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Conversion and identity, the United Churches: origins, progress, relationships.

I have accepted the assignment for this lecture only after overcoming some hesitations. First of all, I retired nearly a year ago and am no longer actively involved in unity discussions. Second, I come from the Evangelical Church of the Union (EKU), a union between Lutheran and Reformed traditions of early last century; it was not always clear whether this was really a transconfessional union. Finally, I come from a country where today we have a serious problem with the term "identity" and where "conversion" seems to be far away. The reason why Faith and Order has asked me is obvious and definitely not to my own merit: I am the only person who, either as a Geneva staff member or as an ecumenical officer of the EKU, has participated in all of the five previous consultations of united and uniting churches.

Let me start with my strongest impression about them. Here is where I have found the "fully committed fellowship" (New Delhi, 1961), a foretaste of the unity to be discovered, a group of Christians and delegates from churches "built together" - the theme of this sixth consultation. The question raised in Santiago de Compostela,(1) "Is it possible for us to serve the table of the world when we are divided at the table of the Lord?", found here a clear answer. In these consultations it was possible under the grace of God to celebrate holy communion together - without the slightest doubt whether this was "permitted". We experienced koinonia.

But certainly it is not sufficient to limit ourselves to a repetition of this experience. I am sure we all brought other hopes and expectations to Ocho Rios. What then is the purpose - or what are the purposes - of our meeting? As an introduction I have put together a list of ten possible meanings - and in doing so I discovered that it is easier to state the aim in a negative way: "We are not here for this..." I would like to invite you to a kind of multiple-choice procedure; perhaps one or two will strike you as relevant.

1. The first catch-word is orphanage. This term does not appear in the minutes of the first meeting in Bossey in 1967, but the issue was raised in the very beginning. Was it to be a conference of churches which, by their very unions, had lost the connection to their parent bodies, the Christian World Communions (CWCs), and felt somewhat lost and lonely? In Bossey this approach was immediately rejected.

2. A second catch-word: travelling circus or merry-go-round. This might be a description of many United Nations - and probably also ecumenical - conferences, meant for people who like to travel, who then write a report and request another meeting in some years. Unfriendly critics may ask, "Do you really need this, from here to eternity, in order to prove that you are still alive?" Needless to say, this criticism comes mostly from those who were not invited.

3. Another attempt: briefing. Are we a group like the Roman Catholic bishops who once in a while are called to Rome for the so-called ad limina visits? Are we here to receive orders from Faith and Order? Well, sometimes I wished for more directive or non-directive counselling, but the by-laws of Faith and Order make it clear that this is not possible. And you are certainly not willing to act on orders.

4. Let us try another option: family reunion. After all, aren't we a family with many similarities? In Toronto the "deep affinity among united churches" was mentioned. But again I have my suspicions. Not all the relatives like those reunions, not all attend, and those who come may have their internal power struggles. Thus not every family reunion is a happy event.

5. Could we then be a self-awareness group, gathered for taking our own pulse (and discovering whether our pulse-rate is too high or too low)? Do we need a therapist for our doubts, pains and frustrations, our defeats and despair? After all, between 1961 and 1968 twenty-two new united churches came into life, but, as you know, we have been less "successful" since then. Some consciousness-raising, some "power of positive thinking" could be helpful.

6. This can be altered by a more theological description: mutua consolatio sororum et fratrum, the mutual comforting of sisters and brothers. There must be a place where this can happen: admission of failures and shortcomings, a place to confess and to get consolation. There is clearly a spiritual task in these meetings. Let me mention two occasions. In Toronto (1975), just before the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Church of Canada, the union with the Anglicans failed; many people despaired. In Potsdam (1987) many local Christians received the Christians from abroad as a gift from God in their struggle with the atheistic government.

