From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC Special Commission summarizes the results of its

From "Sheila Mesa" <>
Date Tue, 04 Jun 2002 16:00:47 +0200

three-year-work in a final report

World Council of Churches
Update, Up-02-17
For Immediate Use
4 June 2002

Special Commission summarizes the results of its three-year-work
in a final report

cf. WCC Press Feature, Feat-02-05, of 17 May 2002
cf. WCC Press Feature, Feat-02-04, of 16 May 2002
cf. WCC Press Feature, Feat-02-03, of 15 May 2002

At the conclusion of its fourth and final plenary meeting, the
Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council
of Churches (WCC), meeting at Jarvenpaa, Finland, 27 May - 2
June, released the following communique:

The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World
Council of Churches (WCC) fulfilled its mandate at its fourth
plenary meeting, 27 May - 2 June 2002, at Jarvenpaa, diocese of
Helsinki, Finland, at the gracious invitation of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Finland and of the Orthodox Church of Finland.
Results and recommendations of the Commission's three-year-work
are summarized in a final document, the so-called "Helsinki
report". The Commission will present its findings to the WCC
Central Committee, which meets this year 26 August - 3 September
in Geneva, Switzerland, and which will act on the

The Commission is composed of an equal number of representatives
appointed by the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and
representatives from other member churches of the WCC appointed
by the WCC Central Committee. Its co-moderators were H.E.
Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Ephesus (Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople) and Bishop Rolf Koppe (Evangelical Church in
Germany, EKD).  

According to its mandate the Commission made "proposals
concerning the necessary changes in structure, style and ethos of
the Council", focusing  on:

- ecclesiological issues;
- decision-making processes;
- common prayer;
- social and ethical issues;
- issues related to membership.  

Attached to the "Helsinki report" are three appendices that
provide further information and recommendations on the issue of
decision-making by consensus, on the issue of common prayer at
WCC gatherings, as well as on the work of the Membership Study
Group which was appointed by the WCC Executive Committee.   

"Ecclesiological issues embrace all the matters under the
consideration of the Special Commission: social and ethical
issues, common prayer at WCC gatherings, matters of membership
and representation, as well as how decisions are made together,"
the Commission members emphasize in their final report.  

In order to keep these concerns prominently before the governing
bodies of the WCC, the Commission recommends the establishment of
a Standing Committee on Orthodox Participation in the WCC,
consisting of 14 members, of whom half would be Orthodox.  

It is proposed that the Standing Committee will have
responsibility for:

1) continuing the authority, mandate, concerns and dynamic of
the Special Commission;
2) giving advice in order to reach consensus on items proposed
for the agenda of the WCC;
3) giving attention to matters of ecclesiology. 

The "Helsinki report" recommends that the current Steering
Committee of the Special Commission should fulfil that role until
the next WCC Assembly. 

The Commission proposes consensus decision-making in order to
"enhance the participation of all members in the various
meetings," to "preserve the rights of all churches, especially
those which hold a minority opinion," and to "provide a more
collaborative and harmonious context for the making of

The Commission further hopes that "the use of consensus
decision-making, with an increase in mutual trust, will make it
easier for all to participate fully in the discussion of any
burning ethical and social issue". While the Commission affirmed
the function of the WCC as a "necessary and helpful instrument in
facing social and ethical issues," it reminded the WCC of the
need to "constantly monitor procedures for dealing with social
and ethical issues proposed for common deliberation".  

During its three-year work, the Commission has consistently
underlined the need for careful theological and practical
guidance for common prayer at WCC gatherings in order to raise
"awareness about the ways in which we might unintentionally
offend each other", and to make planners of common prayer more
cognizant of potential areas of concern. In an appendix to its
final report, the Special Commission now offers a framework for
common prayer at WCC gatherings that makes a distinction between
"confessional" and "interconfessional" common prayer .  

The Special Commission recommends that the Central Committee
provide two possibilities to churches wanting to relate to the
WCC in the future:

1) member churches belonging to the fellowship of the WCC;
2) churches in association with the WCC.  

The members of the Commission attended Vespers in the Lutheran
Cathedral in Helsinki on Thursday, 30 May, and Divine Liturgy at
the Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki on Sunday, 2 June. These
member churches repeatedly emphasized the strength of their
growing ecumenical fellowship. The Lutheran Archbishop Jukka
Paarma welcomed the Commission members at a reception. H.E.
Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Ephesus expressed his warmest
gratitude for the generous hospitality of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Finland.  He especially thanked Bishop Voitto
Huotari and Metropolitan Ambrosius of Helsinki for the invitation
to Finland and for the excellent preparatory work and

The "Helsinki report" will be released to the public at the WCC
Central Committee meeting in August this year.  

For further information, please contact Karin Achtelstetter,
Media Relations Officer
Tel:  (+41.22) 791.61.53, Mobile:  (+41)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches,
now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from
virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is
not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The
highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately
every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in
Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general
secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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