports, discussed again the issues which were raised by them, and then came to a common statement which summarized the findings of that particular session.
9. The initial step in the conversations was a matter, on many issues, of listening carefully to one another in order to discern what lies behind the different terminologies to which we have grown accustomed. It was not the purpose of these sessions consciously to work toward specific recommendations on the topics assigned them. Rather, the task was to locate the present convergences, continuing tensions, and open questions which emerged from the process just described. The several reports on each session were therefore more descriptive than prescriptive. The discussions were based on position papers which deliberately sought to break new ground on the topic under consideration; while the discussions were notably marked by theological perspectives which transcended predictable confessional alignments, it was understood that whatever concrete recommendation might arise from the final report would simply be the result of this process of critical inquiry and discussion.
10. After each meeting, a press release, the wording of which was agreed to by both delegations, was issued, but it was decided that it was best to wait until the final report, covering the whole series, was ready before publishing in any detail the results on the several discussions. At the conclusion of the fifth session, a committee was appointed to prepare a draft of the final report which was referred again to the permanent members of the conversations, who met in Rome, 21-26 March 1977, and agreed the final report, which with recommendations went to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.
11. The final report, presented here, deliberately refrained from any attempt at a synthesis and offers instead the agreed revision of the five separate reports with which each session was invariably concluded. The official report in its final form represents the common mind of those engaged in the various steps of its formulation and acceptance. It cannot, however, reproduce all the diversity of styles, plurality of theological method, heat of conviction and novelty of insight which went into the position papers and their discussion.
12. It will be seen that during its working sessions the Commission’s method was determined, among other things, by the desire in the case of each separate theme to produce a survey of the degree of agreement, disagreement and unresolved issues. But as we see it, the value of these discussions does not lie only in their necessarily provisional ‘results’. What the authors of the report hope, rather, is that the readers may let themselves be drawn into the inner dynamic of thet movement which gripped us from our very first meetings and never ceased to do so. The way was long and difficult and sometimes it seemed to be leading nowhere. Even though the following pages occasionally may still reveal certain inconsistencies, obstacles, reactions and surprises, we felt it impossible to eliminate these realistic features completely. But the intercessions of many, our prayers together in the name of Jesus, deepening trust, brotherly patience, scholarly seriousness, will to persist, to continue to listen to each other, not infrequently also a touch of hilarity—these things were all part and parcel of the experience which was given us with our discoveries and which can be only imperfectly reflected in the record of our discussions.
Response to Christ’s unifying action
The Riches of Christ and the Wealth of Witnesses
14. Since in Christ “the complete being of the Godhead dwells embodied” (Col 2, 9), there is necessarily a wealth of witnesses—which is what we actually find in the New Testament—in order that something at least of “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph 3, 8) may be passed on. Thus the mission and task of Jesus, which are authoritative for the Church of every age and culture, including our own today, are reflected in a witness which has been characterised by choice and variety since the apostolic beginnings.
Some of the norms of the Church, according to the New Testament:
15. Norms for the belief and practice of the Church are not simply to be found in isolated proof-texts or in clearly discernible primitive patterns, but in the New Testament considered as a whole and as testimony to the divine purpose and mission for Israel, for the Church and for all humanity. In this respect, New Testament theology reckons with the content of the promise contained in the history of God’s covenantal dealings with his people in the Old Testament.
16. There was complete agreement in presenting ecclesiology from a clear christological and pneumatological perspective in which the Church is the object of declared faith and cannot be completely embraced by a historical and sociological description.
There was also agreement in presenting the Church as the “body of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor12, 12 f. 27; Eph 5, 30). The Apostle Paul’s description of the Church as the body of Christ presupposes knowledge of the death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord. The Church exists therefore as the body of Christ essentially by the Holy Spirit, just as does the exalted Lord. Stress was laid, however, on the complementary character of other images, particularly that of the bride (cf. Eph 5, 15-32), which warn us against any absolute identification.
