e-περιοδικό της Ενορίας Μπανάτου εν Ζακύνθω. Ιδιοκτήτης: Πρωτοπρεσβύτερος του Οικουμενικού Θρόνου Παναγιώτης Καποδίστριας (pakapodistrias@gmail.com), υπεύθυνος Γραφείου Τύπου Ι. Μητροπόλεως Ζακύνθου. Οι δημοσιογράφοι δύνανται να αντλούν στοιχεία, αφορώντα σε εκκλησιαστικά δρώμενα της Ζακύνθου, με αναφορά του συνδέσμου των αναδημοσιευόμενων. Η πνευματική ιδιοκτησία προστατεύεται από τον νόμο 2121/1993 και την Διεθνή Σύμβαση της Βέρνης, κυρωμένη από τον νόμο 100/1975.

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Δευτέρα 31 Οκτωβρίου 2022


By Kristina Mantasasvili

Living in an era characterized by the rise of secularization and the questioning of ethical values, it becomes ever more evident that many tensions between and among Christians and churches are caused by their different and often conflicting positions on important issues of moral nature, that challenge church and society and cause disunity and division.
As the churches, within the ecumenical movement, are called upon to face the problem of a divided Christendom and strive for “visible unity”, the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission took up the task to assist them in finding a way to mutual understanding, when it comes to moral discernment, while at the same time deepen their understanding of one another’s life and faith.

The Faith and Order Commission has studied the topic of ethics since the 1980s, however, its engagement with the specific subject of Moral Discernment in the Churches began with the Standing Commission in 2006, when it was decided to “conduct a study of the ways in which the churches formulate and offer teaching and guidelines with respect to moral and ethical issues – especially those that are or may become church-dividing”[1]. This effort produced the study document “Moral Discernment in the Churches: A Study Document”, in 2013, focusing mainly on discernment processes, sources and factors that affect the process and how they function in the moral discernment of other people and churches.

The reception of this document was not an easy one, especially for the Orthodox members of the Commission, who requested the addition of an addendum to the document, voicing their concerns in regards to the methodology of the study and the way the sources were presented, while similar concerns were also shared by the Roman Catholic members. It was, however, acknowledged that the document could be of use in academic circles and recommended that the study of moral discernment remains in the future agenda of the Commission.

This led to the second phase of the study, as the Faith and Order Commission in 2015, approved the proposal, presented by its newly composed Study Group on moral discernment, to undertake the continuation of the study, changing the methodology of the previous document, and engage on the one hand, with the self-description of ecclesial discernment processes in different church traditions, and on the other hand, analyse historical examples of moral discernment processes.

Three volumes have been produced and published, containing the descriptions of the moral discernment processes of different church traditions, a range of historical examples and final volume, comprised of the analysis of those papers and a proposed tool for the facilitation of mutual understanding and dialogue.

[1] Minutes of the Standing Commission on Faith and Order, Faverges, Haute-Savoie, France 2006, Faith and Order Paper No. 202 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2006), 107.

More specifically, the first volume “Churches and Moral Discernment. Volume 1: Learning from Traditions”, is a collection of fourteen different traditions offering their “self-descriptions” regarding moral discernment and more precisely, their sources, the interplay of sources, and the processes of ecclesial deliberation. The main goal of this volume is to invite the reader and the churches, engaged into dialogue, to study the text and reflect on the moral discernment, firstly within their own tradition and secondly, to learn how other traditions engage in moral discernment.

In the second volume, entitled Churches and Moral Discernment. Volume 2: Learning from History, historians, ethicists and theologians examine topics such as, usury, slavery, apartheid, suicide, human rights, freedom of religion, and involvement of Christians in war. The reader can see, while maintaining a relative emotional distance from the issues, as all the examples are derived from the past, how traditions, on occasions and over the centuries, have developed, deepened and occasionally adjusted their teaching on matters of ethics, in pursuit of a more authentic moral Christian discipleship.

The final volume Churches and Moral Discernment: Facilitating Dialogue to Build Koinonia, harvests the fruits of the study process on moral discernment, offering insights into the complex relation between continuity and change, a deeper understanding of “the conscience of the church” and its significance in moral discernment processes and in ecumenical encounters. Finally, the document proposes a tool to deepen knowledge of the processes, to analyze core elements in the conscience of the church that shape moral discernment, to recognize how and why differences might emerge, affirm shared commitments, and in so doing, to build koinonia[1].

“Taken together, the papers allow readers to appreciate the churches’ shared commitment to moral discernment, grounded in their common faith and calling”[2], thus allowing for a fruitful interaction and conversation. The proposed methodology encourages the churches, instead of focusing only on the outcomes of a discernment process, to try and understand the process itself, which may open new horizons for ecumenical dialogue.

The publications were presented on several occasions during the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, and were recognized as an important recourse for the pursuit of a more profound understanding of Moral Discernment processes and therefore facilitating dialogue between the members of the World Council of Churches. Further work on the subject of moral discernment was recommended, as there are still many areas and aspects that can be investigated.

It is a common knowledge that in many cases historical factors have separated the churches and again historical circumstances brought them to cooperation and the search for unity. It is important, during our ecumenical encounters, to bear in mind that Church is “the center of the universe, the sphere in which its destinies are determined”[3] and we should, therefore, always strive for a common Christian witness, especially in a world that needs to be constantly reminded who is Jesus Christ and that the salvation provided by him is redemption, healing, immortality and restoration of creation and humans to the original state. It is now and has always been the mission of all Christians to communicate this message to the entire world.

— Kristina Mantasasvili, PhD candidate at the Faculty of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, with research interest in Christian anthropology and human rights. She started as youth representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the WCC Commission on Faith and Order and a member of Study Group on moral discernment since 2015. She was a member of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the 11th WCC Assembly, in Karlsruhe.

[2] From the introduction of Volume I.
[3] Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1957, p. 178.

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