Orthodox and Reformed in dialogue

Centre Orthodoxe du Patriarcat OEcumeniqueA guest post by Joseph D. Small

Followers of Per Crucem ad Lucem may have seen the video of Orthodox theologian George Dragas’ wonderful reminiscence of T.F. Torrance. In his remarks, Dragas mentioned the Orthodox-Reformed Dialogue, which he and Torrance co-chaired. The Dialogue resulted in a remarkable ecumenical achievement, the ‘Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity’.

Ecumenical dialogues (a number of reports from which can be accessed here) often assume agreement on fundamental theological matters, focusing instead on neuralgic issues or comparative ecclesiology. But Torrance believed that mutual understanding of Trinity was the essential prerequisite for the viability of future dialogues on other themes. Only from acknowledgment of shared Trinitarian faith, Torrance believed, could the two church bodies proceed to discuss issues about which there might be less commonality, such as the nature of the church, ministry, and sacraments.

The ‘Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity’ is precisely that, a statement that speaks with one voice. Unlike many reports that emerge from ecumenical dialogues, the Agreed Statement does not set out differing emphases or divergent positions. It begins by stating, ‘We confess together the evangelical and ancient Faith of the Catholic Church …’, and it is common confession that is articulated throughout. The Agreed Statement is divided into eight brief, densely packed sections, each one of which contains affirmations that are of enduring importance. The Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity is a singular theological and ecumenical achievement. It is worth attention for its succinct articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, and also for its demonstration of the very best in ecumenical engagement. The text is readily available here, as well as in Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, 1982–1998 edited by Jeffrey Gros, Harding Meyer and William Rusch.

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