The Canberra Statement
The text below, a product of the WCC (Faith and Order Commission),
was adopted by the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in
Canberra, Australia in 1991.
1.1 The purpose of God according to Holy Scripture is to gather the whole of
creation under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in whom, by the power of the Holy
Spirit, all are brought into communion with God (Eph. 1). The Church is the
foretaste of this communion with God and with one another. The grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit enable
the one Church to live as sign of the reign of God and servant of the reconciliation
with God, promised and provided for the whole creation. The purpose of the
Church is to unite people with Christ in the power of the Spirit, to manifest
communion in prayer and action and thus to point to the fullness of communion
with God, humanity and the whole creation in the glory of the kingdom.
1.2 The calling of the Church is to proclaim reconciliation and provide
healing, to overcome divisions based on race, gender, age, culture, colour
and to bring all people into communion with God. because of sin and the
misunderstanding of the diverse gifts of the Spirit, the churches are painfully
divided within themselves and among each other. The scandalous divisions
damage the credibility of their witness to the world in worship and service.
Moreover, they contradict not only the Church's witness but also its very
1.3 We acknowledge with gratitude to God that in the ecumenical movement
the churches walk together in mutual understanding, theological convergence,
common suffering and common prayer, shared witness and service, and they
draw close to one another. This has allowed them to recognize a certain
degree of communion already existing between them. This is indeed the fruit
of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of all who believe
in Christ Jesus and who struggle for visible unity now. Nevertheless, churches
have failed to draw the consequences for their life from the degree of
communion they have already experienced and the agreements already achieved.
They have remained satisfied to co-exist in division.
2.1 The unity of the Church to which we are called is a koinonia given
and expressed in the common confession of the apostolic faith; a common
sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in
one eucharistic fellowship; a common life in which members and ministries
are mutually recognized and reconciled; and a common mission witnessing
to all people to the gospel of God's grace and serving the whole of creation.
The goal of the search for full communion is realized when all the churches
are able to recognize in one another the one, holy, catholic and apostolic
church in its fullness. This full communion will be expressed on the local
and the universal levels through conciliar forms of life and action. In
such communion churches are bound in all aspects of their life together
at all levels in confessing the one faith and engaging in worship and witness,
deliberation and action.
2.2 Diversities which are rooted in theological traditions, various
cultural, ethnic or historical contexts are integral to the nature of communion;
yet there are limits to diversity. Diversity is illegitimate when, for
instance, it makes impossible the common confession of Jesus Christ as
God and Saviour the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8); salvation
and the final destiny of humanity as proclaimed in Holy Scripture and preached
by the apostolic community. In communion diversities are brought together
in harmony as gifts of the Holy Spirit, contributing to the richness and
fullness of the Church of God.
3.1 Many things have been done and many remain to be done on the way
towards the realization of full communion. Churches have reached agreements
in bilateral and multilateral dialogues which are already bearing fruit,
renewing their liturgical and spiritual life and their theology. In taking
specific steps together the churches express and encourage the enrichment
and renewal of Christian life, as they learn from one another, work together
for justice and peace and care together for God's creation.
3.2 The challenge at this moment in the ecumenical movement as a reconciling
and renewing moment towards full visible unity for the Seventh Assembly of the
WCC to call all churches:
- to recognize each other's baptism on the basis of the BEM document;
- to move towards the recognition of the apostolic faith as expressed through the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the life and witness of one another;
- on the basis of convergence in faith in baptism, eucharist and ministry
to consider, wherever appropriate, forms of eucharistic hospitality; we gladly
acknowledge that some who do not observe these rites share in the spiritual
experience of life in Christ;
- to move towards a mutual recognition of ministries;
- to endeavour in word and deed to give common witness to the gospel as a
- to recommit themselves to work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation,
linking more closely the search for sacramental communion of the Church with
the struggles for justice and peace;
- to help parishes and communities express in appropriate ways locally the
degree of communion that already exists.
4.1 The Holy Spirit as the promoter of koinonia (2 Cor. 13:13) gives to those
who are still divided the thirst and hunger for full communion. We remain restless
until we grow together according to the wish and prayer of Christ that those
who believe in him may be one (John 17:21). In the process of praying, working
and struggling for unity, the Holy Spirit comforts us in pain, disturbs us when
we are satisfied to remain in our division, leads us to repentance and grants
us joy when our communion flourishes.
Commission on Faith and Order
World Council of Churches
150 Route de Ferney
CH 1211 Geneva 2
tel. (+41 22) 791 6338, fax (+41 22) 791 0361
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