Lutheran – Orthodox Dialogues 1995 – 2013:
A Documentary History
Between 2008 and 2013, the German and Finnish churches have created excellent documentation websites. The following complements these sites, providing an easy access and overview for English speakers (e.g. the Finnish site provides lots of English texts, just click the relevant link next to Finnish explanations).
Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission
EKD – Romanian Orthodox Church
EKD–Russian Orthodox Church
EKD–Patriarchate of Constantinople
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland-Russian Orthodox Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland – Orthodox Church of Finland
Lutheran and Orthodox Churches in America
Please note that the following information has a preliminary character. It cannot offer the accuracy of official communiqués and critical editions and the language has not been revised by a native speaker. Moreover, the commentaries represent only the author’s opinion and may be modified at a later date.
Lutheran – Orthodox Joint Commission:
Indispensable for all scholarly work with this dialogue is Cosmin Daniel Pricop, From Espoo to Paphos: The Theological Dialogue of the Orthodox Churches with the Lutheran World Federation (1981-2008), Bukarest: Basilica Publishing House (Romanian Patriarchate), 2013, ISBN 978-606-8495-16-3, 558 pages.
8th conversation: “Salvation”, Preparation. July 5-10, 1994 in Venice, present: Lutherans: William Lazareth, Anna Marie Aagaard, Gerhard Krodel, Eugene Brand; Orthodox: John Romanides, Albert Laham, Gennadios (Limouris).
Plenary meeting Aug 1-8, 1995 in Limassol, present: Lutherans: Lazareth (Pres.), Aagaard, Ruth Albrecht, Karl Christian Felmy, G. Johnson, Georg Kretschmar, Bruce Marshall, Toomas Paul, Hermann Pitters, Tasgara Hirpo, Kalevi Toiviainen, Risto Saarinen and Eugene Brand. Orthodoxe: Spiridon of Venice (Pres.), Gennadios, Vlassios Pheidas, Basil Anagnostopoulos, Albert Laham, Alexy Osipov, Viorel Ionita, Crysanthos of Limassol, Romanides, Basil Doroszkiewicz, Chrystoforos of Moravia and Olavi Merras.
9th conversation: “Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy”, Preparation Oct 9-11, 1997 in Princeton, present: Lutherans: Lazareth (Pres.), Aagard, Marshall, Saarinen, Sven Oppegaard; Orthodox: Spiridon (Pres.), Chrysanthos, Gennadios, Pheidas.
Plenary meeting July 31 – Aug 8, 1998 in Sigtuna. Present: Lutherans: Lazareth (Pres.), Kretschmar, Aagaard, Lars Eckerdal, Toiviainen, Eeva Martikainen, Albrecht, Felmy, Hirpo, Johnson, Paul, Pitters, Oppegaard. Orthodox: Spiridon (Pres.), Gennadios, Romanides, Pheidas, Ionita, Osipov, Merras.
10th conversation: “The Mystery of the Church: A. Word and Sacraments (Mysteria) in the Life of the Church”, Preparation Oct 9-13, 1999 in Chania. Present: Lutherans: Lazareth (Pres.), Kretschmar, Aagaard, Saarinen, Oppegaard; Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Laham, Pheidas, Elpidophoros Lambriniadis.
Plenary meeting Nov 3-10, 2000 in Damascus. Present: Lutherans: Lazareth (Pres.), Aagaard, Musa Biyela, Eckerdal, Felmy, Kretschmar, Mickey Mattox, Pitters, Saarinen, Klaus Schwarz, Jeffrey Silcock; Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Lambriniadis, Christos Voulgaris, Osipov, Ionita, Wsiewolod Konach, Merras, Saba Esber.
11th conversation: “The Mystery of the Church: B. Mysteria/ Sacraments as Means of Salvation”. Preparation: Feb 19-23, 2002 in St. Petersburg. Present: Lutherans: Kretschmar (Pres.), Silcock, Saarinen, Mattox, Oppegaard. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Voulgaris, Osipov, Laham, Ionita, Lambriniadis.
Plenary meeting Oct 3-10, 2002 in Oslo. Present: Lutherans: Kretschmar (Pres.), Oppegaard, Felmy, Esbjörn Hagberg, Marshall, Martikainen, Pitters, Roman Pracki, Saarinen, Schwarz, Silcock, Mattox. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Lambriniadis, Pheidas, Laham, Aristarchos of Constantine, Osipov, Vajko Spasojevich, Ionita, Georgios of Arsinoe, Konach, Merras, Meletios Ulm.
