March 25, 2011


World Council of Churches group makes progress in MTSO meeting

Church leaders representing 10 denominations on four continents met at MTSO in March to revise a significant document of the World Council of Churches.

Members of the Ecclesiology Working Group of the WCC's Faith and Order standing commission gathered to work on a revision of The Nature and Mission of the Church, a book identifying broad agreements between the 349 Christian churches that make up the WCC. The meeting was hosted by MTSO Professor Sarah Lancaster, who is co-moderator of the Ecclesiology Working Group.

The following members of the Ecclesiology Working Group attended the meeting, held March 16-21:

  • 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 ongoing responsibility of the Ecclesiology Working Group is to produce a statement about the church for the WCC that will reflect as closely as possible the agreement of its member churches about what the church is. Two versions of such a statement have already been published under the titles The Nature and Purpose of the Church (1998) and The Nature and Mission of the Church (2005).

The current work of the EWG is to revise the 2005 statement in light of responses from the churches that have reviewed it so that a new version will reflect even more adequately where understanding is shared and where it differs.

Before this meeting in March, a smaller drafting group had met in Geneva in October 2010 to produce a revision of the document that could be circulated to all working group members for review and refinement. The meeting held at MTSO gave all members a chance to suggest changes to this revision.

Lancaster said while progress was made, some issues required such substantive discussion that the EWG did not fully complete its review of the document during the time allotted for the meeting. Before dismissing, the EWG developed a plan for finishing a revision using electronic communication in the hope that a new version may be presented to the entire Standing Commission at its meeting in Italy this July.

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