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Cardiff law initiative endorsed at the World Council of Churches Assembly

27 September 2022

Members of the Ecumenical Christian Law Panel: Mark Hill QC, Leo Koffeman, Fr. Aetios, and Professor Norman Doe.
Members of the Ecumenical Christian Law Panel: Mark Hill QC, Leo Koffeman, Fr. Aetios, and Professor Norman Doe.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 120 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 580 million Christians.

Its highest governing body is the Assembly which meets ever eight years. On 2 September 2022, at Karlsruhe, Germany, at the 11th Assembly of the WCC, a workshop was held on The Statement of Principles of Christian Law issued in Rome 2016 by an Ecumenical Panel drawn from 10 traditions: Roman and Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Baptist, United, Pentecostal.

For the Statement, the panel used and developed principles drafted by Cardiff law professor Norman Doe and proposed in his book Christian Law: Contemporary Principles (Cambridge University Press, 2013). It was then road tested by the WCC Faith and Order Commission (Geneva, 2017) and since then at national events around the world. The Statement contains agreed common principles induced from similarities between the legal systems of the churches.

At the WCC 11th Assembly, Professor Doe, who chaired the workshop, introduced the background to, models for, and concept underlying the Statement. Mark Hill QC, convenor of the panel, spoke on the process used by it. Fr. Aetios, Grand Ecclesiarch at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in Istanbul, and Cardiff doctoral student, gave a rich reflection on the value of the Statement as a unifying force for shared ecumenical witness and mission worldwide.  Participants then discussed its value, sharing their reaction to and experiences of using the Statement, from as far afield as India, Australia, the USA, and, in Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and Switerland. Participants were keen to be involved in further projects relating to the Statement. The workshop then agreed that this ‘World Council of Churches workshop commends the Statement of Principles of Christian Law for study and use as an essential element of the ecumenical movement’.

The workshop commendation has also been welcomed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church worldwide.  In 2019 His All Holiness Bartholomew had spoken of this “important Statement, which is a means of unity and collaboration between Christians of different traditions…designed to fill the historical juridical deficit in the ecumenical enterprise”; and Pope Francis stated that “canon law is not only an aid to ecumenical dialogue, but also an essential dimension”.

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