On January 19th, our emeritus colleague Harding Meyer celebrated his ninetieth birthday! Several times holding the two-year directorate, he was active full-time at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg from 1971 to 1993.
A Lutheran pastor of the Church of Hanover, Prof. Meyer did his doctoral work on the philosophy of Blaise Pascal under Helmut Thielicke. He served for a period as a professor at the faculty of theology in San Leopoldo, Brazil, until being called to serve in the ecumenical unit of the Department of Theology at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva. He took part in the very beginnings of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in November 1967, which he stayed with until retirement in 1993. He was not only a participant but indeed the Lutheran expert in this dialogue, whose imprint is visible in its resulting documents. He hoped for a real breakthrough with the statement “Facing Unity,” as an opportunity for the two churches to take decisive steps toward one another. However, the time was not yet ripe. Nevertheless, he devoted himself to the preparation of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. He retired before the JDDJ was publicly accepted and signed; nevertheless, the document clearly bears the signs of his work and his passion for the unity of the church.
The dialogue with Rome demanded a greater elaboration of ecumenical methodology. This was moving into unknown territory, so new ways had to be pioneered in terms of models of unity, the concept of consensus, reception, and so forth. This was the other major focus of Harding Meyer’s work. Formulations such as “unity in reconciled diversity” and “differentiated consensus” come from his pen. They are now used everywhere, and not only in ecumenical circles.
The Strasbourg Institute has much to thank Prof. Meyer for! His impact has been decisive and his contributions essential to the work of international ecumenism.
God’s blessings and best wishes to him on his birthday!