17. Theological language is largely metaphorical because the metaphor is an indispensable way by which to understand and speak about realities which otherwise cannot be understood and expressed. A caveat was entered against any suggestion that theological language is to be understood exclusively as metaphorical language. The illegitimacy of any absolute identification is shown by other passages which interpret the body of Christ as a picture for the Church united in Christ’s name (Rom 12, 5). It came as a surprise to us to observe that the decisions we are faced with today did not always correspond to our confessional boundaries.
The constantly differing form:
18. Apart from the essential characteristics just presented which are de rigeur for every period and culture, the Church assumes different forms depending on the historical heritage it carries with it and the social and cultural situation in which it is set and in which it grows. Traces of a certain development are already discernible in the New Testament. It was fully agreed that the essential characteristics of the one Church assume concrete form in a variety of patterns already in the New Testament. It is correct to consult the Bible for theologies of the nature of the Church which will serve as starting points for inferring the broad outlines of a Church constitution and for examining whether the present ecclesiastical structures correspond to it. This applies, for example, to the meaning of “local church”. In New Testament times a local district was a quite restricted geographical area, while in a highly technological society what is meant by local is considerably broader. But both Roman Catholic and Reformed agreed that the Church Catholic is really represented and exists in the local Church.
19. When it comes to the correct use of the New Testament in material for contemporary doctrines of the Church and ministry, it was further recognized that difficulties are not to be easily overcome by taking only some parts of the New Testament as normative while relegating other parts to a secondary position. Christ discloses himself under the conditions of historical relativity. Theology must undertake the difficult task of seeking the normative within the relative, and of applying what is thereby found to the concrete realization of the Church in different historical situations.
20. Theology, whether Reformed or Roman Catholic, cannot rest content with a gap between exegetical research and Church doctrine. No long-range progress in any ecumenical dialogue can be expected which does not deal with that gap. With respect, however, to such a question as that of the relation between, on the one hand, the results of historical criticism on the direct role of Jesus Christ in the origin of the Church and, on the other hand, the acceptance of such a role by believers, it was not agreed by all that the problem is only one of a gap between exegetical research and Church doctrine. Some maintained that, in this case, we have to do rather with a distinction between using the New Testament as historical source and accepting the New Testament as witness. This does not mean that for the faithful the quest for the historical Jesus is made superfluous by a preoccupation with a supposedly different Christ of faith; it means only that the New Testament witness itself comprises a plurality of witnesses and various interpretations of the one Christ event.
In the service of Christ for the world:
21. In the community of Christians all the members are personally bound to Christ and therefore under obligation to serve Him. Office-bearers (see chapter on “Ministry” below) are also members of the body who at one and the same time serve the Lord and the community in order to fulfil their mission in the world.
22. The Church does not keep aloof from the world. On the contrary, it is part of the world. As such it attests the efficacy of its Lord’s word and work. At the same time it is an anticipatory announcement of what Jesus has destined for all men. In this sense the Church exists wholly for the world and even in its weakness is the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5, 13).
23. We were all agreed that the ethical decisions which necessarily follow from the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the believing acceptance of this Gospel extend also to the realm of politics. In both confessions there were those who inclined to place greater emphasis on the need for a certain caution and those who stressed the need to derive concrete political decisions from the New Testament message and the possibility of doing so.
24. We are agreed that the Church has its authority to the extent that it listens to the Word Christ speaks to it ever afresh.
In the history of the Church, the difference between Catholics and Reformed has always focussed on the alternative: “Scripture and Tradition” and “Scripture only”. Catholics stressed the need for and the authority of the Church’s teaching office in the interpretation of Scripture, whereas the Reformed declared that Scripture interprets itself and, as God’s Word, must be strictly distinguished from all human tradition, desiring in this way to do justice not only to the doctrine of justification but also to the total witness of the Old and New Testaments.
25. Both on the Catholic and on the Reformed side today, the problem is no longer presented in terms of the battle lines of post-Tridentine polemic.
Historical researches have shown not only how the New Testament writings are themselves already the outcome of and witness to traditions, but also how the canonisation of the New Testament was part of the development of tradition.