7. Another attempt. We could be a historical society. The sub-title of my paper, "Origins, Progress, Relationships" could lead in this direction. It is a real temptation for an old man: to look through the wealth of material from Bossey (1967), Limuru (1970), Toronto (1975), Colombo (1981) and Potsdam (1987) and to add all the relevant material from WCC assemblies, commission and standing commission minutes, not to forget the fifth world conference on Faith and Order (1993). One could ask: Is there a direction, could one discover lines of development? Though I have often complained about our "stop-and-start" ecumenism and about the fact that so much is forgotten, I could propose one or more doctoral dissertations about this material (though one could then ask "who is going to read those volumes?").

8. Let us try another approach: protest or pressure group, people swimming against the stream, people who would like to go faster, who are fed up with those reservations reiterated by some CWCs, who would like the WCC to be more engaged in making visible the unity of the church, who doubt whether "fuller koinonia" is a viable option. Yes, there are reasons to complain, for example, against those who have not united, who so often look backwards, who do not see that Christians can no longer afford religious narrow-mindedness. We could also express our dismay about those who seem to have watered down the idea of organic union which was so forcefully expressed in Edinburgh (1937)(2) and who look for "cheaper grace" in other models like cooperation, conciliar structures or "talks about talks" between, say, the Church of England and the Methodists.(3) Indeed, we could find many scapegoats, but in looking for the speck in our neighbour's eye we may overlook the log in our own eyes. In a review of the book containing the Potsdam results, Lesslie Newbigin was surprised that there was "no agreement about the goal", commitment to "organic unity in some form".(4)

9. Still another option could be called harvesting, an image used to describe the work of the fifth world conference on Faith and Order. At the general council of the United Church of Canada in New Brunswick, I saw a bumper sticker on a car: "Proud to be united" - this is a "harvesting" slogan. Even though the presentation of Samuel B. Joshua at Santiago de Compostela was not so positive, at least Cardinal Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church, counted the emergence of united and uniting churches among the "ecumenical advances".(5)

However, to pat ourselves on the back may lead to triumphalism, and according to Martin Luther the ecclesia triumphans cannot exist on this side of eternity. Reading histories about the birth of united churches one can find expressions like "landmark", "milestone",(6) or even "the most important event in church history since Pentecost".(7) But as Tom Best writes: "At the time of union... the consciousness of unity as a demand of the gospel is very high; it may seem less important later on."(8)

10. Finally, we could think of our conference as a preparation for the eighth assembly of the WCC to be held in Harare in 1998. Think of the assembly theme, "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope": it would be most helpful if something substantial could be brought from Jamaica to Harare.

Ten choices for you - is this sufficient? One point is clear: what the consultation will achieve depends upon you. My own approach is different from points 1 to 10 above. In Santiago de Compostela, Rena Weller Karefa-Smart spoke about "re-visioning the ecumenical task".(9) In order to regain a vision,(10) I will link the theme "conversion and identity" first to the third night vision of the prophet Zechariah, one of those hidden treasures in the Bible. Then I will talk about identity, then about conversion. Finally, I attempt a summary which I have called "Convictions and Steps".

The story of a young man

I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length." Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it" (Zech. 2:1-5).

This vision can be read as a brief story about conversion and identity. To understand it a few historical remarks are necessary: Zechariah's vision can be dated exactly, to the year 519 BCE - it is 2514 years old! You know what had happened before: the upper and the middle class had been deported seven decades before, and now they had come back from the Babylonian captivity. The return was less splendid than they had been led to expect by the prophecies of Isaiah: they came to their beloved city of Jerusalem and found it in ruins - even the temple was destroyed. The mood of the people can be described as one of agony and apathy.

The older I become the more I admire the courage of the young man - and at the same time the courage of so many young people in this world. They dare to change the situation: in East Germany, for example, they helped some years ago to bring down the communist government. Nobody would have used Jeremiah's excuse: "I am too young" (Jer. 1:6). In addition we have to admit that the young man of 519 BCE seems to do exactly what is needed, the first step of perhaps a thousand steps necessary. One needs a plan for reconstruction, criteria for rebuilding - "to measure Jerusalem". A measuring line is a requirement for this, and to be able to handle it seems to be the first logical requirement.

