Ecumenical meetings: Global
Ecumenical meetings: Regional
Ecumenical meetings: base movements
UN conferences
NGO conferences
House of Studies

Section IV: Holy Spirit - Transform and Sanctify Us!

"Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." (Rom. 12:2)

79. It has been said that spirituality is organizing one's life so as to allow the Holy Spirit room to act. It has to do with setting priorities, with the calendars and rhythms of life which affect how communities and individuals express their spirituality. Different experiences of God's presence through the Holy Spirit in word, in the church and in daily life also determine our understanding of spirituality. We have a spiritual hunger to become what we were through creation and already are in Christ. We long for the freedom which is given through the Holy Spirit.

80. Christian spirituality is rooted in baptism, whereby we are grafted into the death and resurrection of Christ, become members of his body and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to lead a life consecrated to the service of God and God's children. Christian spirituality celebrates God's gifts but, taking up the cross, agonises with Christ for the sake of all God's children: made in the image of God, we are growing into the likeness of Christ (Gen. 1:27, 2 Cor. 3:18; cf. Eph. 4:24). An ecumenical spirituality should be incarnational, here and now, life-giving, rooted in the scriptures and nourished by prayer; it should be communitarian and celebrating, centred around the eucharist. Its source and guide is the action of the Holy Spirit. It is lived and sought in community and for others.

81. The Holy Spirit cannot be understood apart from the life of the Holy Trinity. Proceeding from the Father. the Holy Spirit points to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the Messiah. the Saviour of the world. The Spirit is the power of God, energizing the people of God, corporately and individually, to fulfill their ministry. The Holy Spirit is "holy" by virtue of the very nature of the Holy Trinity. It is distinct from other "spirits" in this world, whether benign or demonic (I John 4:1-6). The Holy Spirit is gloriously free, unbinding God's people from the structures and strictures of this world. The challenge to God's people is to discover, accept, and live in this freedom. To live in the Holy Spirit is to yield one's life to God, to take spiritual risks; in short, to live by faith.

82. Since Pentecost a visible Christian community of repentant and redeemed believers has been constituted by the work of the Holy Spirit, so that this community may become the fullness of the body of Christ in history, a sign and sacrament of the kingdom of God among the nations. We believe in the church, holy and becoming holy by the work of the Spirit, a place where sanctification and transfiguration really can occur. The church's holiness is experienced as reconciliation, peace and justice, which are to be realized within the life of the community. There are various forms of Christian communities (house churches, prayer groups, base Christian communities and so on) which complement parish life by focusing on particular aspects of the kingdom such as a simpler life-style, a concern for personal or cultural identity or political justice.

Responding to the Holy Spirit

83. We respond to the Holy Spirit in humility and penitence. The Holy Spirit enables us to empty ourselves, to receive forgiveness, peace and joy and the grace to live for the sake of others. The church, impelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is called to proclaim the gospel. We share in mission and evangelism, open and sensitive to the contribution of other churches. Nominally Christian nations in the North need the help of churches in the South as they seek to relate to large numbers of immigrants and refugees of different faiths and cultures. New religions and alternative forms of spirituality present a further challenge to many of our churches and to the ecumenical movement.

84. Churches need to recover the notion of sacred time, allowing God's time, the kairos, to enter the chronos of the mundane world, enabling and empowering new visions and fresh opportunities. The Genesis affirmation of God's resting on the seventh day (Gen. 2: 1-3) has built the principle of rest into the very structure of the cosmos. The observance of liturgical times, rites and rhythms supports many kinds of Christian spirituality. The sabbath principle serves as a protection against unlimited activity and unrelenting desire for profit. The sabbath year, coming once in fifty years, was intended to break the spiral by which "the rich become richer and the poor poorer" (cf. Lev. 8:8-17). It is relevant to apply this in the debt-ridden parts of the international community. If debts are not lifted and forgiven, there can be finally no balance, no justice.

85. In a world where misery and despair mark many lives, Christians, by humble perseverance in their work and witness for justice, raise signs of hope in Jesus Christ. The example of the "great cloud of witnesses" kindles and encourages the Christian life of many. The Holy Spirit offers us the precious and vulnerable gift of hope, reinforcing the discipleship of those identifying with the cause of liberation. There is an authentic spirituality maturing in the midst of struggle, nourished by the One who gave himself up for the freedom of others.

86. Throughout history it is the Holy Spirit who has drawn the churches out of isolation and division into unity. The Holy Spirit calls us now to acknowledge the unity which exists among us, and to overcome all confessional barriers in order to be able to share our energies, gifts and ministries on a common spiritual journey towards visible unity. Charismatic renewal movements, women's groups and youth groups sometimes challenge churches to greater openness and press towards the breaking of denominational barriers.

