Workgroup Information

Workgroup on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism –
Handbook for Theological Education

Reference Book for Teaching Ecumenism in Orthodox Contexts

Rev. Dr. Dietrich Werner, WCC Programme on Ecumenical Theological Education

This Workgroup has been created as a working tool for members of the editorial group and the advisory group preparing a major resource book for teaching ecumenism in Orthodox contexts in the period from 2011/12. The preparation of the resource book is a project of the WCC Programme on Ecumenical Theological Education (WCC/ETE) in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches and Volos Academy.

The Workgroup is intended as a platform to collect relevant papers, contributions and documents for the envisaged publication during a working process aimed for the period between October 2011 and June 2013.

This resource book aims to facilitate theological education with regard to the ecumenical movement in the context of orthodox theological faculties and theological schools and beyond. This publication is planned as a major Orthodox contribution to the forthcoming 2013 Assembly of WCC in Busan, Korea, where a major forum for ecumenical theological education will take place as well as other significant ecumenical events.

Access to this working group is for members of the editorial board and those who joined during the Volos Academy international conference for the preparation of the Handbook on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism.

Members of the editorial board include Dr. Pantelis Kalaizidis, Dr. Cyril Hovorun, Dr. Tom Fitz-Gerald, Aikaterina Pekridou, Dr. Dietrich Werner (advisor), Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka (advisor) .

The initial process towards a reference book on teaching ecumenism in Orthodox contexts started in February 2010 as a follow-up of earlier initiatives between Volos Academy and ETE. It was both during the Sibiu conference of 2010 and in several other occasions that different voices indicated the need to have a proper resource book for teaching ecumenism in Orthodox theological faculties and academies. There is still a tremendous lack of resources for proper and sound teaching of the history and life of the ecumenical movement.

The Report of the Sibiu conference in 2010 had explicitly stated,

that Orthodox Churches had profoundly benefitted from the ecumenical movement which allowed them to meet other Christians and to overcome temptations of isolationism;
that there is still need to improve the level of inter-Christian studies and dialogue in Orthodox theological schools in order to promote understanding and to eradicate prejudice;
that the study of other Christian churches and ecumenism needs to move beyond the framework of comparative or even polemical apologetics.

The Sibiu conference report thus formulated as explicit recommendation that:

"There is a clear need to develop appropriate, fair-minded, non-polemical Orthodox resources and methodologies for teaching about other Christian churches, other religions and the ecumenical movement.

It is necessary to prepare an Essay book about the history of the ecumenical movement from the Orthodox point of view to be introduced as a part of the teaching curriculum in our theological schools and seminaries."

ETE/WCC in collaboration with CEC and Volos Academy therefore has suggested the planning of a project for a major resource book for teaching ecumenism in orthodox contexts during the period from 2011- 2012.

An initial project outline was developed in meetings during December 2010/January 2011 by the core group of initiating persons (Rev Dr. Dietrich Werner (ETE/WCC), Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Volos Academy), and Rev Prof. Dr Viorel Ionita, (CEC)). An advisory committee for the publication project met during October 2011 in Volos Academy Greece and produced a revised and amended project outline.

Goals of the Project
The goals of the envisaged publication under the title ‘That all may be one. Orthodoxy and Ecumenism – A Handbook for Theological Education' would be

To underline the decisive role of the Orthodox Church for the development of the Ecumenical Movement from its early beginnings as well as to highlight both how Orthodox churches have benefitted from the ecumenical movement as well as how they have contributed to ecumenical theology in general during many decades;
To provide access to essential and authentic orthodox texts relating to the search for Christian unity as well as the understanding of ecumenism and the involvement of Orthodox Churches in the ecumenical movement including providing access to official decisions and statements of Orthodox Churches with regard to theological education and ecumenism;
To address practical aspects of ecumenical dialogue and common Christian witness in diakonia, education, joint witness, pastoral counseling and Christian life which demand for pastoral theological reflection on contemporary areas of churches life and action and therefore would combine theological articles with more practical and pastoral articles;
To present materials from orthodox theologians involved in theological education on ecumenism from different orthodox churches and to highlight some of the pioneers of orthodox involvement in ecumenical dialogue from the different orthodox churches;
To communicate a proper and theologically sound understanding of ecumenism from orthodox perspectives in ways which are dialogical in approach reflecting also and relating to some prejudices and misperceptions on ecumenism which are still circulating in some orthodox churches (an apologetic orthodox theology of ecumenism in the best sense of the word);
To identify proper additional resources which facilitate theological education on ecumenism by course outlines and curriculum plans (bibliographies, curriculum outlines, lists of websites with additional resources) while at the same time not being restricted in its audience to academic theologians but reaching out to the interested general public on orthodox contexts;
While remaining mainly related to Eastern Orthodox churches and their theology of ecumenism in its main text-body the Handbook should also include contributions on the ecumenical relations between Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches in the chapter on bilateral dialogues and a separate additional chapter (appendix) in the end in which the specific understanding of and contribution to ecumenism from Oriental Orthodox Churches would be highlighted.