Since the Second Vatican Council, Catholic teaching has stressed the very close connection between Scripture and Tradition: “springing from the same divine source, both so to speak coalesce and press towards the same goal” (Dei Verbum, 9). Scripture and Tradition thus constitute “the one holy treasure of the Word of God bequeathed to the Church” (Del Verbum, 10) with a special dignity attaching to the Scriptures because in them apostolic preaching has been given especially clear expression (cf. Del Verbum, 8).
In the light of these facts, the customary distinction between Scripture and Tradition as two different sources which operate as norms either alternatively or in parallel has become impossible.
26. We are agreed that as creatura Verbi the Church together with its Tradition stands under the living Word of God and that the preacher and teacher of the Word is to be viewed as servant of the Word (cf. Lk 1, 2) and must teach only what the Holy Spirit permits him to hear in the Scriptures. This hearing and teaching takes place in a living combination with the faith, life and, above all, the worship of the community of Christ.
We are agreed that the development of doctrine and the production of confessions of faith is a dynamic process. In this process the Word of God proves its own creative, critical and judging power. Through the Word, therefore, the Holy Spirit guides the Church to reflection, conversion and reform.
27. Since we approach our dealings with the Scriptures from our own particular tradition, in each case, we tend to hear God’s Word in different ways: we understand even central affirmations from different standpoints and emphasise them in different ways.
Since Scripture is clothed in the language and concepts of the ancient world and is related only indirectly to our modern problems, all churches must perforce go beyond the immediate letter of Scripture.
In addition there is the internal diversity of Holy Scripture with which we are more closely familiar today.
For all these reasons the Church is compelled and obliged constantly to reinterpret the biblical message.
28. In this area of interpretation different forms of tradition have been developed, the legitimation of one’s own particular practice occasionally providing one of the motivating elements. On the whole the Reformed sought a direct support for their doctrine in the apostolic witness of Scripture, whereas the Roman Catholic Church perceived the apostolic witness more strongly in the life of faith of the whole Church, in the measure that it constantly strove in the course of the centuries to apprehend the fullness of the divine truth (cf. Dei Verbum, 8).
This difference in attitude may rest on a difference in pneumatology: Catholic thought is primarily sustained by confidence in the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit, whereas the Reformed Church experiences the presence of the Spirit as a constantly renewed gift of the ascended Lord.
29. In the Reformed Churches, the so-called “Scripture principle”, i.e. the confidence that the Word of God constantly creates the understanding of itself afresh, postulates in the life of the Church a carefully maintained relationship between the theologically trained servant of the Word and the theologically informed, responsible total community.
30. The Catholic Church stresses within the community the special service of those who with the aid of the Holy Spirit accept pastoral responsibility and must also make provision, therefore, for the right interpretation and proclamation of the Word of God.
31. The conviction of the Church is that it hears the voice of the living Lord which also speaks today out of the writings of the apostles and prophets. Since it is the same Holy Spirit who inspired the authors of the sacred books and who enlightens the Church’s readers today, the Church has the promise of hearing God’s Word from the Bible even today and tomorrow.
32. The Scriptures were accepted by the ancient Church because these writings attested the living tradition of the Gospel (summed up in the so-called regula fidei) because they were written by the apostles as eyewitnesses or by their disciples, handed down by the Church which itself has an apostolic origin. In accordance with both the Catholic and the Reformed tradition, the Church played its part in the process whereby the canon was formed, even if we cannot define this part more precisely.
In the light of this common understanding, the traditional controversy as to whether canonisation was the decision of a “possessing” Church or the receiving recognition of an “obeying” Church is out of date.
33. The ancient Church took the view that the different voices speaking in the Canon can and should come to expression side by side in the Church, since despite their differences, they all point to the same centre, namely to salvation in Jesus Christ.
The apostolic witness has primary significance therefore. It remains a continuing task of both Churches to explicate and to ensure respect for the not merely historical but also theological precedence of the apostolic period.
34. Raising the question whether the establishment of the confession of faith is for the Church a creative activity or an advance in its perception of the fullness already given, we noted once again that the dialogue was made more difficult by questions of terminology, since the term “confession of faith” occupies a different position in our two traditions and we recognised the importance of remembering the different functions which confessions of faith can have in the Church and in society.