87. As the churches - enabled to initiate dialogue with the help of national, regional and international councils of churches - move towards each other on their ecumenical pilgrimage, the Holy Spirit calls us to repent of past stances and actions and to engage in a process of forgiveness. We need to acknowledge the occasions when our churches have failed to respect the "Lund principle" (1952) that they should act together except where conscience compels them to act separately. For without repentance and forgiveness no "new creation" as reconciled communities can emerge among and between the churches. The Holy Spirit has been evident in enabling churches to forgive, to reconcile their histories and to come to communion in God in Christ. Two current examples of churches participating in this process are the Eastem and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Reformed and Mennonite communities.

88. The Holy Spirit has been active in strengthening the relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and national and regional councils of churches. The Basel ecumenical assembly in 1989, organized by a regional council of churches and the regional conference of Roman Catholic Episcopal Conferences, might provide a useful model of cooperation.

89. We need integrity in word and action. Sanctification means a continuous commitment to the life of visible community and a continuous search to overcome the stumbling blocks to full and visible unity.

90. The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, continues to breathe life into all creation. As all life emanates from God and ultimately will return to God (Ps. 104), the ethos of holiness requires an attitude towards all that exists as by nature belonging to God. We do not "own" ourselves, our bodies, our lives, the air, the soil: all is given by God.

91. Though inseparably belonging to creation, we are in the world as stewards and as priests of creation. We are endowed with the privilege of offering creation back to its Creator. The church is now challenged to define the relationship of humanity to the rest of creation. Anthropomorphism (the idea that human beings are God's only real concern) denies the integrity of the creation. However, sacralizing nature may lead towards pantheism and a denial of the uniqueness of men and women as created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

92. The Holy Spirit, giver of life, is at work among all peoples and faiths and throughout the universe. With the sovereign freedom which belongs to God the wind blows wherever it wants. Recognizing this, the church rejoices in being nourished by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the word and sacraments.

93. Spirits must be discerned. Not every spirit is of the Holy Spirit. The prime criterion for discerning the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; it points to the cross and resurrection and witnesses to the Lordship of Christ. The biblical list of "fruits" of the Spirit, including love, joy and peace, is another criterion to be applied (Gal. 5:22). These criteria should be remembered in our encounters with the often-profound spirituality of other religions.

The people of God: transformed and transforming

94. The church is the entire people (laos) of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit. As the laity of the church, whether women or men, young or old, live in the world they are ambassadors of the Holy Spirit, transforming society by their witness and service. They need - but do not always receive - all the support the church can give.

95. For many it is especially the family that provides an appropriate space and ethos for spiritual development. We need to explore diverse models of family spirituality and to find appropriate structures for prayer life and spiritual formation.

96. The church is called to demonstrate God's all-inclusive love. In practice this is often difficult. In the fellowship of a local congregation in a small community, including persons seems natural - until an "outsider" tries to join in. In other situations the human factors of language, race, sex, caste, or economic status may seem insurmountable barriers to those seeking to join the Christian community. What we mean by "inclusive" needs to be defined by those who are, or who feel, excluded. We need to become "intensive" listeners, hearing and heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit who so often speaks through the pain of the person "on the other side of the road" (Luke 10:30-37). A truly inclusive community values every human being equally, including the marginalized. The Spirit challenges us to an active inclusivity, urging us to reach out in faith and love to minorities and oppressed people.

97. Another manifestation of Christian spirituality is a peace-oriented life-style, exploring the power of active non-violence, for the transformation of society. In any exercise of power the church must always point towards love as the better way. The challenge for us is to translate Spiritled peace-making and peace-living from personal to congregational and community life.

98. A eucharistic spirituality which is actually lived out by a local Christian community is, in itself, the most valuable diaconial service that can be given. It is a missionary witness of immeasurable significance. Christian spirituality expresses itself as we participate fully in the liturgical life of the people of God, gathering around word and sacrament in fellowship and prayer (Acts 2:42). Worship both stimulates and results from our inner relationship with the Spirit. It is a life-giving means of evangelism and local ecumenism.

99. The Holy Spirit frees people to committed stewardship in relation to creation, church and community. In a world which values things more than relationships, and wealth and health more than service in love, the Holy Spirit calls us personally and corporately to live for God and for the gospel. We give thanks to God for the spiritual renewal that has been evident in the life of the worldwide church. This renewal needs to be continued and strengthened by mutual sharing with those inside and outside our churches and through the ecumenical movement.


100. "For in hope we are saved" (Rom 8:24). We who live in the Spirit live by hope. In spite of all the dangers and difficulties of the world we are moved not to despair but to joy in the promises of the Triune God. Created by God, saved by Christ, we rejoice in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of freedom and truth, the Spirit at work in history, the Spirit which continually opens the future before us.

Come, Holy Spirit, have mercy on us; renew and empower us to be your witnesses in the world!

Michael Kinnamon (ed.):World Council of Churches. Signs of the Spirit. Official Report Seventh Assembly. Canberra, Australia, 7-20 February 1991; Geneva (WCC Publications) 1991, ISBN 2-8254-1000-4; Grand Rapids (Eerdmans) 1991, ISBN 0-8028-0628-7. pp. 235 - 258


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