Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality
New York, NY, January 20, 2006--The fourth in a series of consultations on Orthodox and Wesley spirituality explored the theology of the church and the role of the universal church in the spiritual lives of Christians.
The gathering, January 8-13, was sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and held on the seminary campus in Crestwood, N.J.
Under the theme, "One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church: Ecclesiology and the Gathered Community," participants from Wesleyan and Orthodox traditions considered the question of what both Christians of earlier times and contemporary Orthodox and Methodists mean when they confess faith in one holy, catholic and apostolic church.
The dialogue also covered the place of the church--the local gathered community and the "universal church"--in a person's spiritual life. This topic included the exercise of obedience, discipline, and authority in the community; the meaning of Tradition and traditions; the place and significance of "holy people," and the church's mission.
Co-conveners of the consultation were Dr. S T Kimbrough, Jr., associate general secretary for mission evangelism of the General Board of Global Ministries, and Dr. John Erickson, dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Kimbrough said that seminary professors, clergy, laity from four Orthodox and four Wesley churches took part. Those churches were: Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church in America, British Methodist Church, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, United Methodist Church, and Church of the Nazarene.
A distinctive feature of consultation, as in previous ones, was mutual sharing in worship in the Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions. A common musical and worship resource was prepared by Dr. Kimbrough, Dr. Carlton R. Young, a music consultant to the United Methodist mission board, and Deacon Kevin Smith of St. Vladimir's. This enabled the participation of all in the Orthodox Matins and Vespers and the Methodist Morning and Evening Prayers.
The consultation began with presentations by Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright of Duke University Divinity School on, "Were Methodists Present at Constantinople 381? Ecclesial Claims in Light of the Four Notes of the Conciliar Creed," and Father John Jillions of the Sheptytsk Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada, on "An Orthodox Reading of I Corinthians 1:10 31: Any room for Methodists?" A major council of the early Christian church took place at Constantinople in 381 A.D. I Corinthians I:10-31 concerns divisions and unity within the church.
Dr. Wainwright, reflecting on the event, said that the fourth consultations "continued to prove the value of serious theological and liturgical encounter between our two traditions, without the immediate need to produce formally agreed statements. Such meetings are important as early steps towards the full agreement in doctrine and life that we hope will eventually come."
Questions about the future of the church and its mission in present century were raised in diverse presentations and discussions. One question was that of the extent to which the people of the Orthodox and Wesleyan churches are faithful to the core of their own traditions? Is this core recognized among Orthodox and Methodists? To what extent are these traditions prophetic voices and signs for Christ and the church in the twenty-first century?
The papers from the first three Orthodox-Wesleyan consultations are now available in two volumes from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. These are Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality (2000), and Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice (2005). The latter was released immediately prior to the fourth consultation.
Kimbrough said that earlier consultations have shown how shared worship and fellowship, serious study and discussion of the roots of the Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions can lead to helpful understandings in the common quest to be faithful servants of Christ and the church. Orthodoxy and the Wesleyan churches are both evangelical and sacramental in theology and practice.
"Jesus demonstrated time and again in his ministry that hospitality is at the heart of Christian love and a life of grace," Kimbrough added. "Hopefully these consultations are a sign of Christ's hospitality and presence in a divided and fragmented world."
Date posted: Jan 23, 2006