35. We tried, nevertheless, to bring out certain points of convergence and to identify, too, the different and opposing positions.
For its witness in the world, the Church must always express its faith by confessions in which it interprets the Word of God in the language of today, a task which is never completed. Such a confession of faith is always the expression of an experience of salvation as lived in the Church at a given moment of its history.
36. The history of Christian doctrine presents us with a process of constant interpretative efforts with discontinuous stages of restructuring, each of which represents the Church’s effort to reformulate its faith in a particular age and cultural environment. But this discontinuity of structuring is not opposed to a homogeneity of meaning: the transcendence of this meaning is thus emphasised in relation to these formulations. In consequence none of the proposed formulations is definitive in the sense that there will never be any need for a new interpretation in a new social and cultural situation. The more so since the inexhaustible riches of the revelation deposited in Scripture constantly compel us to return to the foundation event to discover again and again in it new aspects unsuspected by previous generations.
37. For the Catholics, the affirmations of the past are normative as guides for subsequent reformulations. For the Reformed, they have a real positive value which is nevertheless subordinate to the authority of Scripture.
So far as instruction is concerned, for the Reformed it is the community as a whole which is responsible and which delegates qualified people; whereas for the Catholics there is a distinctive responsibility of the pastoral ministry: the latter is rooted in the believing community but does not derive its authority from an act of delegation on the part of the latter.
38. Practice, however, often differs somewhat from theoretical affirmations, either because these are illegitimately hardened or because in fact compensatory elements play a part. Among the Reformed there are people, whether or not invested with official authority, who in fact play a considerable role. Among the Catholics stress is laid on the importance of the “sense of the faith”, common to the whole of the believers, by which they discern the Word of God and adhere to it (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12), and which finds concrete expression in, among other things, the actual “reception”, constantly renewed, of councils and the decisions of the teaching authority.
39. Whereas the Reformed note that the expression “the infallibility of the Church” is almost never used in their tradition, Catholics note for their part that this word is relatively a recent one in theological terminology and seems hardly a happy term because of the maximising interpretations to which it often gives rise. As for the theology of infallibility, apart from the fact that too often there has been a tendency to reduce the question of the infallibility of the Church to the particular problem of the infallibility of the Pope, and even to a certain manner of exercising this latter, it should be stated that it has been developed into a onesidedly juridical problem which makes it all the more irreconcilable with Reformed thinking. We are nevertheless able to formulate a certain viewpoint in common.
40. The promise made by God to the Church is this: God remains faithful to his covenant and, despite the weaknesses and errors of Christians, he makes his Word heard in the Church.
41. Catholics hold that God’s faithfulness to his Church necessarily means that when the People of God unanimously declares that a doctrine has been revealed by God and therefore demands the assent of faith, it cannot fall into error. And in particular that those who have been specially charged with the teaching mission are protected by a special charisma when it is a matter of presenting the revealed message. “The bishops taken in isolation do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility; yet, even though dispersed throughout the world and conserving the bond and communion between them and with the successor of Peter, when in their authentic teaching concerning questions of faith and morals they declare with full agreement that it is necessary to support unhesitantly such and such a point of doctrine, they then announce infallibly the teaching of Christ. This is all the more evident when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they teach and decide on questions of faith and morals for the whole Church; and their definitions must be adhered to in the obedience of faith” (Lumen Gentium, 25).
This is equally the case when the bishop of Rome, in the rare cases specified by Vatican I, expresses himself ex cathedra. Nevertheless, what has just been said does not imply that all the expressions chosen are necessarily the best available nor again that the ecclesial authorities enjoy this charisma in a permanent manner or that they cannot be mistaken in a certain number of affirmations on which they do not commit themselves fundamentally.
42. The Reformed rejection of any infallibility which is accorded to men derives from a repugnance to bind God and the Church in this way, in view of the sovereignty of Christ over the Church and of the liberty of the Spirit, a repugnance strengthened by the experience of frequent errors and resistances to the Word on the part of the Church. In addition there is a fear lest confidence in the infallibility of a formulation should distort the personal character of faith in the living Christ; further, the fact that many Reformed take the resistance of man to the Spirit of God so seriously today that any assertion of the infallibility of the Church becomes impossible. Apart from that, for Reformed sensibility, any claim to infallibility in the modern world represents an obstacle to the credibility of the proclamation.