I have asked myself: Where did this man get the information about the size of the city? No doubt the fathers and mothers told him; the knowledge, the tradition was passed down from the past, the fundamentals were known to him. "We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us" (Ps. 44:1). The size and glory of the old city was to be restored. To say it in a very simple form: "Give me that old-time religion".

Zechariah had to learn from this vision that this whole approach is wrong, illogical; it is like "putting new wine into old wineskins" (Matt. 9:17); it has forgotten that "my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (Isa. 55:8). A most dramatic development happens in heaven, the first angel giving orders to the second one: Run, prevent this young fellow from going on with his self-assigned job! There is no complaint that he did not ask the authorities for permission, and he is not told to take a different measuring line, perhaps with another scale. Rather he should concentrate on the will of God which goes far beyond a pure continuation of the past. God's salvation is not limited to a few, but comprises the "multitude of people and animals" (this is close to the New Testament "God so loved the world...", ton kosmon - the creation and the creatures are included). God is not a friend of walls built by people for their self-defence, for he himself will be "a wall of fire". For us the minimum requirement is: "By my God I can leap over the wall" (Ps. 18:29). An even better image comes from the New Testament: "Christ has broken down the dividing wall" (Eph. 2:14).

One could "draw another line" from the intervention of the heavenly hosts: could it be that in heaven one does not like too much the soloists, the "leadership personalities" who do not really care what the whole people of God want and need?(11) Therefore in our consultations since Limuru "education for union" and "participation" have played an increasing role. In every union the whole people of God shall be involved, however difficult this might be.

The present situation and our measuring lines: the problem of identity

Whenever we are going to apply biblical insights to our present condition, we have to realize what our world looks like. "Look at the world" was one of the suggestions given in the message of Potsdam.(12) The introduction to the "Discussion Paper" for Santiago de Compostela,(13) which contains one part on the "changing world situation" and another one on the "changing ecumenical situation", provides a helpful description. I may just add a few more current threats: there are new civil wars in different parts of the world, and there are new walls and there is new separation. There is growing unhappiness with the international organizations, and it is difficult to find patterns for the future. I note that quite a few of these well-known dilemmas are intertwined with fundamentalism and with claims to preserve or regain identity. Did you know that in the Caucasus region there are at least 18 different national groups like Chechnya?

Not because Germany is so important, but because I have my immediate experiences in that country, I would add: walls that divided us for forty years crumbled down and for a moment we felt joy, liberation and gratitude. But now we have started to discuss German identity, and in applying the traditional Western measuring lines we neglect Eastern insights of those four decades. Instead of a new union we seem to prefer mergers as in big business: the bigger one swallows the smaller one. So far we have not succeeded in "the search for a common memory and common life"(14) which would not exclude our terrible past. Instead we have new nationalism and again outbursts of xenophobia.

I will come back to the churches: If we are honest, we all have our measuring lines in our hands - and it hardly matters what scale they contain. We claim that they are part of our identity, that they belong to the essence of our being and that they have to be preserved in any effort for greater unity. Starting from my own presuppositions I will give two examples.

1. I am an ordained pastor and discover with dismay that the measuring line of the right understanding of the ministry takes so much energy in all unity discussions. I remember that in the BEM process the section on ministry caused the greatest problems, more so than the eucharist and certainly more than that on baptism. Are we, the ministers, really the "servants" in this problem? Or do we erect new walls and defend them?

2. In my country the term Bekenntnisstand has for a long time blocked greater unity. The German word is a translation of the Latin status confessionis (which says: this issue is fundamental to our understanding of the faith), but in Germany it was used in a rather static and defensive way. Lutherans for example had their Bekenntnisstand in the confessional writings of the Reformation; they had it as a kind of "property", a possession which the united churches lacked. When Hitler attacked the churches it became clear that confessing in the contemporary situation was much more important than owning confessional documents. By the way, in this period and particularly in the concentration camps, many walls disappeared, even between Protestants and Roman Catholics; God's "wall of fire" was what really mattered.

