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Centre for Law and Religion academics attend Christian Law Panel of Experts event in Geneva

30 November 2017

The Christian Law Panel of Experts met in Geneva this November
The Christian Law Panel of Experts met in Geneva this November

Academics from the Centre for Law and Religion attended a meeting as part of the Christian Law Panel of Experts this November.

Professor Norman Doe, Professor Mark Hill QC, and Frank Cranmer of the Centre for Law and Religion at the School of Law and Politics attended the event which took place in Geneva on 23 – 24 November and included a meeting with the Director of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission, Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus.

The Christian Law Panel of Experts was established in 2013 and consists of jurists and theologians from the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian and Baptist traditions worldwide. The Panel had submitted its legal reflections on the WCC Commission Paper, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, (2013), and in Rome 2016 finalised its statement of Principles of Christian Law (published by Cambridge University Press in The Ecclesiastical Law Journal (2017) 138-155), the first ecumenical exercise of its type.

Principles of Christian Law was received with thanks by Dr Mateus, who outlined the history of the ecumenical movement leading to Common Vision (2013), the aborted WCC discussion of church law in the 1970s, and how debate on Christian law would represent a new development for WCC practice in so far as its traditional focus has been on theological dialogue, not law. He also recognised the potential unifying force of law as ‘an element of the true church’.

Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi of the Commission Secretariat added that the Panel of Experts’ response to Common Vision was seen thus far within the Commission process as ‘unique’, ‘profound’, a ‘valuable approach’, and an ‘alternative path’. The Panel’s work will be further considered at meetings in January 2018, June 2018, and by the full Commission in 2019.

Dr Mateus suggested that there is also scope for debate about the role of law in other areas currently of concern to the Commission, namely projects on: the pilgrimage of justice and peace; moral discernment; and new or non-historical (mega) churches.  Dr Mateus proposed an ‘informal but substantial consultative partnership’ between the Panel of Experts and the Faith and Order Commission to carry forward this ongoing project.

The Panel warmly welcomed this proposal, and it was agreed that the position be formalized by an exchange of letters.  The Panel has since 2013 been road-testing the thesis proposed in Norman Doe's book, Christian Law: Contemporary Principles (Cambridge University Press) - the principles agreed by the Panel were originally drafted for it by Doe.

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