The misgivings concerning the idea of ecclesiastical infallibility do not detract from the decisive though subordinate weight given in the Reformed tradition to the ancient Ecumenical Councils in the transmission and interpretation of the Gospel. For the Reformed, however, what alone is infallible, properly speaking, is God’s fidelity to his covenant, whereby he corrects and preserves his Church by the Spirit until the consummation of his reign.
Creation and Redemption:
43. God is present in the world as its Creator, Sustainer, Lord of history who rules all things as Loving Father. Frequently in the history of Christian thought and today the point of departure for speaking of Christ’s presence in the world is ecclesiological: Christ is present in the Church and through his Lordship over the Church he exercises his Lordship over the world. This position leads to the conclusions that Christ’s presence is limited to the presence the Church mediates, that he acts only in the Church, that his lordship over the world operates only through the Church’s mission, and that when the world and the Church are in conflict, Christ is always on the side of the Church. Of course the Church is the beloved Bride of Christ for whom he gave himself (ef. Eph. 52, 5 if.) Nevertheless, and for this reason above all, judgment begins at the house of God (cf. 1 Pet. 4, 17).
44. Though it is true that there is a presence of Christ in the Church which places her in special relationship to the world, an “ecclesiological monopoly” on the presence of Christ and the conclusions which follow from it are exegetically untenable. The presence of Christ in the world is a consequence of the continuity of God’s action in creation and redemption. This continuity of God’s acting in creation and redemption is found in the covenant he made in the Old Testament with Israel and renewed and transformed in the New Testament with all humanity. The continuity laid emphasis on the political and social implications of the saving work of Christ as well as on faith as a personal engagement. In the New Testament “the new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5, 17) is seen as the restoration and completion of the purposes of the Creator. Christ is the redeemer of the whole world, in Him God has reconciled the world to himself (2 Car 5, 19). The universal dimensions of the Lordship of the one Christ (cf. Eph 1, 21 f.), to which Holy Scripture witnesses, speak pointedly today to a world deeply fragmented and in search of its unity.
45. It is through the Spirit that Christ is at work in creation and redemption. As the presence in the world of the risen Lord, the Spirit affirms and manifests the resurrection and effects the new creation. Christ who is Lord of all and active in creation points to God the Father who, in the Spirit, leads and guides history where there is no unplanned development.
46. The Father is the absolutely primary principle for he is “source, guide and goal of all that is” (Ram 11, 36; cf. I Car 8, 6). The reason why we have been elected and predestinated in Christ is to “cause his glory to be praised” (Eph 1, 12, 6). The purpose of the mystery of Christ himself is to make known to the rulers and authorities the infinite wisdom of God (Eph 3, 10). After the Fall, mankind became more and more alienated from the one God. One of the fruits of the messianic era will be that every knee shall bow to God (Isa 45, 23), that all the peoples will worship him (Ps 22, 30). This is what the Gospel of John means when it says: “This is my Father’s glory, that you may bear fruit in plenty and so be my disciples” (Jn 15, 7).
47. In response to the revelation of this triune God, Christians affirm that the purposefulness of history is the framework in which the diverse realities of all human activities are to be understood. On this ground we can also recognize that the process of secularisation, with its rejection of every clerical and theological qualification, has given all aspects of life an autonomy whose validity theology has come to recognize and this has stimulated us to seek for new ways of expressing Christ’s involvement in the world. This remains true even if we do not agree with the rejection of transcendence which has often accompanied this process and even if we detect here the secularism which results from it as well as the adherence to various religions or pseudo-religions.
48. We are agreed that there is a presence of the Spirit of Christ in the world. How and where can we recognize this effective presence This problem presents us with a series of questions which arise today for all churches. These questions may be formulated as follows:
We look for his presence in the plan or purpose which God is realizing through all the complexities of history.