12th conversation: “The Mystery of the Church: C. Baptism and Chrismation as Sacraments of Initiation into the Church”. Preparation: Oct 1-6 2003 in Ierapetra, Crete. Present: Lutherans: Kretschmar (Pres.), Martikainen, Mattox, Oppegaard. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Phidas, Ionita, Voulgaris.
Plenary meeting Oct 6-15, 2004, in Durau, Romania. Present: Lutherans: Kretschmar (Pres.), Oppegaard, Stephanie Dietrich, Hagberg, Donald McCoid, Martikainen, Pitters, Saarinen, Schwarz, Silcock, Jennifer Wasmuth, Kenneth Appold. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Lambriniadis, Ishak Barakhat, Aristarchos, Irenej of Backa, Ionita, Georgios, Andrzej Minko, Nathan Hoppe, Mattias Palli.
13th conversation: “The Mystery of the Church: D. The Holy Eucharist in the Life of the Church. Preparation: Oct 8-13, 2005 in Erlangen, Germany. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres.), Oppegaard, Felmy, Wasmuth, Hagberg. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Ionita, Laham
Plenary meeting Nov 2-9 2006 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres.), Oppegaard, Dietrich, Felmy, Hagberg, Martikainen, Pitters, Schwarz, Silcock, Appold. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Theodoros Meimaris, Gearge Dragas, Hoppe, Ionita, Vaclav Jezek, Laham, Makarios of Kenya, Osipov, Palli, Rauno Pietarinen, Voulgaris
14th conversation: “The Mystery of the Church: D/2 The Holy Eucharist in the Life of the Church. Preparation, Ecological and Social Implications.” Preparation: Oct 3-8, 2007 in Joensuu, Finland. Present: Lutherans:McCoid (Pres.), Antti Raunio, Appold, Kathryn Johnson (LWF), Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Ionita, Dragas, Jezek, Voulgaris, Meimaris, Pietarinen
Plenary meeting May 30 – Jun 7, 2008 in Paphos, Cyprus. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres.), Appold, Johnson, Manas Buthelezi, Dietrich, Pitters, Raunio, Silcock, Schwarz. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres.), Meimaris, Makarios, Laham, Cyril Hovoroun, Isaias of Tamassos, Andrzej Minko, Dragas, Hoppe, Ionita, Jezek, Sakarias Leppik, Pietarinen, Voulgaris
15th conversation: The Mystery of the Church: E. The Nature, Attributes and Mission of the Church. Preparation: May 4-9, 2009 in Skalholt, Iceland. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres), Appold, Dietrich, Saarinen, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, Johnson. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres), Delikostantis, Meimaris, Dragas, Hovorun, Ionita, Voulgaris, Hoppe. Preparation: May 25-31, 2010 in Bethlehem, Palestine. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres), Dietrich, Schwarz, Wilson, Johnson. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres), Dragas, Hovorun, Ionita, Makarios
Plenary meeting May 31 – June 7, 2011 in Wittenberg, Germany. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres), Appold, Manas Buthelezi, Dietrich, Pitters, Schwarz, Silcock, Wasmuth, Roman Pracki, Saarinen, Wilson, Johnson. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres), Meimaris, Makarios, George Sakour, Dragas, Hovorun, Rade Kisic, Ionita, Isaias of Tamassos, Voulgaris, Andrzej Minko, Hoppe, Delikostantis, Nikolaides
16th conversation: The Mystery of the Church: F. Ordained Ministry/ Priesthood. Preparation: May 5-10, 2012 in London. Present: Lutherans: McCoid (Pres), Christoph Klein, Appold, Turid Karlsen Seim, Wilson, Joachim Track. Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres), Meimaris, Miltiadis Konstantinou, Dragas, Hovorun, Isaias, Nikolaides. May 24-29, 2013 in Sibiu. Present: Lutherans: Christoph Klein (Pres), Appold, Pitters, Wasmuth, Saarinen, Wilson, Kaisamari Hintikka, Orthodox: Gennadios (Pres), Meimaris, Dragas, Valentin Vasechko, Ionita, Isaias, Voulgaris, Delikostantis, Nikolaides.
Texts all original common statements available here.
English: Growth in Agreement, ed. J. Gros et alii, vol 2 (Geneva: WCC 2000), 219-229: Statements 1985-1989. Vol. 3 (Geneva: WCC 2007), 12-32: Statements 1993-2004.
German: Dokumente wachsender Übereinstimmung, ed. H. Meyer et alii, vol. 2 (Lembeck: Frankfurt 1992), 258-271: Texte 1985-1989. Vol. 3 (Lembeck: Frankfurt 2003), 96-109: Texte 1993-2000. Vol. 4 (Bonifatius: Paderborn 2012), 507-526: Texte 2002-2008.
