In preparation for the 16th session of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission, the Preparatory Committee met in London, Great Britain, from 5-10 May 2012, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate). This meeting begins a new phase in the work of this Commission, dealing with the issue of Ministry/Priesthood in the Church.
At its 15th plenary meeting in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany, in June 2011, the Commission decided as the topic for its next preparatory meeting, “The Understanding of Ministry/Priesthood in the light of Holy Scriptures and the early Church”. The meeting in London was to explore this issue and to prepare a draft for the next plenary session.
Representing the Lutheran World Federation at this meeting were: Bishop Dr. Donald McCoid (Co-President), USA; Bishop Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein, Romania; Prof. Dr. Kenneth G. Appold, USA; Prof. Dr. Turid Karlsen Seim, Norway; Rev. Prof. Dr. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, France (Consultant); Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth, Germany; Prof. Dr. Joachim Track, Germany (Acting Co-Secretary); and from the Orthodox Church: H. E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima (Co-President); V. Rev. Tertiary Patriarchal Deacon Dr. Theodoros Meimaris (Co-Secretary) and Prof. Dr. Miltiadis Konstantinou (Consultant), from the Ecumenical Patriarchate; V. Rev. Protopresbyter Prof. Dr. George Dion Dragas, from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem; V. Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Cyril Hovorun, from the Patriarchate of Moscow; V. Rev. Protopresbyter Prof. Dr. Viorel Ionita, from the Patriarchate of Romania; H.E. Metropolitan Dr. Isaias of Tamassos and Oreini and Prof. Dr. Nikolaos Nikolaides (Consultant), from the Church of Cyprus. V.Rev. Prof. Dr. Viorel Ionita and Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth were not able to attend.
First the Committee discussed the understanding of Ministry/Priesthood in the Holy Scriptures. Papers were presented by Prof. Dr. Turid Karlsen Seim and Prof. Dr. Miltiadis Konstantinou. Attention then turned to the Patristic approach of Ministry/Priesthood in the early Church, introduced by papers from H. E. Metropolitan Dr. Isaias of Tamassos and Oreini and Prof. Dr. Nikolaos Nikolaides and Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth (read in absentia).
Discussion of these papers identified areas of agreement between the two traditions on these topics and also a considerable number of open questions and differences. A Statement was drafted which will help the plenary meeting in 2014. In this draft Statement the Committee discussed the approach of Ministry/Priesthood from a Lutheran and an Orthodox understanding.
On Sunday 6 May the Committee attended a Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, Kentish Town (London) celebrated by His Grace Bishop Chrysostomos of Kyanea. On Tuesday 8 May the Committee visited the Orthodox Cathedral Church of Agia Sophia, Bayswater. On Wednesday 9 May the members of the Committee were entertained to lunch by His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain at the Archbishopric residence. Archbishop Gregorios addressed the Committee, very warmly welcoming the participants and bestowing upon them the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In his address he referred to the history of the Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Lutherans which goes back to the theological conversations between the Lutheran Theologians of Tübingen and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the 16th century. He emphasized that this is the oldest dialogue between Protestant Churches and the Orthodox Church and expressed his wishes for the good continuation of the Dialogue. Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima expressed his profound gratitude to His Eminence Gregorios for his gracious and rich hospitality, whishing that God may grant him many years in his arch-episcopate in good health serving with devotion and faithfulness the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Committee, during its stay in London, experienced the warm hospitality of several Orthodox parishes in London, such as those of St. Nicholas in Shepherds Bush, of the Mother of God in Camberwell and of Mother of God in Wood Green warmly welcomed by His Grace Bishop Athanasios of Tropaeou.
It was announced that Bishop Donald McCoid will be retiring from the Dialogue. Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima expressed on behalf of the whole Committee his gratitude and great appreciation to Bishop McCoid for the long years of close collaboration, friendship and Christian fellowship.
The next preparatory meeting will be hosted by the Lutheran World Federation between 24 and 29 May 2013 in a place to be determined at a later stage and will deal with a) the Lutheran understanding of Ministry/Priesthood during the period of the Reformation and b) apostolic succession and ordination from a historical, patristic and canonical point of view.
London, 9 May 2012.