We look for his presence as Lord of history in those movements of the human spirit which, with or without the assistance of the Church, are achieving the ends of his Kingdom.
We look for his presence in those values and standards which owe their origin to the Gospel, but now have become embedded in public conscience and institutions.
49. But in these questions we keep before us the following convictions:
— In the Cross Christ identifies himself with men in their sin (cf. Is 53, 4 f. 11 £ Jn 1, 29; 2 Cor 5, 21) and need in order that they might be identified with him in the new victorious life of his resurrection (cf. Ram 6, 4 f.; Col 3, 1-4). The first identification remains true and effective even where it is not recognized. Christ is present in the poor and helpless who cry for liberation.
— The challenge of the world to the Church and its appeal for help may be at the same time a challenge and appeal from Christ, who in this way judges his Church, demands obedience and calls it to reformation.
— The Christian who looks back on his own life will say that Christ was active in it, leading him to repentance, conversion, and faith, even before he was aware or made any conscious response. We are therefore bound to claim that Christ is similarly active in the lives of others for whom faith lies still in the future.
50. The Christian who recognizes the presence and activity of Christ in these forms will rejoice in them and be willing to cooperate with them. This is not to say that either the salvation of the individual or the transformation of society is complete unless the work of Christ is brought to conscious recognition through the power of the Spirit to interpret and convince. People can be liberated from the demonic dangers of absolute autonomy only by a firm recognition of the creatureliness and transience of the world they are trying to transform. To bring this world under the rule of God does not mean that in it we are to have our abiding city (cf. Hebr 13, 14). There is no dichotomy between the Christians’ personal response to the Christ they find in the Church and their corporate response along with others, Christian and non-Christian alike, to the Christ who confronts them with the world. To participate in the divine life by grace is to participate in God’s love for the world which he has created and which, with the help of responsible and responsive people, he is re-creating.
Church and World:
51. The Creator of the world does not want mankind to destroy itself through lack of liberty, peace and justice (cf. Ezek 18, 32). Rather, through the revelation of his will, he leads mankind onto the road of salvation and in Jesus Christ offers it the gift of final redemption from all ungodly ties and participation in His divine life and thus in His freedom.
This movement towards freedom already begins with the election of the old people of the covenant, a people that he continually calls back to serve him freely.
52. In Jesus Christ there takes place the final reconciliation and with it also the call to the whole of the world (cf. 2 Cor. 5, 18-21). The Church that Christ has sent into the world has to carry this message of liberation (cf. Lk 4, 18 f.; 8, 31-36; Rom 6, 18-22) among the peoples of the world, and with it also the call to that freedom which is God’s gift to people in grace, all with a view to the perfection in which God will ultimately construct peace and liberty (cf. Rom Rom 8, 19-21). This statement already makes it clear that the fundamental relationship between the Church and the world lies in Jesus Christ who at one and the same time is the Head of the Church and the Lord of the world (cf. Hebr 1, 2 f.; Revel 17, 14; 19, 15 f.).
53. The Church professes that Christ himself is the carrier of the message of the rule of God and the liberation of mankind. If the Church goes out into the world, if it brings the Gospel to men and endeavours to realize more justice, more conciliation and more peace, then in doing so it is only following its Lord into domains that, unbeknown to men, already belong to him and where he is already anonymously at work.
54. The Church was founded by Christ to share in the life which comes from the Father and it is sent to lead the world to Jesus Christ, to its full maturity for the glory and praise of the Father. It is therefore called to be the visible witness and sign of the liberating will of God, of the redemption granted in Jesus Christ, and of the kingdom of peace that is to come. The Church carries out this task by what it does and what it says, but also simply by being what it is, since it belongs to the nature of the Church to proclaim the word of judgement and grace, and to serve Christ in the poor, the oppressed and the desperate (Mt 25, 31-40). More particularly, however, it comes together for the purpose of adoration and prayer, to receive ever new instruction and consolation and to celebrate the presence of Christ in the sacrament; around this centre, and with the multiplicity of the gifts granted by the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12, 4-11, 28-30; Rom 12, 6-8; EpA 4, 11) it lives as a koinonia of those who need and help each other. We consequently believe in a special presence of Christ in the Church by which it is placed in a quite special position in relation to the world and we believe that the Church stands under the special aid of the Holy Spirit, above all in its ministry of preaching and sacraments (cf. Jn 14, 16, 25 f.; 15, 26; 16, 7-14).