A Brief Description 1995-2002: The global dialogue between Constantinople and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) progressed more slowly than the regional dialogues. Soteriology was discussed for the first time in the global dialogue between 1995 and 1998. The final report developed at Limassol in 1995, “Understanding of Salvation in the Light of the Ecumenical Councils”, demonstrates firstly how the Lutherans jointly presented their understanding of justification. Justification is forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life. As such, it is participation in Christ who is present in faith. In the church, the believer participates in Christ and his gifts.
Together the Lutherans and the Orthodox state that salvation can be understood as liberation from the power of the devil and as restoration of communion with God. The soteriological sequence “purification – illumination – glorification or theosis”, which the Orthodox know from their mystical tradition, can also be affirmed by the Lutherans if it is discussed in the context of the sacraments and of the new life. Taken as a whole, however, the Limassol document does not go as far as many regional dialogues.
At the next plenary meeting (Sigtuna 1998) in the document “Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy”, the Joint Commission was finally able to affirm the same soteriology as had been outlined in many regional dialogues. In eight long paragraphs, the biblical bases for salvation history and the doctrine of grace are outlined. The uman powerlessness and the divine initiative are underlined in connection with the doctrine of sin. Grace is totally and fully the gift of God. The Holy Spirit alone can enlighten and strengthen the human will.
In the paragraph on the interplay between God and humanity (synergy), it is stated jointly that grace does not work of necessity. Human beings can resist grace. The Orthodox also emphasize the absolute initiative of God in the process of salvation. Both churches affirm the reality of grace as aparticipation in God. The Lutherans are also able to affirm the biblical meaning of theosis (2 Pet 1:4 or Col 2:9). Traditionally, Lutheran theology does not speak about theosis but about sanctification or the presence of Christ in faith. Although Lutherans have not received the doctrine of theosis as such, the conception of the Christ who is present in faith constitutes a theological parallel to the Orthodox understanding. Therefore both churches can affirm the reality of the believers’ participation in divine life. In this context the theology of the cross is also underlined.
The Sigtuna document is perhaps the most important text of the whole global dialogue since it started in 1981. The Orthodox side presented the doctrine of theosis in such a way that the Lutherans were able to understand it as a biblical view. On the other hand, the Lutherans brought in the conception of sanctification, or the insight concerning the presence of Christ in faith, from their tradition and used it to argue that the Protestant doctrine of justification is also familiar with the idea of participation in divine life. The Sigtuna theses intended to use biblical language and avoided stating anything on the extremely difficult question of whether this participation exclusively comprises of God’s “energies”, as some Orthodox mysticism (Palamism) claims. At its tenth meeting in November 2000 the Joint Commission began to discuss a new general issue, “The Mystery of the Church”. The first document it produced, “Word and Sacraments (Mysteria) in the Life of the Church” (Damascus 2000 = D), contains a general presentation of the concept of sacrament and a joint discussion of the expression “word of God”. The first two paragraphs (D1-2) introduce the biblical concept of mysterion. The church is understood as the body of Christ. The different sacraments find their expression in the life of the body of Christ. The grace of the sacrament is understood as a free gift of God (cf. also Sigtuna 1998). D3 explains the terminology of sacraments and mysteria.
For the Lutheran participants it was of great importance that in D4-5 the word of God is introduced in a manner that is both kerygmatic and trinitarian. Word and sacrament have their foundation in Christ. The sacramental grace flows from the sacrifice of Christ in Calvary (D5). When the believers confess the faith of the church and participate in the sacramental life of the church, the word is responded to. In the structure of word and response the Orthodox idea of synergy finds an expression. Within this structure the word can be said to have a temporal priority in relation to the sacraments; however, D6 also states that word and sacraments are interdependent.
In spite of these convergences it was difficult in Damascus to achieve a common statement on the church and its ordained ministry. D7 says that both churches understand the church as the body of Christ which is both a divine and a human reality.The church exists as a community of the faithful through the history. D8 confirms that the proclamation of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments by the ordained ministers are essential for the being of the church. In the sacrament created things become symbols of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. That this “symbol” comprises the reality of salvation, can be seen in D8 when it is said that the sacraments enable a participation in the koinonia of the triune God.
In the 11th plenary session in Oslo, October 2002, (= O) the main topic was “Mysteria/ Sacraments as Means of Salvation”. The Orthodox delegation included, in addition to the usual participants, delegates from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Church of Serbia. William Lazareth resigned and his place as Lutheran co-chair was taken by Georg Kretschmar. Some topics, e.g. the sacrificial character of the eucharist, were extensively discussed in the background papers of Christos Voulgaris and Jeffrey Silcock, but not yet treated in the common statement.
