Four theologians began discussions in Geneva, Switzerland this week to define the guidelines of a new project promoted from within the Conference of European Churches. The initiative hopes to study how the different Churches understand unity.
According to a statement released by the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the project is investigating church unity as it relates to church identity at the theological, theoretical level as well as in church practices.
The four theologians taking part in the discussion are British Anglican Dr. Paul M. Collins from the University of Chichester, German Catholic Dr. Myriam Wijlens from University of Erfurt, Finnish Dr. Minna Hietamaki from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Orthodox Dr. Viorel Ionita from the CEC's Churches in Dialogue Commission.
The project originated with these four theologians last October in Crete at the World Council of Churches Plenary Commission on Faith and Order, according to the statement. It is connected with the network on "Ecclesiological Investigations."
The first meeting of the four theologians was hosted by the CEC's Churches in Dialogue Commission (CiD) in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22.
In what Dr. Ionita called a "very dynamic and constructive" meeting, the participants discussed aims, working methodology, partners and timing. Each of the theologians also presented a paper on unity from his or her respective theological tradition.
"The four theological traditions represented were presented in a complementary way and we hope that in the future other theological traditions could be included such as those from a free-church background," Dr. Ionita stated at the conclusion of the first session.
Meetings for this study on unity will continue until Sept. 2012 and will be highlighted by European and international presentations in several forums including the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion.
A comprehensive publication offering "all of the findings" along the course of the study will be published at their conclusion "in order to promote the search for the Church unity worldwide," reads the CEC's statement.
Founded in 1959, the Conference of European Churches offers a forum for dialogue for 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic Churches and 40 associated organizations representing every country in Europe who seek to pursue understanding, grow in fellowship and make a common contribution to the mission of the Church, to the safeguarding of life and the well-being of all humankind.