March 7, 2011

International religious leaders gather on MTSO campus

World Council of Churches group will consider revisions to a key document: 'The Nature and Mission of the Church'

Church leaders representing 10 denominations on four continents will meet at Methodist Theological School in Ohio this month to revise a significant document of the World Council of Churches.

Twelve members of the Ecclesiology Working Group of the WCC's Faith and Order standing commission will gather March 16-21 on the MTSO campus in Delaware, Ohio. The group will work on a revision of "The Nature and Mission of the Church," a 40-page book reflecting what WCC members – 349 Christian churches from 110 countries – can say together about the nature of the church, while also identifying the issues on which there are continuing differences.

MTSO Professor of Theology Sarah Lancaster is a member of the standing commission and co-moderator of the Ecclesiology Working Group. Lancaster said the World Council of Churches – and, consequently, the document her working group is revising – addresses Christian churches' desire to work together rather than viewing each other as rivals.

"There's an awareness that having many different churches that seemed to be in competition with each other compromised the mission of the church," she said, "and that the mission would be strengthened if we work together and all bear witness to Jesus Christ together."

During its time on the MTSO campus, Lancaster said, the ecumenical group will "try to find out where there are agreements – what we can say together – and then also identify where there are still differences, with the goal of working through those differences so you can say more and more together."

The following members of the Ecclesiology Working Group are expected to attend:

  • Rev. Gregory J. Fairbanks, Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Roman Catholic Church
  • Canon Peter Fisher, Church of England
  • Rev. Canon John Gibaut, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Rev. Dr. William Henn, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Roman Catholic Church
  • Very Rev. Professor Dr. Viorel Ionita, Romanian Orthodox Church
  • Sarah Kaulule, United Church of Zambia
  • Rev. Dr. Sarah Lancaster, United Methodist Church
  • Professor Dr. Ulrike Link-Wieczorek, Evangelical Church in Germany
  • Rev. Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus, Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil
  • Right Rev. Nathan Ohanisyan, Armenian Apostolic Church
  • His Eminence Metropolitan Dr. Vasilios of Constantia-Ammochostos, Church of Cyprus

"The Nature and Mission of the Church" is one of a number of publications produced by the WCC's Commission on Faith and Order with the intent that churches will use them to promote understanding of other churches, denominations and church fellowships. The World Council of Churches' website is

Methodist Theological School in Ohio prepares transformational leaders of many religious denominations for service to the church and the world. MTSO offers master's degrees in divinity, counseling ministries, theological studies and practical theology, as well as a Doctor of Ministry degree. For more information, visit

Danny Russell, director of communication, 740-362-3322

Sarah Lancaster, professor of theology, 740-362-3360