On 27 October the World Council of Churches (WCC) hosted the first in a webinar series on “Ecumenical Bilateral Dialogues: Yesterday and Today” focusing on the importance of ecumenical bilateral dialogues for the churches. The theme of the first webinar was “The role of bilateral dialogues within the one ecumenical movement: experience and results”.
In his presentation Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, reflected that while we are all aware that divisions between churches have existed since the beginning, “[w]hat is new in this era of ecumenical relations is the fact that the churches themselves are now systematically talking to each other about Christian unity”. He continued, “Bilateral dialogue is no longer a question of individuals interested to get together and talk—it is an activity of the churches themselves.”
Reverend Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC interim deputy general secretary and director of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order, focused on the emergence and development, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, of bilateral dialogues. Archbishop Job of Telmessos, permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC, reflected on the Orthodox Church as a founder in terms of both the ecumenical movement and the many bilateral and multilateral dialogues that were developed within the ecumenical movement. Reverend Dr Miriam Haar, from the Institute for Ecumenical Studies and Research in Bensheim, Germany, who moderated the discussion, raised the issue of the poor reception at the local level in some parts of the world while at the same time in other parts at the local level people were in fact leading bilateral dialogues.
The webinar drew on the profound experience of those involved in bilateral dialogues, who shared their processes, methodologies, results, and reception. Speakers also fielded questions on emerging issues and trends.