“Truth does not fear dialogue”

Ecumenical Symposium in New York    

In an encyclical from 2010 the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople pointed out as leitmotif for the dialogue of the Orthodox Church with plural societies: “Truth does not fear dialogue.” Taking up this motif, a symposium took place on 13 and 14 November 2019 at Saint Peter’s Church in New York, focusing on ecumenical dialogue.

The opening lecture on November 13 was held by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who was ordained to his office in June of this year. Based on a historically sound analysis of previous dialogue results, he formulated a clear commitment to the continuation of the ecumenical dialogues as a biblical-based commandment. In their co-papers, Monsignor John Radano, formerly director of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Paul Egensteiner, the newly elected Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, affirmed in their own way that the ecumenical movement has historically provided a new paradigm that permanently places ecumenical relations on a new footing.

The first lecture on the 14th of November was given by Prof. Dr. William Rusch of Yale Divinity School, in which he lucidly explained the method of “differentiated / differentiating consensus” and asked about the consequences of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” for future ecumenical dialogues.

The next lectures pursued methodological considerations: Prof. Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth, who was invited to the symposium as a representative of the Strasbourg Institute, analyzed the history of Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue and called for a consistent application of “differentiated / differentiating consensus” in the international Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. In the co-lecture Prof. Dr. John Behr of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, however, questioned from his patristic studies of the 2nd/3rd century fundamentally ecumenical objectives which are oriented towards the formulation of a doctrinal consensus.

Whether the “differentiated / differentiating consensus” method can be recommended for the Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue was the subject of stimulating reflections by an ecumenical expert who works at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome, Dr. Teresa Francesca Rossi. In response to her judgment, achieved after a careful weighing of the arguments, Prof. Dr. Dale M. Coulter from Regent University in Virginia shared in her conclusions. Accordingly, the “differentiated / differentiating consensus” method can and should, under certain conditions, also be used in Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue.

The symposium was summed up in concluding remarks by Franciscan brother James Loughran, SA, and the approximately 40 participants in the symposium once again had the opportunity to ask questions and formulate their impressions.

The invitation to New York included a one-day study day on Lutheran-Catholic and Catholic-Pentecostal dialogues at Yale Divinity School. The participants of the study day were very interested and the time quickly turned to intensive discussions. Moreover, insights into the extraordinary study and research opportunities at the divinity school were possible.

The invitation to New York thus allowed many new discoveries and beautiful encounters. To the organizational team, especially Prof. Dr. William Rusch and Pastor Jared Stahler, many thanks are due!

The symposium was recorded and can be seen at: https://www.saintpeters.org/stream.