Again: I am sure that each of us is aware of his or her own measuring lines and their ambiguity, related both to our institutions and to our feelings. I suppose we all agree with the observation of Elizabeth Templeton at the fifth world conference on Faith and Order: "De facto our actual ecclesiastical institutions and traditions manifest themselves as obstacles to the unity of peoples rather than as signal of it."(15) In the most recent church union survey, Karel Blei from Holland writes: "Sometimes it seems as if the(se) sociological and psychological differences are the greatest hindrance on the way to real church unification."(16) You may add questions as to the effect of race, ethnicity, caste, but also concerns about property or salaries. "Non-theological" factors? By no means, but this is another chapter.

Here I have to add a warning. These measuring lines are not directly to be identified with identity, not even with "denominational distinctives". Tradition and identity are not necessarily identical, but we should recognize that there are dangers in the notion of identity. To make this clear I quote a few sentences by an American Jewish philosopher, Leon Wieseltier: "Identity is a euphemism for conformity." "Identity is isolation, a doctrine of renunciation." "The frailer the identity, the noisier it behaves" (Je schmachtiger die Identitat, desto lauter gebardert sie sich). "Identity likes to celebrate itself overzealously."(17) I add a Roman Catholic voice from the chairperson of the German episcopal conference, Bishop Karl Lehmann: "Confessional identity admittedly can become very quickly something convulsive, a form of self-defence which takes one's measurement only from oneself" (he speaks about "problematical sprucing-up" - sich herausputzen).(18) To describe this danger in my own words: I can hide myself behind the good gifts of God to earlier generations, and then my identity is a tool for self-assurance and separation. If I feel that I am better than others, my identity becomes an ideology and even an idol, even when I claim that I defend things given to my ancestors by God. By the way, "identity" does not appear in the Bible.

Knowing about those dangers, we should now turn to the fact that identity has been dealt with quite thoroughly in ecumenical thinking. It has appeared in nearly all five union consultations. The Limuru report starts with the chapter "The church, its identity and its borders (Grenzen)". Colombo speaks extensively about the transformation of previous identities. The discussions revealed many anxieties: How can the church break - at least partly - with the past? How can continuity be preserved and transformed? There must be a certain amount of similarity to the forms which existed before. Over and over again it was stressed that the dangers of a purely technical, bureaucratic merger should be recognized. (In Colombo a local proverb was used: "When you put together two dead cats, you don't get a live animal!") The list of such questions could be easily continued.

But we should also remember that the identity discussions were not limited to united churches. The Salamanca conference on "Concepts of Unity and Models of Union" (1973), which brought together representatives of the CWCs and united churches and union negotiations, dealt extensively with identity and emphasized that "every step towards unity challenges the identity of the divided churches".(19) Two years later a whole assembly of the WCC endorsed these strong statements:

Organic union of separate denominations to form one body does mean a kind of death which threatens the denominational identity of its members, but it is a dying in order to receive a fuller life.(20)

The assembly also noted how:

In many places united churches have been formed by the action of separated churches in surrendering their separate identities in order to become one. This surrender has been costly, but those who have experienced it testify that it has been the way to new life.(21)

This was in Nairobi in 1975, nearly twenty years ago, but, as David M. Thompson has discovered, in the Canberra unity statement these insights (and the united churches themselves) seemingly have been forgotten(22) like Joseph and his brothers. Have we, the united churches, been unfaithful witnesses? Have we been unable to convince others about the wealth of new experiences and the mutual enrichment of traditions? Could it be that even united churches have new crises of identity and "weaken the gospel's power"?(23) Sometimes, perhaps, we must feel like Paul: "Wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from the body of death?" (Rom. 7:24).

Wandering horizons and the hope for conversion

I propose to return for a moment to the young man of Zechariah's vision. His preoccupation was to look back to the ancient glory and to look down to the ruined city. How would it be if he marched on and raised his eyes to God? In Zechariah 1:16 we read:

Thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.

