The 16th Plenary of the International Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission met from April 28 to May 5 in Rhodes, Greece, continuing a tradition of meeting that has taken place annually without interruption since 1981. Unusually, this plenary followed upon three preparatory meetings—normally there is only one preparatory between each plenary—due to the extremely complex topic at hand, namely the ministry of the church.
The preparatories over the past three years have looked at the ordained ministry/priesthood in the Old Testament and New Testament; in the early church and the Reformation; and examined liturgical rites of ordination and practices regarding the ordination of women in our respective churches. The plenary convened to review the work done thus far and take the first step toward drafting a common statement. Prof. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson of the Institute participated as the official consultant to the dialogue.
Although a great deal has already been addressed in this broad topic, the plenary concluded that further work was required before taking the step of issuing a public statement, including the understanding of the episcopate and apostolic succession. The next preparatory and plenary will take up these issues.
Significant events awaiting both churches was also a topic of conversation. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church is scheduled to take place in 2016, and 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Lutheran Reformation.
As always, the work of the dialogue was interspersed with prayer and visits. We enjoyed the warm welcome and hospitality of His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Rhodes, who led us in prayer at the Holy Monastery of the Mother of God Faneromeni, as well as the Sunday liturgy at the Cathedral Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and a visit to the Ecumenical Center of the Evangelische Kirche deutscher Sprache in Griechenland. Local Orthodox parishes provided excellent dinners to the participants. A tour of the old city of Rhodes was a highlight of our time together.
Although we are always aware of the significant differences between our churches which at times seem insuperable, every meeting reconfirms our conviction that meeting together for dialogue and prayer is an essential task in our fidelity to Jesus’ prayer that we may be one.
Read more details in the LWF news release.