O1 outlines the salvatory significance of sacraments and connects it with ecclesiology. In O2 a careful elaboration of eucharistic ecclesiology can be recognized. O2 also repeats the Damascus 2000 description of the church as Mysterion and as the body of Christ. The additions in O2 clarify this description and distinguish it from the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church as sacrament. O3 underlines the iure divino character of ordained ministry. Although both churches can say that the ordained minister in some sense performs the office “in persona Christi”, it remains clear that different conceptions of ministry underlie the common affirmation. In O4, however, a genuine convergence is achieved regarding the effect of the sacrament: both churches reject on the one hand the Donatist heresy and on the other hand the view that the sacraments are effective by the mere performance of an act (ex opere operato).
O5 deals with the number of sacraments. This topic was extensively elaborated in the background papers. Both churches affirm an open concept of sacramental reality by saying that although a given number of sacraments – seven or two – is traditional, theologically this need not be the only possibility. Salvation is, however, invariably connected with the sacraments, even though both churches affirm the freedom of God’s salvatory action. O6 emphasizes the importance of the three sacraments of initiation, baptism and the eucharist being the proper means of salvation.
In O7 both churches affirm the real presence of Christ in the eucharist. The Orthodox do not say, however, that the body and blood of Christ are “in, with and under” the bread. Instaed, they claim in O7 that after the epiclesis there is no more bread or wine, but the body and blood of Christ. This formulation is not, however, an affirmation of transsubstantiation, but it only emphasizes the reality of the change in elements. In spite of the expressed convergence on the issue of real presence, the eucharistic theology still needs to be developed in the future discussions. The issue of sacrifice needs to be dealt with; the Oslo formulations further allow different interpretation of the real presence in the eucharist.
In spite of these remaining tasks Oslo 2002 brings the global dialogue more or less to the level achieved in some regional dialogues concerning sacramental theology. In this sense it is an achievement. Both in Damascus 2000 and in Oslo 2002 the Orthodox participants have been able to approach the specific doctrinal issues of Lutheran sacramental theology. This mutual understanding is especially visible in chapters dealing with the “ex opere operato” and the real presence. At the same time, the theology of the ordained ministry still remains open.
7th conversation: “Gemeinschaft der Heiligen – Berufung unserer Kirchen und ihre Erfüllung in der säkularisierten Welt, Nov 27 – Dec 5, 1995 at Selbitz, Bavaria.
8th conversation: “Dienen und Versöhnen. Europäische Integration als Herausforderung an unsere Kirchen”, Oct 3-8, 1998 in Bucharest.
9th conversation: “Die Kirche und ihre politisch-gesellschaftliche Verantwortung heute”, Oct 7-12, 2000 at Herrnhut.
10th conversation: “Das Wesen und die Einheit der Kirche Christi – die Verschiedenheit der Kirchen in der Geschichte”, Nov 14-20, 2002 at Cluj-Napoca.
11th conversation: “Die Ökumenischen Konzilien und die Katholizität der Kirche, Apr 1-7, 2006in Eisenach.
12th conversation: “Die Apostolizität der Kirche und ihr Zeugnis im heutigen Europa” Mar 11-15, 2010 in Brancoveanu. 100322_kommunique_ekd_rumaenien.pdf
– Gemeinschaft der Heiligen/Dienen und Versöhnen, ed. R.Koppe, Hermannsburg 1999.
– Die Kirche – ihre Verantwortung und ihre Einheit. Das neunte und das zehnte Gespräch im bilateralen theologischen Dialog zwischen der Rumänischen Orthodoxen Kirche und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland. Hg D. Heller und R. Koppe. Beiheft 75 zur Ökumenischen Rundschau. Frankfurt: Lembeck 2005.
A Brief Description until 2005: In the final document of the dialogue between the EKD and the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1988, “Justification and Glorification of Human Being by Jesus Christ”, the EKD affirmed the idea of theosis and thus accepted the insight which the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church had maintained in its dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church since 1977. In this view, the Lutheran conception of the Christ who is present in faith as the effective aspect of the doctrine of justification constitutes a parallel to the Orthodox doctrine of deification or theosis.
