Summery of our thesis:
Just after the unexpected collapse of the Eastern-European countries which were under militant communism ideology, the world of the Eastern Orthodox Church newly has began to be revealed after a long time of concealment from world church history in theology, church life and witness. We started this thesis, in order to rightly confess the Lord Jesus Christ and to witness effectively for the Gospel in the contemporary world which is rapidly changing politically, ideologically and culturally. In order to do this, a different perspective is necessary to investigate other churches and other traditions.
Our focus was on the research about the process of dialogue between the Reformed Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the context of the Ecumenical movement. For this purpose, we mainly relied on the Santiago document that the Fifth "Faith and Order Committee" in 1993 produced; entitled "Towards Koinonia in Faith,Life and Witness".
In chapter 1, we researched the source of diversity in the Bible to see if churches have existed in diverse forms on the Earth. We also were seeking for the source of Unity in the Bible. This research provides us with the positive perspective to accept the diversity of the church on earth. At the same time, it reveals the biblical foundation for the goal that we are seeking for: the source of Unity.
Yes! The Bible provides us enough proofs for the dirversity and unity of the church! but the approaches to the hermeneutics of the bible have been different according to church traditions so that many kinds of church traditions have been produced in spite of using the same Bible. we felt the need to find the central principle for the unity of churches.
So! we researched two ecumenical documents: First! "Tradition, Scripture, and Traditions (1963,WCC)", Second! "The Hierarchy of Truths (1991, JWG)". As a result, we found faith in Christ's Gospel and the Trinitarian God to be the central principle for Unity of churches. All church traditions and interpretation of written Scripture should proceed from this principle. This principle should be the foundation of all church traditions and interpretation of the written Scriptures.
So! The Reformed Church that is almost absolutely dependent on the written Scriptures and the Eastern Orthodox Church that is almost absolutely dependent upon the resolutions of the Seven Early church ecumenical councils have the task of reexamining their own traditions of reestimating their own life and of re-orienting for the unity of the church through the perspective of the central principle, enforcing the positive things and modifying the negative things.
What form does this Unity have to have? The form for the Unity that we are seeking is not uniformity through the central principle, it is not equality through homoge, nor is it collectivity, but rather the Koinonia based on the Life of the Trinitarian God that the Santiago document exposed clearly. Koinonia is the form we found for the Unity that we are seeking when we researched the dialogue between the Reformed Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In Chapters 3 and 4, we described the charateristics of the Reformed Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. We mentioned the origin, development, geographical distribution of the two churches, and stated the brief Ecumenical history and the basic orientation for church unity of the two churches.
The Reformed Church that originated in the Reform Movement of Switzerland during the 16th century has developed into the Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Congregational Church and the Evangelical Church. In comparison with the Lutheran church or the Methodist church, the Reformed Church is more dirvese in form. This diversity is mainly due to the fact that the Reformed Church has a strong interest in confessing the christian faith in every situation, while not insisting on a fixed form and creed.
The basic structure of Reformed church theology is in accord with the Reformation theology that came out of the struggle with the Roman Catholic church in the 16th century. However, the Reformed church's theology contains some unique features ; Scriptural theology focused on Christ's Gospel, Universal theology in relation to universal church history and other churches, and Practical theology, which stresses practice in ordinary life.
Stressing the unity of the church from the beginning of its history, the first main pioneer of the Reformed Church, John Calvin, showed his committed attitude toward the unity of the church in that he would have crossed the deep sea for the sake of this unity. The basic spirit of the Reformed Church toward unity was continued among the Reformed church families. This led in the two organizations in the 19th century, centered around the Evangelical Alliance(1846) and the World Alliance Reformed Church(1877), These arose the ecumenical movement among the Reformed church families.
Moreover, the Reformed Church is interested not only in the Reformed families themselves, but also in the universal unity of christian churches. Motivated by this interest, missionaries from the reformed churches strived to be ecumenical with other missionary churches based on the Scriptural lessons to not transplant western -style Reformed church in the mission field, but to expand the Kingdom of God. In the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century; these kinds of efforts were comparatively encouraging for World Church Unity. This sucess provided the guiding experiences for establishing WCC and leadership for Unity.
So, the basic direction of the Reformed church toward the Church Unity is not new. The Reformed church believes that the direction was already given. Moving toward the Unity of the Church based on the Unity of the Bible(the Gospel), striving for Church Unity based on the Mystical Unity with the Trinitarian God, and visibly fulfilling the Koinonia in the face of denominational differences based on the diverse Hermeneuti- cal traditions concerning the messages of the Bible. These can be regarded as the basic direction of the Reformed church toward Unity.
