On October 18-19, 2012, Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry hosted a gathering of Christian leaders and scholars from around to the world to discuss the future of efforts to promote unity among Christians in the United States, and the ways in which Christians with a common voice can promote a more peaceful and just world. The gathering, comprising the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ, involved Christian leaders from many different historical traditions, including Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, Unitarian Universalist communities, among others. “This gathering of scholars and leaders marks an important watershed for the School of Theology and Ministry,” said Dr. Mark S. Markuly, the dean of the School. “Since our founding, the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University has worked to create a program and community of learners that is deeply engaged with the issues not only of our local community but the world at large. The Faith and Order Commission represents an important body of deep thinking Christian believers who are trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a world of growing religious diversity and problems that cry for a faith response.”Members of these Christian traditions meet twice a year for four year intervals (called quadrenniums), specific to three themes each quadrennium. In this current four-year period, groups have met to discuss:1) the future of Christian unity in the United States in the 21st century; 2) the response of Christians to rising civil violence in the nation and the world; and 3) emerging Christian voices from the margins of society.
Members of the Faith and Order Commission bring many different levels of experience and expertise to the conversation. Some are theologians, others are pastors, and still others have worked on the ground to assist in mediating regional conflicts. The members of the Commission represent a great diversity of Christian traditions. During two days of discussions, members of the Commission also participated in a lively exchange alongside faculty at the School of Theology and Ministry on "The future of the 21st Century Church in the Pacific Northwest."
The insights from this conversation will inform agenda items at the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which will take place in South Korea in the fall of 2013. "These conversations are an essential aspect of the Christian voice in this country, which will join additional global voices in South Korea," noted Dr. Michael Trice, Assistant Dean for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue. "As an intentionally ecumenical school, we are delighted to accompany these vital conversations on the future of faith in the U.S."Visiting Professor, Dr. Michael Kinnamon has been the Executive Director of the National Council of Churches as well as the World Council of Churches’ Executive Secretary for the Commission on Faith and Order. Dr. Kinnamon shares some background on the Commission’s history and function: Faith and Order is that stream of the global ecumenical movement that seeks to call the churches to visible unity by addressing areas of theological disagreement (e.g., sacraments, ministry, and authority). Faith and Order held its own international conferences, starting in 1927, but became part of the World Council of Churches at its founding in 1948. Since that time, there has been a highly-influential Commission on Faith and Order within the WCC and similar commissions in national councils around the world. The WCC commission is best-known for its seminal study document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, but has also produced major convergence texts on such once-divisive issues as the meaning of grace, the relationship of scripture and tradition, and the church as koinonia (communion). There has been a Faith and Order Commission as part of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA since the late 1950s. The NCC commission includes theologians from most of the NCC's 37 member communions, as well as a number of non-member denominations. Over the years, it has produced significant studies on such topics as the authority of the church in the world, toward a common confession of the apostolic faith, and the relationship of unity and peacemaking. The current commission, which recently met on the campus of Seattle University, is at work on several timely subjects, including a study on how churches can deal with conflict (e.g., over homosexuality) without division.
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