A “Joint Report to the leaders of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the EKD on the state of the bilateral theological dialogue” (1998) stated that the main concern of the dialogue had been the issue of “Salvation in Jesus Christ”. The report says that, despite different traditions on this question, a consensus can be “appropriately described”. When the term “justification” comprises the whole path of human beings to salvation it corresponds “in a broader sense” to the Orthodox understanding of the theosis of human beings. In addition, it was jointly observed:
“In the specific sense of the final perfection of human communion with God, theosis means what is described in the Protestant tradition as the “sanctification” of human beings. The essential difference between Creator and creature is thus in no way called into question. With regard to the problem of synergeia, it was observed that in the Orthodox tradition it in no sense implies an autonomous human contribution to their own salvation but rather the work of love of which the baptized are made capable by the Holy Spirit who also makes them “God’s servants, working together” (1 Cor 3:9)”
Responding to this report on Jan 29, 1999, the Council of the EKD stated inter alia that it saw this as “an appropriate expression for the right teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ”. This observation is important for three reasons. Firstly, it confirms the results of the dialogue. Secondly, it should be remembered that at the same time in Germany the debate over the Lutheran-Roman Catholic “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” had particularly emphasized the Protestant interpretation of the doctrine of justification where an approval of Orthodox soteriology cannot be taken for granted. Thirdly, the German-Romanian dialogue was criticized precisely because of problems related to theosis and synergeia. Nevertheless, the Council of the EKD saw the right doctrine reflected in this dialogue.
For the history of the Protestant-Orthodox dialogue it is also significant that the EKD with this response received the Orthodox conception of theosis and synergy more strongly as true teaching than the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church had done. In 1977 in the dialogue with Moscow the Finnish Church had noted a parallel between justification and theosis. This result was never submitted to the Finnish synod and it later gave rise to theological criticism both in Finland and in Germany. However, over the period 1988-1989 in their regional dialogues the German and the American Lutheran churches had taken a similar decision.
In bilateral dialogues it is normal, after dealing with soteriology, to discuss the understanding of the church. Many regional dialogues reached this stage between 1995 and 2000. The German-Romanian dialogue discussed the “Communion of Saints” in 1995. In his keynote address, Mircea Basarab discussed the fact that for the Orthodox the communio sanctorum is a subject which has not been given much attention. Since the expression is found neither in Scripture not in the Nicene Creed, Basarab was only able to find “aspects” of this western expression in eastern theology. But he did admit that the liturgical formulae of the Eucharist, in particular, refer in various ways to the communion of saints. The Protestant speaker, Heinz Ohme, emphasized that Lutheranism affirms the New Testament idea of koinonia and can speak about the intimate communion of the believer with Christ or of participation in the benefits of salvation.
In their joint theses, the partners to the dialogue state that the Church “is not the work of human beings but exclusively God’s work”. The Eucharistic gathering is of fundamental importance for the Church; it is there that the church is constituted as the communio sanctorum. The common sharing in Christ who gives himself in the Eucharist is “the living source of divine life and the foundation for any communion of saints”. Other theses describe the holiness of the church, the service of the saints and the veneration of saints.
This document of 1995 is one of the first joint ecclesiological documents in the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue as a whole. The theses follow on from the fundamental soteriological insight formulated earlier about participating in Christ as the source of divine life; moreover, the Orthodox church affirms some important aspects of the western communio sanctorum. For its part, the Protestant side is able to identify with the Eucharistic ecclesiology influenced by Orthodoxy.
At Herrnhut in 2000 the German-Romanian dialogue continued the discussion of ecclesiology in the context of the overall theme: “The Church and its political, social responsibility today”. Here ecclesiology was discussed in reference to society; the presentations analyzed church-state relations and the ecclesiological bases for action in society.
In the Herrnhut theses the partners in dialogue agree that the social responsibility of the church is an aspect of the “relational nature” of the church which starts from the Eucharist and is related to the whole of creation. As a “living and loving community of the triune God”, the church is a historical reality composed of the divine and the human and living in solidarity with the world. These statements are also without precedent in the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. The basis for solidarity with the world is found in the concept of communio and in Eucharistic ecclesiology. A similar approach can be found, for example, in the documents of the fifth Conference on Faith and Order at Santiago de Compostela in 1993.
The 10th conversations in Cluj-Napoca in November 2002 continued the discussion on ecclesiology. The communiqué of these discussions states among other things that the participating churches do not deny that the other partner also is a church. Although this is a careful formulation, it signifies a remarkable trust between the two churches. Above all the common biblical truth, the Nicean creed and the common baptism allow that both churches can find degrees or elements of “ecclesiality” and “communion” (Kirchlichkeit, Gemeinschaft) in the other partner. A closer analysis of the statement remains to be done. The documentation volume, published 2005, offers valuable material for such an analysis of this progressive dialogue.
2nd conversation: “Die Kirche, das Volk und der Staat in Europa” (The Church, People and the State in Europe), May 23-27, 1998 at Minsk.
3rd conversation: “Religiöse Bildung und Erziehung; Zwischenkirchliche Beziehungen: Situation und aktuelle Dokumente” (Religious Education and Instruction; Inter-church Relationships: Contemporary Situation and Texts) , June 1-7, 2002 at Mülheim an der Ruhr.