We should be aware that these charateristics of the Reformed church and the directions for Unity are in accordance with the direc- tions for Unity through Koinonia that the Santiago document explicated.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is often called the Greek Othodox Church because of it's historical and geographical background in relation to the East Roman Empire, or Bizantium(Constantinople). Since the moving of the Capital from Rome to Constantinople in A.D. 320 by Caesar Constantinus, it is the Church that has kept the creeds and church liturgy decided through the 7 ancient Ecumenical church councils.
Presently, Orthodox churches around the world can be classified geographically into 3 groups as follows: First, the middle eastern part in which the ancient Patriarchates and the Oriental Orthodox churches existed, Secondly, the middle eastern European part, including the Russian area that had been dominated by Communist Ideology for 70 years. Thirdly, the diaspora group started by Orthodox immigrants from the middle eastern part and the middle eastern European part who went to Western Europe, North America and South America.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has suffered from historical disasters. First, the Orthodox Church suffered from the Great Schism in 1054 owning to long-time cultural, political and theological conflicts and alienation which started through the pride of the Roman Patriarchate. Since the Apostolic Age, Christendom around the Mediterranean Sea has existed in the form of 5 patriarchates(Roman, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). But the Roman Patriarchate greatly exceeded the other 4 patriarchates in power after the first pope; Gregory the Great. By 590 the Roman started acting as first among the 5 patriarchates. The pride and insistence of the Roman Patriarchate initiated and deepened the conflict and alienation between itself and the others which resulted in the Great Schism.
After the Great Schism, the Eastern Orthodox Church was seriously attacked by Moslem forces and Constantinople Patriarchate was finally conquered by the Moslems in A.D 1453. After that tragedy, the Russian Empire took over a representative role in the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, since 1917 when militant communist Ideology took hold in Russia. Only very recently has the Eastern Orthodox Church been able to play and role in the Church Universal.
In contrast to the Reformed church, which has a progressive and enterprising spirit, the Eastern Orthodox Church has charateristics which are resonable in light of its historical background. It has been mainly interested in keeping the Holy Tradition as transmitted through the church. Holy Tradition contains the Bible, Creeds, resolutions decided in the 7 ancient ecumenical church councils. It also includes the writings of Fathers, ecclesiastical canons, the church service books and Icons. The Orthodox Church takes absolute pride in these traditions. It's main mission should be considered as keeping and transmitting the Holy Tradition until the Adventus of Christ.
However these 7 components of the Holy traditions are not held in equal status. The Bible, the Resolutions decided in the 7 Ecumenical Church Councils and the Creeds are held as the most authoritative among them. These have been regarded as having absolute authority. The eastern 4 patriarchates have managed their churches through collegial leadership, in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, which has managed the church through monolithic leadership.
Here we find that Orthodox Church has the merit to contribute to the recent Ecumenical Movement that it is essentially in agreement with the direction of this thesis; the central principle that is the Gospel of Christ, faith in the Trinitarian God, and Koinonia as the basis for Unity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has played a considerable role in the Ecumenical Movement from the beginning. In 1920, the Constantinople patriarch suggested through his encycalical sent to the churches around the world, that the League of churches should be organized along the lines of the League of Nations that was being organized through the leadership of the American president, Wilson. The Patriarch's suggestion provoked and stimulated the Ecumenical Movement along universal dimensions. In fact WCC could have been a pan-world church organization, rather than a pan-protestant church organization through the active participation of the Eastern Orthodox Church which realized the importance of the central truths, including the Trinitarian doctrine in christian churches and traditions.
In chapter 5, we researched the process of ecumenical dialogue between the Reformed church and the Eastern Orthodox Church in three dimensions which parallel the 3 main directives of the Santiago document. First, in the dimension of Faith, we looked at the process of dialogue on the Trinitarian doctrine. Second, in the dimension of Church life, we compared the responses to the BEM text(baptism, eucharist and ministry), Third, in the dimension of Witness, we inquired into the extent of the churches participation in JPIC (Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Crea- tion). Our main purpose was to diagnose the present condition of ecumenical dialogue and cooperation between the two churches as reflected through the 3 dimensions mentioned above.
In regard to Faith, we examined the agreement statement on the Trinity that was issued cooperatively as a result of discussion and interpretation by the two churches on the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (A.D.381). This statement was agreed upon in Geneva in 1981 as a universal christian creed during the 1600 year anniversary celebration of the the Nicene-Constantinople Council (A.D.381). From this we know that the Reformed church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have confessed the same content of christian faith; they are brothers and sisters who have confessed the same Father, Son and the Spirit. Through this confession they have built a basic foundation, not only for the faith,but also for life and the witness.