Now, however, it is clearly the measuring line of God, the God of compassion and of the future. You will have noticed that the conversion of the young fellow starts in heaven.

I add another "conversion story": the transfiguration. Peter, James and John experience the presence of Jesus, Elijah and Moses - Peter wants to prepare three dwellings. Clearly Elijah and Moses belong to their former identity. Peter wants to keep all three and to stay (not to move). But the voice from heaven means that only Jesus matters: "They saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus" (Mark 9:2-8). Again, this is a conversion with heavenly origin and a movement into the future. Christ is the measure of all things - when the churches realize this, they can state: "As we seek to draw closer to Christ we come closer to one another."(24)

Had we more time, we could deal with Paul and his conversion - which certainly did not come from his own initiative. But afterwards he was able to write: "I have been crucified with Christ: and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:19f).(25) "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3:13) - this is conversion.

Martin Luther, in the first of his 95 theses stated: "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said 'Repent' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance" (metanoia = repentance + conversion). This means a permanent rather than a onetime movement. Later on this led to the formulation ecclesia semper reformanda (the church is always to be reformed, that is converted) which is so characteristic for many Protestant churches.

I suppose Luther and the other Reformers would have been very happy had they seen the text of the Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism and its famous sentence: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without inner conversion."(26)

Two more references are needed, one to the fifth world conference on Faith and Order at Santiago de Compostela and the other to a breakthrough in France. We should first hear a formulation from the Santiago Message: "The churches and the ecumenical movement itself are called to the conversion to Christ that true koinonia in our time demands."(27) And the report of section I states: "The encounter with others on our ecumenical journey 'calls for a kenosis - a self-giving and a self-emptying'. A 'ministry of kenosis' is required even if 'such a kenosis arouses fear of loss of identity'."(28)

Kenosis comes from one of the oldest hymns on Christ: "Christ emptied himself..., he humbled himself" (Phil. 2:6-11). This is the biblical basis for a great ecumenical achievement in our time. The Groupe des Dombes of French Roman Catholics and Protestants recently published its findings on identity and conversion under the title For the Conversion of the Churches. Since its first meeting in 1937 this group has discovered many new horizons on its common pilgrimage. In a very "European", very "thorough" exploration they reached remarkable consensus. I feel in agreement with most of their findings (though I think they value identity more highly than I do). I fully agree that "a living identity is never... perfected: it is always under construction. Only the future will disclose our identity conclusively."(29) With insights like this new horizons open up, and therefore particularly united churches and union negotiations should continue their pilgrimage.

Convictions and steps

Let me try, then, to give some concrete application to what we have discussed: four "convictions" precede five practical steps.

A. Convictions

1. United churches, having experienced the grace of God, knowing that unions come to life only after a God-given conversion, are trying not to mix the law and the gospel. Therefore they refrain from formulations like "the churches must...", "they have to...", "they should...", "they should not...". This is a language of little value, one connected more with the law. (The gospel approach would be like "and forget not all God's benefits"; Ps. 103:2).

2. They will not use "koinonia" too generally, thus avoiding "the more difficult issues of structural and visible unity".(30) They agree with Bishop Hollis: "Denominational structures, however resistant, however ancient, are not beyond the power of God to deal with."(31) Therefore they will not under-estimate "the morphological element in church unity".(32) They are open to new identities which hopefully are closer to the gospel than their former divided identities.

3. They are "proud to be united", even if in a very modest way. They know their place: (a) as intentional members of the WCC, (b) between local ecumenical partnerships with their local work for unity on the one hand, and the CWCs with their more universal approaches to unity on the other hand. They will ask the first group about universal structures, and ask the other for their local foundation. In no case are they self-defensive, nor do they claim a monopoly. The only claim they raise is the observation by Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz: "the opposition to visible unity is not invisible unity, but visible disunity".