4th conversation: “60 Jahre nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg; Die Bedeutung der christlichen Werte in den Herausforderungen der heutigen Zeit”, April 17-22, 2005 in Moscow.
5th conversation: “Freiheit und Verantwortung aus christlicher Sicht”, February 22-28, 2008 in Wittenberg.kommunique_wittenberg.pdf
6th conversation: “Kirchen in der multikulturellen Gesellschaft”, Dec 9-11, 2012 in Rostow am Don. Download als PDF-Datei
– Hinhören und Hinsehen. Beziehungen zwischen der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Hg. vom Kirchenamt der EKD in Hannover und dem Kirchlichen Außenamt des Moskauer Patriarchats, Leipzig 2003.
– Bilateraler Theologischer Dialog Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland/ Russische Orthodoxe Kirche 1998 und 2002 (Bad Urach II & III, Minsk 1998, Mülheim 2002, Studienheft 28), hg. R. Koppe. Hermannsburg 2005.
– Sechzig Jahre nach Kriegsende – Christliche Werte heute. 23. Begegnung im bilateralen theologischen Gespräch zwischen der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (4. Begegnung nach dem Neubeginn in Bad Urach),17.4.-22.4.2005 in Moskau und Segiev Posad (Bad Urach IV). Hg. D. Heller im Auftrag des Kirchenamtes der EKD (Studienheft 32), Beiheft zur Ökumenischen Rundschau Nr. 80, Frankfurt a.M. 2007
A Brief Description: After extensive dialogues and their careful evaluation from 1959 to 1994, this dialogue has proceede at a slower pace in the 1990s. Like in Finnish-Russian dialogue, nationalism and the new European situation have been discussed recently. In 2002, the Special Commission of the WCC and the new Russian documents of August 2000 were reflected. The documentation volume, published 2005, offers valuable materials also for the understanding of these important Russian documents.
EKD–Patriarchate of Constantinople:
11th conversation: “Der Kosmos als Schöpfung Gottes. Die Kirche vor dem ökologischen Problem”, Oct 21-27, 1997 in Rhodos.
12th conversation: “Die Kirchen im zusammenwachsenden Europa”, Jun 30 – Jul 6, 2001 in Brandenburg/ Havel
13th conversation: “Die Gnade Gottes und das Heil der Welt”, Sep 16-22, 2004 in Phanar.
14th conversation: “Die Bedeutung der Konzilien und Bekenntnisse für den ökumenischen Dialog”, Oct 10-15, 2007 in Oppurg, Thüringen.
– Das Handeln der Kirche in Zeugnis und Dienst. Zehnte Begegnung im bilateralen theologischen Dialog zwischen dem Ökumenischen Patriarchat von Konstantinopel und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland 27. Mai bis 2. Juni 1994 in der Evangelischen Akademie Iserlohn/ Der Kosmos als Schöpfung Gottes. Die Kirchen vor dem ökologioschen Problem. Elfte Begegnung im bilateralen Theologischen Dialog zwischen dem Ökumenischen Patriarchat von Konstantinopel und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland 21. bis 27. Oktober 1997 in der Metropolie von Rhodos/ Die Kirchen im zusammenwachsenden Europa. Zwölfte Begegnung im bilateralen Theologischen Dialog zwischen dem Ökumenischen Patriarchat von Konstantinopel und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland 30. Juni bis 6. Juli 2001 in Brandenburg/Havel, Studienheft 27, Hg. von Rolf Koppe im Auftrag des Kirchenamtes der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Hermannsburg 2003.
– Die Gnade Gottes und das Heil der Welt. Das 13. Gespräch im Rahmen des bilateralen Theologischen Dialogs zwischen dem Ökumenischen Patriarchat von Konstantinopel und der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, hg. von Dagmar Heller und Rolf Koppe,Studienheft Nr. 31, Beiheft zur Ökumenischen Rundschau Nr. 79, Franfurt/M. 2006
A Brief Description: This dialogue has also entered the stage of evaluation. The “Joint Report” presented to the leaders of the participating churches in July 2001 mentions progress, but also open problems, in following topics: scripture and Tradition, witness/ martyria, worship life, diaconal work, eucharist and ministry. Although the report identifies pneumatology as a continuous theme or “cantus firmus” of this dialogue, one may note that in the long run this dialogue has been a “dialogue of love”, concentrating more toward practical topics of church life than many other dialogues. – The 13th round of the dialogue created some news in the theological press, because it was claimed that the participating churches approve of each other’s baptism. On a closer look, the communiqué does little more than reaffirms the ecumenical guideline of both churches. It is instructive to compare the communiqué with the outcome of the global dialogue in October 2004.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland-Russian Orthodox Church:
10th conversation: “The Mission of the Church; Peace Work of the Church and Nationalism”, Aug 27 – Sept 5, 1995 in Kiev.
