ArmenianOrthodoxChurch.org – November 2016
In his reflections at the opening session of the bilateral theological dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the World Anglican Communion, at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon, His Holiness Aram I described the present ecumenical landscape as one of “stagnation and uncertainty”. In his judgment “the continuous efforts of the recent decades aimed at the reconfiguration and transformation of the ecumenical movement simply have failed”. He said that ecumenism is not a mere relations among the churches; it is essentially a growing fellowship towards the visible unity”. Therefore, according to Aram I, “If the churches do not re-own the ecumenical movement, the latter will lose its fellowship character, and the visible unity as its ultimate goal, and it will be reduced to an NGO. The signs of such trends are already noticeable in many regions “, said Aram I.
His Holiness stressed the crucial importance of a credible ecumenism that will “challenge the sorts of approaches and developments that may jeopardize its very nature and the goal” A credible ecumenism, for His Holiness “must have a clear vision that should sustain and guide its reflections and actions; must respond to the concrete realities of its environments; must appropriate the concerns and expectations of the churches; and must become people-centered and people-oriented, empowered by the Holy Spirit”.
Aram I, who has been for two terms the Moderator of the Central and Executive Committees of the World Council of Churches (1991–2006), warned that “activism without spirituality will endanger the very nature of the ecumenical movement; reflection without collaboration will make ecumenism a mere intellectual exercise; and consensus without reception-oriented process will remain a sheer document on the shelves of the ecumenical institutions”.
On the background of this analytical look at the present state of the ecumenical movement, His Holiness emphasized the pivotal importance of bilateral theological dialogues. He said that it is important “to maintain a creative interaction and complimentarity between multilateral and bilateral dialogues”. As to the agenda of bilateral dialogues, in his view, “Bilateral dialogue not only should focus on the divisive doctrinal theological issues, but it should also deepen the commonalities as a solid bases for the visible unity of the church”. Reminding the Commission that bilateral theological dialogues have almost become repetitive, Catholicos Aram I challenged the churches to go beyond the traditional agenda to treat issues pertaining to socio-ethical sphere, since, “such matters have become more divisive in intra-church and inter-church relations”. His Holiness also stressed the need of “engaging the churches in reception process by leading them from divergence to convergence”. Such an approach, in his view, “will make bilateral theological dialogues relevant, reliable and credible”.