4. They are "waiting for and hastening the coming day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12): "hastening" because the kairos is limited and this means continuous hard work, in all spheres of church life, for renewal and conversion. It means to be the "church for others", to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who died fifty years ago on 9 April), and to take seriously the famous statement by Archbishop Temple (who died fifty years ago on 26 October 1944): "The church is one of those rare human institutions which exist for the sake of those who are not its members". But they also know what waiting means - they have the "long breath of patience" (E. Jungel) because God is patient with us. They are waiting, full of expectancy, for greater things in the future. Ultimately they are on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem and "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21).(33) Whenever we are disappointed in our hastening we can turn to this vision and learn anew what it is we are waiting for.

From here I turn to five practical steps which are, so to speak, for the time "in between".

B. Steps

1. The international basis for all united churches is to be the WCC, especially the Commission on Faith and Order; there is no need for a separate "orphanage". Martin Cressey has given the necessary details and I will not repeat him.(34)

2. Faith and Order is the best place to exercise mutual accountability, which includes both sharing of joys and admission of failures. United churches do not act as soloists. If "the lack of ecumenical accountability" is "surely one factor in the present ecumenical 'malaise'",(35) they realize their responsibility not only over against the "fathers" of the same confessional background, but also to their contemporary sisters and brothers across the borders of nation and confession.

3. In order to facilitate the necessary exchange among united and uniting churches, a Faith and Order staff person should have sufficient time and energy for this special task. Besides financial contributions from united churches there should also be provisions in the normal budget of Faith and Order.

4. Since the time of the early church, intentional visits have had great importance and have started again between united churches, even as "team visits". This realization of their "mutual recognition" (Toronto) bringing together Christians "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9) can be encouraged.(36)

5. United churches can be recognized by their openness to the demanding problems of this world at the end of the second millennium, but also by their openness for other churches, confessions and institutions. If they are trustworthy and obedient to their calling, they may be a "challenge" for others as well.(37) As open churches they will always try to remain uniting churches.


1 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, official report, fifth world conference on Faith and Order, eds Thomas F. Best & Gunther Gassmann, Geneva, WCC, 1994, section 1, 23, p.233.

2 The Second World Conference on Faith and Order, ed. Leonard Hodgson, New York, Macmillan, 1938, p.252.

3 The Tablet, 5 November 1994, 21 January 1995 and 4 February 1995. The second article ends: "...if Anglicans and Methodists cannot unite, perhaps no one can". In a letter to the editor published in the 28 January 1995 issue of this excellent journal, Canon Martin Reardon writes: "One of the reasons for pessimism about ecumenism today is the confusion about its goal. We are called the ecumenical movement, but if we do not know where we are going, how can we move?"

4 Review of Living Today Towards Visible Unity (ed. Thomas F. Best, Faith and Order paper no. 142, Geneva, WCC, 1988) in Midstream, vol. 28, no. 1, January 1989, p.145.

5 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, p.135.

6 L.H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ: An Essay in the History of American Christianity, New York, United Church Press, 1977, p.9.

7 Bishop M. Hollis, quoted by Thomas Thangaraj, "Is Full Church Unity Possible or Desirable?" in The Ecumenical Review, vol. 44, no. 1, January 1992, p.92.

8 Called to Be One in Christ, eds Michael Kinnamon & Thomas F. Best, Faith and Order paper no. 127, Geneva, 1985, p.viii.

9 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, p. 160.

10 According to the recent "Survey of Church Union Negotiations 1992-1994" (Thomas F. Best and Union Correspondents, Faith and Order paper no. 169, Geneva, Faith and Order, 1995, p.20), the New Zealand Negotiating Churches Unity Council in a 1993 conference took up the issues vision, authority, relationships, structure - in this order!

11 In a way the Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm III, pious founder of the Old Prussion Union, can be seen in this light. His appeal for a union appeared on 27 September 1817, and the union was to be consummated on 31 October of that very year, the 300th anniversary of the Reformation. Meant to serve as an instrument for Kirchenverbesserung (the improvement of the church) it had quite a few negative implications. Some of those unhappy with the union emigrated to North America and formed the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

12 "A Message to the Churches", Living Today Towards Visible Unity, p.1.