11th conversation: “Freedom of a Christian, Freedom of the Church and Religious Freedom”, Oct 12-19, 1998 in Lappeenranta.
12th conversation: Evaluation of the Dialogue 1970-1998, Sep 27 – Oct 5, 2002 in Moscow.
13th conversation: Christian View of Human Person in Today’s Europe; Salvation, Faith and Modern Society. Sep 20 to 25, 2005 in Turku.
14th conversation: Human Rights in Christian Perspective; Religious Education, Sep 18-24, 2008 in St. Petersburg.
15th conversation:The Church as Community. Christian Identity and Church Membership. Sep 6 to 11, 2011 in Siikaniemi.
– Kiev 1995. The Tenth Theological Discussions between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church. Documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 8. Helsinki 1996.
– Kiev theses in German in Orthodoxie im Dialog, hrsg. von T. Bremer et alii, Trier 1999, 269-272.
–Lappeenranta 1998 & Moscow 2002 (pdf) (pdf). The Eleventh and Twelfth Theological Discussions between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church. Documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 11. Helsinki 2011.
-Sinappi, St. Petersburg and Siikaniemi (pdf) (pdf). The 13th, 14th and 15th theological discussions between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church. Documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 13. Helsinki 2013.
A Brief Description: In 1995 the Finnish-Russian dialogue discussed “Church and Nationalism” and in 1998 “Freedom of the Church”. The joint theses of 1995 emphasize the identity of the Church as the people of God consisting of many nations. Christianity “transcends ethnic, cultural and politico-social differences. Hence under no circumstances can it support enmity or nationalism.” The Church of Jesus Christ is described as the “society of the believers”, the members of which belong to different nations. This term refers back to the “congregatio fidelium” of the Lutheran Confessions and interestingly enough the Russian Church is able to say the same here.
The conversations of 1998 also produced some significant common theses. The statements these conversations made on freedom start by presenting the spiritual freedom of the Christian in terms similar to Luther’s explanation in De libertate christiana. Freedom in the Church is described in the following way.
“Since the church is one with the heavenly, free Jerusalem, on earth it forms the inexhaustible source of the spiritual freedom of Christians (Gal 4:26, Heb 12:22-24, Isa 54).The Church is a divine-human reality: on the one hand, it is the communion of the Holy Spirit in the Christians who obey the commandments of Christ in their lives. As such, the Church is not subject to any human limitations. On the other hand, the church is a human community marked by the unity of faith, the sacraments and spiritual life. As such the church is subject to all human limitations.”
Here again, Luther’s language has helped in the joint statement. The Orthodox also speak of the theandric reality of the church in the EKD-Romanian and the global dialogue, but the link with Luther is unique at this point. Moreover, the equation of the church with the “free Jerusalem” of Gal 4:26 is an original idea which, to my knowledge, has not been used anywhere else in an ecumenical context. The basis for the church being a source is not quite clear because the biblical references quoted really only describe Jerusalem the mother. In what immediately follows, it is stated that even in a situation of outward persecution the church is supported by an inner, invisible freedom.
It will only be possible in the future to assess the ecumenical significance of these insights. Even though in 1995 and 1998 Lutheran theology predominates to a certain extent in the joint statements, it is important to recognize that, despite its simultaneous massive criticism of the ecumenical movement, the Russian Orthodox Church was prepared to make such far reaching common statements. In both the German-Romanian and the Finnish-Russian dialogues, it is striking that socio-ethical issues – society and nationalism – were dealt with not politically nor pragmatically but from a theological point of view.
In October 2002, an evaluation of the whole dialogue was undertaken. No new theological theses were drafted. Christian anthropology and social ethics were among the themes to be undertaken in the future. In September 2005, salvation and theological anthropology were discussed. Thanks to the effective work of Finnish church office people, all texts are now available in English, many even as pdf in links above. Abundant material collections are available in Finnish church website. The person in charge is tomi.karttunenATevl.fi.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland – Orthodox Church of Finland:
5th conversation: “Priesthood of all Believers; Work, Unemployment and Human Dignity”, Mar 12-13, 1996 in Kouvola.
6th conversation: “Sacraments and Holy Rites; Church – Hope of the World”, Apr 19-20, 1999 in Joensuu.
7th conversation: “The Requirements for Church Unity; The Diaconic Role of the Church in the Life of the Society”. Dec 19-20, 2001 in Oulu.
