Monday, December 28, 2020

The Church: Towards a Common Vision

The Church Towards a Common Vision book cover
The Church: Towards a Common Vision on Amazon

We frequently refer to God's Providence—an aspect of God's merciful loving care that involves vision and foresight. The Church: Towards a Common Vision, the ecumenical World Council of Churches Faith and Order Paper Number 214, includes in its title "vision," a word about seeing and perceiving that humans share with the Divine.

Published in 2013, Towards a Common Vision is a convergence text that pairs with Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry. "BEM," from three decades earlier (1982). The book radically condenses conversations related to the nature and practice of faith, sacraments, and ministry in church bodies that confess the triune God. Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic participants seeking to articulate a "global and multicultural ecumenical vision" [viii] came from all over the globe.

Convergence implies moving together in some directions, yet it is not full consensus, nor is it necessarily an "agreed statement." Maybe surprisingly, the churches agreed more fully on faith and sacraments than they did on ministry. All interlocutors affirmed both scripture and tradition as authoritative, along with the need to proclaim the gospel in languages, symbols, and images related to the time and place at hand—contextualizing within the listeners' overall cultural heritage. Incorporating diversity, an aspect of catholicity, is essential to incarnational presence and embodied ministry.

Towards a Common Vision views Church in biblical terms as both eschatological community and historical reality. The writing in this technical document is easy to understand; the wide format printed throughout in double columns makes it pleasant to hold and to read. And what's the purpose of all these ecumenical discussions? Because… God so loves the world, and calls the church to be in the world and for the world, enabling the church to embody and reflect God's loving trinitarian communion.

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