Second, in church life we discovered differences and commonalities through analysis of the responses of each church to the BEM text. Especially in Ministry, we ponted out that they have the potential to disagree and to struggle, but at the same time they have the potential to find more agreement through a deeper investigation into the Father's tradition suggested by the Orthodox church, and mutual recognition of the importance of the Gospel Word suggested by the Reformed church. Futhermore, both churches can move mutual recognition of the ministry by reestimating the importance of the Episcopate as it pertains to Unity of the church, both visibly and invisibly.
Third, in Witness we pointed out that they are approximately in accord with each other as pertaining to JPIC participation. They display almost exatly the same motif and methodology for JPIC, even though the Reformed church executes JPIC from the perspective of Covenant theology and the Eastern Orthodox Church from the perspective of Echaristic theology. We consider that these two different perspectives for JPIC participation be the organic essentials for true KOINONIA.
Our research could probably be defined as ecclesiology if seen from the perspective of systematic theology. In fact, KOINONIA in faith, in life and witness is ecclesiastical. The Apostolic faith that we described in chapter 5.2 can be regarded as the foundation for ecclesiology, and the unity of the church. The content of the BEM text that we examined in chapter 5.3 reflects the main content of ecclesiology, and the process of participation in JPIC is witness to this. Add to this the application and expansion in the world of ecclesiology that we pointed out in chapter 6, we have described the general meaning of the ecumenical dialogues. Through the ecumenical dialogues we can recognize more clearly in ourselves, the differences and commonalities between churches and it can be possible for us to mature into the "true" Reformed church. If the Reformed church wishes to be the "true" Reformed church, it needs to be more ecumenical and more open to listening to other churches and to the Reformation which is based on biblical truths.
Especially through ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church, the Reformed church can learn from it as following: First, in ecclesiastical aspects, the Orthodox experience of the conciliar fellowship to keep and fulfill the one holy catholic and apostolic church will play an important role not only promoting visible unity of the world's churches through the ecumenical movement, but also the Reformed churches by recognizing the importance of the Universal church and church worship. Also,they need to recognize the important role and meaning of the Eucharist as the Orthodox church does, corresponding to the role of KERYGMA in the Reformed church service.
Second, in the Trinitarian aspects, the Reformed church that has been stressing christology, needs to learn the importance of confessing in God Creator based on the Trinitarian, so that it might take part a more active role in preserving the integrity of Creation rather than in exploitating Creation. This must be in addition to Justice and Peace.
However,The Reformed church,s main interest is not in the Unity of the church but in the Lordship of God in the world church and in C reation. More accurately said, the Unity of the church under the Lordship of God! This is the main goal that it seeks. In reality, there is dangerous thing that we should be careful of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox church. There is the constant potential pride of the Orthodox church over the Reformed church, in that the Orthodox church would want to be in the center of any movement to promote unity of the church.
Dialogue itself is not the end, but the beginning of an on-going that will require more effort to improve future dialogue.
For more perfect, visible unity between churches, we should try to fulfill KOINONIA more completely, because the cooperative work on baptism, the eucharist and ministry which is the result of the common confession of the apostolic faith, and on JPIC participation call out to be held together creatively and fruitfully within a vision of the conciliar communion.
So, nine requirements are needed for the realization of conciliar fellowship for as followings;
1). Unity in the truth of the Gospel. 2). Unity around the table of the Lord. 3). Fellowship for the sake of the quality of human life in the world. 4). Unity in each place. 5). Mutual acceptance of members and ministries. 6). Such interlocking corporate relationships of local churches as are needed for faithful mission. 7). Forms of fellowship at the universal level. 8). Appropriate authority of each level of the church. 9). Faithful responsiveness to the active presence of the Holy Spirit.We concluded the thesis with a quotation from the Canberra document describing the unity of the church to the centre in terms of KOINONIA.
"The Unity of the church to which we are called is a KOINONIA given and expressed in the common confession of the apostolic faith; a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship; a common life in which members and minstries are mutually recognized and reconciled; and a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation. The goal of the search for full communion is realized when all the churches are able to recognize in one another the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church in it's fullness. This full communion will be expressed on the local and the universal levels through concilliar forms of life and action. In such communion, churches are bound in all aspects of their life, together at all levels, in confessing one faith and engaging in worship and witness, deliberation and action".
Diversity......... is integral to the nature of communion; yet there are limits to diversity.... in communion diversity is brought together in harmony as gifts of the Holy Spirit, contributing to the richness and fullness of the church of God.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.(John 17:20-23).
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven(Mat 6:10).