8th conversation: “Sanctification; Violence in Families”, Feb 7-8, 2007 in Joensuu.
9th conversation: The Encounter of Religions; The Languages of Faith, Jan 15-16 2009 in Sofia, Helsinki.
10th conversation: The Interpretation of the Bible; Ecology. Nov 25-26, 2011 in Sofia, Helsinki.
11th conversation: The Known and Unknown God; Home and Christian Education, Nov 22-23, 2012 in Järvenpää.
Texts: (pdf)Kouvola 1996 & Joensuu 1999 (pdf) (pdf) The 5th and 6th Theological Discussions between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Orthodox Church of Finland. Documents of the Evangelical Church of Finland – 12
(doc)Oulu 2001 tiedonanto (pdf) (pdf)
Joensuu 2007 tiedonanto (pdf) (pdf)
(doc)Sofia 2009 tiedonanto (pdf) (pdf)
Sofia 2010 tiedonanto (pdf) (pdf)
Järvenpää 2012 tiedonanto (pdf) (pdf)
A Brief Description: This dialogue is mostly concerned with the domestic issues of Finnish church life, with some theological reflection. It has produced brief (2-3 pages) communiqués. The person in charge is tomi.karttunenATevl.fi. Abundant material collections are available in Finnish church website.
Lutheran and Orthodox churches in America:
“Trinitarian Theology”, 1994-1998. A Lutheran-Orthodox Common Statement on Faith in the Holy Trinity, 1998.
“Common Response to the Aleppo Statement on the Date of Easter/ Pascha”, 1999.
A Brief Description: In their global dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church, on the one hand, and with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, on the other, the Orthodox have touched on the doctrine of the Trinity, but not in the global Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the Lutheran churches have also not dealt with the Trinity as a separate issue in their other dialogues. Secondly, it is improbable that a bilateral dialogue would be able to say anything new e.g. on the old dispute about the western addition to the Nicene creed (“filioque”). However, it should be noted that Trinitarian theology is being much discussed at the present time in western theology and therefore there certainly is interest in this issue among theologians.
The American dialogue group discussed Trinitarian theology from 1994 to 1998. The interests of the new wave of Trinitarian reflection can be sensed in the presentations and discussions. On the Lutheran side, Bruce Marshall attempted a theological rapprochement. As a starting point for this he took the recommendation of the Lutheran World Federation at its assembly in Curitiba (1990) that the Nicene Creed should be used in its original version at ecumenical meetings of the member churches. In Marshall’s view, both the western addition of the filioque and the eastern rejection of this addition have similar theological motives. Both traditions want to teach the monarchy of the Father as the origin of the deity as a whole and both maintain the equality of the Spirit as a distinct hypostasis. For this reason, according to Marshall, the differences over the filioque are primarily not differences in content but in linguistic usage.
However, the dialogue group as a whole did not accept the proposal in this form but a relatively general document, “A Lutheran-Orthodox Common Statement on Faith in the Holy Trinity”. The document signed on November 4, 1998 by the chairmen, Bishop Donald J. McCoid and Metropolitan Maximos of Aenos, spells out three fundamental theological criteria for the right doctrine of the Trinity: i) the monarchy of the Father, ii) the existence of the divine essence only in three distinct, equal and undivided persons, iii) the intimate relation of Son and Spirit in the economy of salvation.
The Lutheran group recommended the use of the original version of the Nicene Creed in ecumenical services. At the same time, the Lutherans emphasized that, in their view, the Spirit also proceeds from the Son. The Orthodox found this view unacceptable but said at the same time that they could accept the idea of the “double procession” in the patristic sense, i.e. that the Father sends the Spirit through the Son. For the Orthodox, the relation between the Son and the Spirit in the economy of salvation was not identical with the relationship within the Trinity.
The American document of 1998 is the first thorough statement on Trinitarian theology in the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue as a whole. One point of comparison is the document from the Orthodox-Reformed dialogue in 1992, “Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity”. This document places more emphasis on the doctrine of relationships and states in a rather mysterious way about the monarchy that it “is not limited to one person”. Nevertheless it is an important fact that the Orthodox were prepared in the 1990s to draw up detailed statements on Trinitarian theology with the Protestants. For example, the Finnish-Russian dialogue in 1995 also formulated a Trinitarian basis for missionary work in which mission was based on the love within the Trinity.
The source of and motivation for missionary work is the love of the Triune God. Love predominates between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Triune God loved the world in creation and in redemption and continues to love the world for its sanctification. Here the description of the Trinity uses quite Augustinian terminology.
The “Common Response” meets a request of the World Council of Churches to seek a common date for the Easter.