The workshop with the theme “Ecclesiology and Nationalism: Reconciliation among the Churches” will take place on Monday, September 5, 5.00-6.15 pm in Carlsruhe, Germany (Leonardo hotel, Muhlburg room), in the frame of the 11th Assembly of WCC. The participants will be Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel (Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)), Dr. Nichola Brady (General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland), Rev. Dr. Graham McGeoch (Μinister of the Church of Scotland, Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at Faculdade Unida de Vitória, Brazil). The panel will be moderated by Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Director of Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Delegate of the Church of Greece to the WCC Assembly).
Religious nationalism seems to be the main ecclesiological problem the Orthodox Churches -and Christian Churches in general- face today. It affects church unity and common witness. Significant aspects of this problem are the so-called “collectivistic religions,” the identification of Church with nation, ethno-cultural identity and state, and, consequently, the idea of national Churches, alongside with the “replacement of the history of salvation with the history of national revival.” By assuming this “national” role, and by being involved in the formation of particular ethno-cultural identities, Christian Churches hardly uphold their catholicity, ecumenicity, and church unity. Further, in the context of multinational post-modern societies, they exhaust their ecclesiological and spiritual resources on the rhetoric of “identities” and an outdated religious tribalism and fundamentalism.
The overcoming of religious nationalism, sectarianism, and tribalism is directly relevant to the theme of the 11th WCC Assembly “Christ’s Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity.” History and other non-theological factors in general have always affected not only the unity of humankind but also the unity of the church, to the point that we cannot imagine genuine reconciliation and koinonia among Churches without taking into account issues related to nationalism.
The workshop will offer a fresh ecclesiological and theological look at the intimate relation between Church, nation, and ethno-religious identity. It will identify problems and consequences related to the above-mentioned phenomenon, and focus on theological resources challenging an ethnocentric and nation-centered understanding of the Church. In doing so, it will constructively contribute to ecumenical cooperation and common witness.