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Ecumenical Vision Statements

Ecumenical Vision Statement

Approved by the 212th General Assembly (2000)

of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Bible and hands clasped in prayer. Together with Christians in every time and place, Presbyterians confess belief in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The Nicene Creed’s marks of the church are not accomplishments of human performance or objects of human striving, as if the church depends on our efforts. The unity of the church is a gift of its Lord.

The source and the shape of the gift are proclaimed in Scripture: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

By God’s grace, the holy, catholic, and apostolic church is one. And yet the one church is divided, fragmented into distinct traditions, communions, and denominations that live in various degrees of estrangement from one another. In turn, each part of the church embodies tensions in its own life that threaten to divide the one church yet again. These divisions do not eradicate the church’s unity, but they obscure it, impairing common witness and weakening common mission.

The one church is not theological abstraction; the divided church is not a sociological necessity. The unity of the church is both God’s real gift and God’s effective calling. Thus, the one church of Jesus Christ, established by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to break down dividing walls of hostility that separate churches from one another and to build up the fullness of communion that binds churches together in common faith and witness.

As an expression of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has never been able to live in comfortable detachment from other churches. Instead, we search diverse patterns of the visible unity of Christ’s church, seeking concord in essential things: faith, sacraments, mission, and ministry. Such forms of communion are both signs of the church’s unity and means by which the church’s unity is achieved.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seeks patterns of visible unity in a variety of ways. We enter councils of churches such as the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches, pursuing oneness in faith, order, and mission. We establish relationships of full communion with other churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ, embodying relationships of mutual responsibility and mutual accountability. We explore possibilities for living out common faith and witness in covenant communion within communities of churches such as Churches Uniting in Christ. We participate in mission globally with ecumenical church partners, and in mission nationally with regional councils, local associations, and neighboring congregations. We engage in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with other churches and traditions in order to remove barriers of misunderstanding and establish common affirmations. We work for the reunion of separate churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed family. We reach out to unfamiliar traditions and associations of churches.

In God’s grace the one church has been given gifts to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in gratitude for God’s grace and mercy, commits itself to faithful use of God’s gifts in search for the fuller expression of the visible unity to which we are called.

 

Statement on the Unity of the Church

Adopted by the 209th General Assembly (1993)

of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

This is the vision we affirm:

The Church is one.

Christ prayed for his disciples and also for those "who will believe" in years to come, "that they may all be one." John 17:20, 21

Scripture teaches us that "... in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body ..." 1 Corinthians 12:13

"There is one body and one Spirit ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God ..." Ephesians 4:4a, 5a, 6a

Our confessional heritage teaches that "... there is only one Church ... We, therefore, call this Church catholic because it is universal, scattered through all parts of the world, and extended unto all parts of the world, and extended unto all times, and is not limited to any times or places." Second Helvetic Confession, 5:126

 "Obedience to Jesus Christ alone identifies the one universal church ...."

The Confession of 1967, 9.03

The unity of the Church is God given.

"The unity of the Church is a gift of its Lord and finds expression in its faithfulness to the mission to which Christ calls it. The Church is a fellowship of believers which seeks the enlargement of the circle of faith to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone ...

"Visible oneness, by which a diversity of persons, gifts, and understanding is brought together, is an important sign of the unity of God’s people ...

"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), affirm[ing] its historical continuity with the whole Church of Jesus Christ, is committed ...." Book of Order, G4.0203

The Church is worldwide.

"We are called to be part of a global and ecumenical community. Our world is wider and more diverse than that which our Reformed forbears knew. We live in a multilingual, multiracial, multicultural, and economically diverse world ...

"We are one part of the body of Christ: a community of mutual interdependence in which diversity contributes to wholeness." Life and Mission Statement, 197th General Assembly (1985)

"As one part of the body of Christ, we actively engage in mutual sharing with other parts in order to ‘bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

"... [A]s there is one head of all the faithful, so all ought to unite in one body, so that there may be one Church spread throughout the whole earth, and not a number of churches." John Calvin, "Catechism of the Church in Geneva," in Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed. By J.K.S. Reid, Library of Christian Classics, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), p. 103.

God’s love encompasses all.

"In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community." A Brief Statement of Faith, 10.3

"We proclaim

  • that God wills all humanity to be one,
  • that the Church is called to embody that unity in its own life
  • that the Church’s unity is a sign and means of the unity of humankind." "The Nature of the Unity We Seek," 118th General Assembly, PCUS (1978)

"As our Christian affirmation meets the faith of others, we are not called to respond in judgment but in awareness of the limitless saving presence, power, and grace of God ...

"As Christians our faith demands that we seek to build loving relationships with persons of other faiths. Where possible we will work in solidarity with them in struggles for justice, freedom, peace, and human dignity." Turn to the Living God: A Call to Evangelism in Jesus Christ’s Way, 203rd General Assembly (1991)

"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will seek new opportunities for conversation and understanding with non-Christian religious bodies in order that interests and concerns may be shared ...." Book of Order, G15.0104

We therefore are called to live out this vision with patience and love, in dependence upon the grace of God given through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 


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On the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) web site

  • paper iconCommittee on Ecumenical Relations: information on the permanent committee of the General Assembly that plans and coordinates the involvements of the PC(USA) in ecumenical work in consultation with the agencies and governing bodies of the church

 

 

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