55. The Church can therefore correspond to its calling if its structure and its life are fashioned by love and freedom. Accordingly the Church does not seek to win human beings for a secular programme of salvation by propagandistic methods but to convert them to Christ and in this way to serve them. In its proclamation of the Gospel there is at the same time a powerful creative cultural dynamic.
56. As a communio structured in this way the Church contradicts the structures of the various sectors of the life of modem secular society: opposing exploitation, oppression, manipulation, intellectual and political pressures of all kinds. The renewal of Christian congregations as authentic life forms will also influence the wider social and political context.
57. In addition, the Christian commitment of alert and responsible Christians has often been organized in political parties, professional associations, trade unions and suchlike, with or without guidance from the official church authorities.
There is today a certain crisis in these activities. The solution of specific
problems facing them today requires much expertise. In addition it sometimes
happens that the claim of certain parties and interest groups to represent a
Christian position is an obstacle to the Christian witness to all human beings.
The decision on this question in each case may differ according to country and
circumstance; but for us there is no specific confessional difference here.
The Biblical Basis:
— from the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the primitive Church,
— from the celebration of the Last Supper of Jesus,
— from the Old Testament background, particularly the Jewish Passover.
68. When the Christian community assembled with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2, 46) it celebrated the memorial of the death and resurrection of Jesus, experienced his presence as the exalted Lord in his Spirit and looked forward longingly to his return in glory. It thus regarded itself as the pilgrim People of God.
69. The traditional words of Jesus at the Last Supper, despite the differences
in their transmission, recall that his acceptance of death “for many”
inaugurates the new covenant of God with his People. The cancellation of the old
covenant does not mean the rejection of Israel (cf. Rom 11, 1 f. 28 f.)
but on the contrary the continuation of God’s promises which are operative in
the new gift of salvation in virtue of the reconciling fruits of the death of
— In the words of institution the emphasis is on the fact of the personal presence of the living Lord in the event of the memorial and fellowship meal, not on the question as to how this real presence (the word “is”) comes about and is to be explained. The eating and drinking and the memorial character of the Passover meal, with which the New Testament links Jesus’ last meal, proclaim the beginning of the new covenant.
— When Christ gives the apostles the commission ‘Do this in remembrance of me!’ the word “remembrance” means more than merely a mental act of “recalling”.
— The term “body” means the whole person of Jesus, the saving presence of which is experienced in the meal.
71. Reflection on the biblical sources along these lines can also help to
relativise certain traditional alternatives (influenced by a dualistic
anthropology and cosmology) which encumber the dialogue between the confessions
(as for example, realism/symbolism, sacramentalism/inwardness, substance/form,
subject/ object). In relation to an objectification which tends to rigidity, the
original biblical way of thinking helps us to a more profound understanding of
the character of the Eucharist as an event.
76. The fellowship and witness of the Church depend on it being filled by God
with his Spirit. (cf. Lk 24, 49; Acts 1, 8; Tit 3, 6).
(1) a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord;
(2) a source of loving communion with him in the power of the Spirit (hence the epiclesis in the Liturgy), and
(3) a source of the eschatological hope for his coming again.
Lines of Investigation
— the constitutive elements of a eucharistic service, especially in view of its relation to certain forms of Christian fellowship, called in some countries “agape-celebrations”;
— the use of the Eucharist today which grows out of a faithful reflection on the tradition and on the vast changes which typify life today;
— the urgent contemporary pastoral questions of
mutual eucharistic hospitality.
Study of these questions should take into account:
— the rich connotations of memorial (anamnesis);
— the biblical and patristic “non-dualist” categories;
— the false antinomies which can be corrected by a study of such themes as “body, person, presence, spiritual”;
— the question of the proper role of the ordained ministry in the celebration of the Eucharist.
