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Geneva/St Gallen, July 1999
Greetings in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ.
On behalf of the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops Conferences (CCEE), it is our pleasure to invite the participation of your Church in what promises to be a most significant ecumenical development for Europe, at this critical time in the life of our continent and as we approach the new millennium.
With this letter you will find a copy of the draft of the proposed
CHARTA ECUMENICA FOR EUROPE.
We would like to explain fully to you the background to the CHARTA ECUMENICA, the process by which this draft has been prepared and the future stages of its formation in which your church is now invited to share.
At the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz, Austria, in 1997 on the theme Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life, the recommendations endorsed by the Assembly included:
"We recommend that the churches develop a common study document containing basic ecumenical duties and rights. From this a series of ecumenical guidelines, rules and criteria could be developed which would help the churches, those in positions of responsibility and all members, to distinguish between proselytism and Christian witness, as well as between fundamentalism and genuine faithfulness, and help to shape the relationships between majority and minority churches in an ecumenical spirit". (Recommendations for Action 1.2).
The rationale for this recommendation was that: The ecumenical fellowship is currently in a difficult situation as a result of various factors. This requires conscious counter-strategies. It seems necessary to foster an ecumenical culture of living and working together, and to create a firm basis for it.
Following the Graz Assembly, the idea of a Charta Ecumenica along these lines was discussed in both CEC and CCEE circles, as a means of furthering the reconciliation between the churches of Europe for the sake of reconciliation with Europe itself. The CEC/CCEE Joint Committee, at its meeting in Rome in February 1998, resolved on a process to initiate the project. Accordingly in October 1998 a small working group appointed by both CEC and CCEE met at Cartigny, near Geneva and after intensive discussion prepared a preliminary draft. A larger group of some 40 persons, representative of the diverse confessional and geographical constituencies of the European churches, was then convened by CEC and CCEE and met in Graz at the end of April 1999. This group subjected the preliminary draft to rigorous examination and discussion. In the light of this discussion the working group revised the first draft, resulting in the document now sent to you.
The next stage
For the next stage, which will last just over a year, all the member churches of CEC and CCEE are invited to study and discuss this draft with a view to its further revision and development. Churches and Bishops Conferences are encouraged to engage as many parishes, dioceses and church groups as possible in discussion of the Charta. It is hoped that it will not only be discussed within each church, but also between churches in each national context so that its bearing upon ecumenical life may be assessed.
Comments are invited especially in answer to the following questions:
1. How acceptable would this document as a whole prove to be to your church, as an encouragement and a challenge towards deepening ecumenical life and to sharing with other churches in a common responsibility towards Europe?
2. What particular points in the document should be revised, and in what way?.
3. What topics calling for commitment by the churches in their relations to one another and to Europe, not at present included, should be added?
4. What practical value might such a document have, and how might it actually be used, in the promotion of ecumenical life in your context and at the Europe-wide level?
We ask that such responses be sent to reach us by 1 September 2000.
Responses from CEC member churches should be sent to the CEC General Secretariat in Geneva (KEK, P.O.Box 2100, 150 route de Ferney, CH - 1211 Geneva 2), and those from the European Roman Catholic Bishops Conferences to the CCEE office in St Gallen (CCEE Secretariat, Gallusstrasse 24, CH - 9000 St. Gallen).
It is our hope that receiving and discussing this draft will stimulate further ecumenical discussion in your own context. To that end, CEC and CCEE will be very glad to assist that discussion in any way we can, for example by arranging team-visits to your church or country or sharing in events that you yourself may wish to organize on the Charta. We shall look forward to hearing any suggestions you may wish to make.
The final stages and presentation
After 1 September 2000, the working group will consider the responses received and in the light of them prepare a final text to be submitted to the CEC/CCEE Joint Committee early in 2001. If the committee considers that a text has been prepared which is likely to be welcomed by the European churches as a whole, this will be signed by the Presidents of CEC and CCEE, and presented by them to the European churches immediately after Easter 2001. The occasion will be an European Ecumenical Encounter currently being planned by CEC and CCEE to take place then.
This however will not be the end of the process but in a real sense its beginning. It is hoped that the Charta Ecumenica will be received and adopted by all churches as a declaration of their commitment to reconciliation towards one another, to common witness and service, and to peace and justice for the whole of Europe. In this way the Charta Ecumenica can provide a continuing means whereby the churches can measure their life, their growth in relationships to one another, and their common witness to the gospel of reconciliation..
May we then look forward to your cooperation in this enterprise, and in due course to receiving the response of your church.
With our prayers and good wishes,
Yours in Christ,