13 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, pp.265-68.

14 L.A. Hoedemaker, "Local Church", Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, eds Nicholas Lossky et al., Geneva, WCC, 1991, p.627.

15 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, p. 118.

16 "Survey of Church Union Negotiations 1992-1994", op. cit., p.14.

17 "Die Zeit", 17 February 1995, translation of an article in The New Republic, retranslated from the German.

18 Interview with Evangelische Kommentare, February 1995, p.96.

19 See "The Unity of the Church - Next Steps", in What Kind of Unity?, Faith and Order paper no. 69, Geneva, WCC, 1974, p.126. I edited the results in German: Wandernde Horizonte auf dem Weg zu kirchlicher Einheit, Frankfurt, Verlag Otto Lembeck, 1974. The index refers 23 times to identity - and has no entry on conversion, repentance or renewal.

20 Breaking Barriers: Nairobi 1975, ed. David M. Paton, London, SPCK, and Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1976, report of section II, para. 10, p.63.

21 Ibid., para. 14, p.65.

22 "Visible Unity as Gift and Call?: A Reaction to the Canberra Unity Statement from the Perspective of the United and Uniting Churches", The Ecumenical Review, vol. 45, no. 1, January 1993, pp.72-77.

23 Paul A. Crow, Jr, "The Lure and Languishing of Disciples-United Church of Christ Unity", Midstream, vol. 32, no. 3, July 1993, pp.18.

24 "A Word to the Churches", The Third World Conference on Faith and Order, ed. Oliver S. Tomkins, London, SCM, 1953, para. 2, p.15.

25 This, I think, is the best biblical basis for our speaking about "dying in order to live" - which Thomas F. Best calls "the mark of the Christian life, whether of an individual or of a church". See Called to Be One in Christ, p.ix.

26 Unitatis Redintegratio, chapter II, para. 7.

27 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, p.227.

28 Ibid., para. 20, p.233.

29 Translated by James Greig, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1993, p. 18. The group has been able to relate and intertwine the terms "identity" and "conversion" in a remarkable way: "Far from excluding each other, identity and conversion call for each other: there is no Christian identity without conversion; conversion is constitutive of the church; our confessions do not merit the name of Christian unless they open up to the demand for conversion"; p. 15.

30 On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, p.127, from the precis of the plenary discussion following several presentations on the term "koinonia".

31 Quoted by Thomas Thangaraj; see "Is Full Church Unity Possible or Desirable?", p.92.

32 Ibid., p.94.

33 In this grand vision there is again a measuring rod, even one of gold, not in the hand of human beings but of an angel (21:23).

34 "A Clearing House. What United and Uniting Churches Desire of and for the WCC", The Ecumenical Review, vol. 46, no. 4, October 1994, pp.440-44. I may indicate my own uneasiness about Father Radano's question "if it may be useful and supportive to have an international office for united and uniting churches - as a clearing house" (Minutes of the Faith and Order Standing Commission Meeting, Cret-Berard, Switzerland, Geneva, Faith and Order Commission, 1994, p.68). For both theological and practical reasons I doubt the wisdom of creating a new, independent network.

35 Thomas F. Best, "Disciple Identity, Ecumenical Partnership, and the Ecumenical Future", in Midstream, vol. 32, no. 3, July 1993, p.23.

36 In Colombo I reported on the covenantal relationship between the United Church of Christ and the EKU: see "The Challenge of Mutual Recognition among United Churches", Called to Be One in Christ, pp.45-52.

37 "The united churches have a major role to play in keeping the question of unity alive and reminding Christians all over the world about the scandalous character of a divided church." "Is Full Church Unity Possible or Desirable?", p.98.

Reinhard Groscurth was for many years the ecumenical officer of the Evangelische Kirche der Union, Germany.
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Title Annotation:Sixth International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches
Author:Groscurth, Reinhard
Publication:The Ecumenical Review
Date:Oct 1, 1995
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