93. The Church bases its life on the sending of Christ into the world and the
sending of the Holy Spirit that men and women may be joined to Christ in his
service; its, authority is inseparable from its service in the world which is
the object of God’s creative and reconciling love. As servants of their servant
Lord, ministers of the Church must serve the world with wisdom and patience.
Without lively personal discipleship, there can be no credible exercise of
office. At the same time, those who bear office in the Church must adhere to the
promise that the Lord determines to build up his community even through
imperfect servants. Our common effort at a deeper common understanding of the
nature of ministry in the Church has also to be motivated by concern for the
service of the Church in the world.
111. Having thus reached the end of our conversation, we attach importance to
the following statement:
List of Meetings:
1970 Rome (Italy) April 6-10.
1971 Cartigny (Geneva) (Switzerland) March 22-27.
1972 Bièvres (Paris) (France) January 31-February 5.
1974 Woudschoten-Zeist (Netherlands) February 18-23
1975 Rome (Italy) March 3-8.
1977 Rome (Italy) March 21-26.
Members: Prof. Paul J. Achtemeier (U.S.A.) 1975; Prof. John M. Barkeley (N. Ireland) 1972; Prof. Dr. Markus Barth (Switzerland) 1974; Prof. Dr. A. Bronkhorst (Netherlands) 1972 and 1974; Prof. Dr. George B. Caird (England) 1970-1971-1972; Prof. Dr. Gottfried Locher (Switzerland) 1971-1972-1974-1975; Prof. Dr. Amadeo Molnar (Czechoslovakia) 1970-1971- 1975; Prof. Dr. G. C. van Niftrik (Netherlands) 1970; Prof. Dr. Jacques de Senarciens (Switzerland) 1970; Prof. Dr. W. C. van Unnik (Netherlands) 1971-1974- 1975; Prof. Dr. David Willis (U.S.A.) — Co-chairperson 1970-1971-1972-1974-1975.
Members ex-officio: Representing Dr. Marcel Pradervand: Dr. Raymond V. Kearns (U.S.A.) 1970; Rev. Dr. Edmond Perret (Switzerland) 1971-1972- 1974- 1975.
WARC staff: Rev. Richmond Smith (Switzerland) 1970-1971-1972-1974-1975.
Consultants: Prof. Dr. Christian Maurer (Switzerland) 1970; Prof. Dr. Eduard Schweizer (Switzerland) 1971; Prof. Jacques Ellul (France) 1972; Prof. Dr. Thomas Torrance (Scotland) 1974; Rev. Willy A. Roeroe (Indonesia) 1974; Prof. Dr. Martin Anton Schmidt (Switzerland) 1975; Rev. Francis Dankwa (Ghana) 1975.
* * *
Members: Prof. Dr. Roger Aubert (Belgium) 1970- 1971-1972-1974-1975; Prof. Dr. Josef Ernst (Federal Republic of Germany) 1970-1971-1972-1974-1975; Dr. Josef Hoffmann (France) 1970-1971-1972-1974-1975; Prof. Dr. J. F. Lescrauwaet, m.s.c. (Netherlands) 1970-1971-1974-1975; Prof. Dr. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B. (U.S.A.) — Co-chairperson 1970-1971-1972-1974.
Members ex-officio: Fr. Jerome Hamer, 0 .P. (Vatican City) 1970-1971-1972; Msgr. Charles Moeller (Vatican City) 1974-1975.
Staff: Rev. Dr. August Hasler (Vatican City) 1970-1971; Rev. Olaf Wand, A. A. (Vatican City) 1972; Fr. Pierre-M. de Contenson, O.P. (Vatican City) 1974-1975.
Consultants: Prof. Dr. Aelred Cody, O.S.B. (Italy) 1970; Prof. Dr. Jean Pierre Jossua, O.P. (France) 1971; Prof. Dr. René Coste (France) 1972; Rev. James Quinn, S.J. (Scotland) 1974; Fr. Yves-M. Congar, O.P. (France) 1975.
* * *
WCC Observers: Prof. Dr. Vilmos Vajta (France) 1970-1971-1972-1975; Prof. Dr. J. B. Boendemaker (Netherlands) 1974.