Liturgical Movement, III: Ecumenical Convergences

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Efforts at ecumenical liturgical cooperation began in 1937 when the Edinburgh Conference on Faith and Order established a Commission on Ways of Worship, whose work has continued since the formation of the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam in 1948 through various theological commissions. The reports and papers of these commissions have covered a wide range of topics, including sacramental theology; the relation of word and sacrament in worship; the meaning of priesthood; the significance of Christian Initiation; and the relationship between liturgy and culture. Together, they have squarely faced the often divisive issues of eucharistic presence and sacrifice. Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians have often made significant contributions to these dialogues.

The Church of South India offers another example. Formed in 1947 from Anglican, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Methodist churches, the Church of South India published a first edition of its liturgy in 1950 with the title An Order for the Lord's Supper or Holy Eucharist ; it has undergone subsequent revisions. It is an interesting rite precisely from an ecumenical perspective.

Following upon the ecumenical initiatives of Vatican Council II, the consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium ) invited observers from other traditions to be present in the work of reforming the calendar and lectionary. Moreover, the international commission on english in the liturgy (ICEL), entrusted with the preparation of authorized English translations of the new Latin liturgical documents, was assisted in its work by consultants from other churches to review proposed translations from an ecumenical viewpoint. One of the more important examples of ecumenical liturgical cooperation has been the work of the international consultation on common texts (ICET), a cooperative drafting of modern English versions of frequently used liturgical texts by representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the United States. Begun in 1969, this group of 25 scholars in regular consultation with the bodies represented, both produced and revised texts of the Lord's Prayer, the Creeds, and the ordinary chants of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours, texts which have been widely adopted in recent liturgical reforms. When ICET dissolved in 1975, a new group, the english language liturgical commission (ELLC) was subsequently established to continue ecumenical efforts at common liturgical texts. In addition to these official bodies, the international meeting of societas liturgica was a forum for Catholic and other Christian liturgical theologians and scholars to meet and collaborate in research and other projects.

Perhaps the greatest ecumenically liturgical document of the century came in 1982 at the historic meeting of the World Council of Churches at Lima, Peru. It was there that the Faith and Order Commission's statement, "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry," was agreed upon and accepted by all the member churches represented. Such agreement on issues of baptismal participation; eucharist and sacrifice; and church ministry would have been impossible back in 1937 when the Ways of Worship Commission first met at Edinburgh, but the historical and theological insights of the liturgical movements in all the Christian churches made such doctrinal accord possible. It was precisely the fact that scholars used the same sources for their liturgical revisions that the mainline Christian churches developed a marvelous unity regarding liturgical structure, both in Eucharistic celebrations and the Liturgy of the Hours, often using the same or very similar texts, thanks to the efforts of ICET and then ELLC.

As ecumenical liturgical cooperation continued to be more the norm than the exception, increasing numbers of Protestant churches are asking for a more frequent (e.g. weekly) celebration of the Eucharist, while Catholics slowly rediscovered noneucharistic forms of liturgical prayer (e.g. the Liturgy of the Hours) for parochial use. Catholics also recovered the importance of biblically based preaching; congregational singing; and a revival of various liturgical ministries long a mainstay in Protestant churches. The Common Lectionary also held great promise; despite the sad division at the table of the Eucharist, there was no reason why the churches needed to remain divided at the table of God's Word. Indeed, increasing numbers of Christian churches read the same lessons on Sunday morning, and pastoral commentaries that assist preachers in their preparation such as the "Homily Service" published by the ecumenical Liturgical Conference (Silver Spring, Md.) directed their reflections accordingly. On the experiential level, liturgical cooperation was modelled in the prayer rituals organized and hosted by the ecumenical community of Taizé, France. Founded in 1949 and including brothers from a variety of Christian traditions in Europe and North America, Taizé united Christians of many different churches in ecumenical rituals and in the lived experience of Christian community. This was true, not only for the thousands of young people who flocked to Taizé each year for weeklong experiences of prayer and meditation, but also for the the many ecumenical experiences of "Taizé Prayer," or "Prayer around the Cross" scheduled in parishes throughout Europe and in North and South America.

The United States had more academically qualified liturgists than any other country representing a wide variety of churches and traditions, and as a result, in 1973, the ecumenical North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) was founded by John Gallen, S.J. By 1999 NAAL had grown to over 400 members from Canada and the United States. At the 1999 meeting in Vancouver,B.C., a campaign was launched to seek out qualified candidates from Mexico to better represent its North American identity. The Academy also became interfaith, and enjoyed a growing number of Jewish liturgical scholars, the first of whom was Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, Professor at Hebrew Union College, New York.

On the international level, Societas Liturgica was founded through the initiative of Dutch Reformed pastor Wiebe Vos, when in 1962, he launched Studia Liturgica "an international, ecumenical quarterly for liturgical research and renewal." In 1965, Vos called a meeting of 25 liturgists from Europe and North America in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Chaired by J. J. von Allmen, the group discussed Christian Initiation and agreed to found Societas, "an associaton for the promotion of ecumenical dialogue on worship based on solid research, with the perspective of renewal and unity." The first meeting took place in 1967 at Driebergen, Holland, where Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium was studied, along with recent liturgical work completed by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council. Although the over 400 members remained largely from Europe and North America, there was growing interest among the membership to attract new members from Asia, Africa, and South America. Societas continued to meet every two years with a particular topic chosen for each congress. The 1999 meeting held in Kottayam, Kerala, India, under the leadership of President Jacob Vellian (SyroMalabar), addressed the topic of "Liturgical Theology." Proceedings of the biannual meeting were published in Studia Liturgica.

Bibliography: t. f. best, and d. heller, eds. So We Believe, So We Pray: Koinonia in Worship, Faith and Order Paper No. 171 (Geneva 1995). t. f. best, and d. heller, eds. Eucharistic Worship in Ecumenical Contexts: The Lima Liturgy and Beyond (Geneva 1998). g. lathrop, "New Pentecost or Joseph's Britches? Reflections on the History and Meaning of the Worship ordo in the Megachurches," Worship, 72 (Nov. 1998) 521538. g. lathrop, "The Worship Books in Mutual Affirmation and Admonition: Liturgy as a Source for LutheranReformed Unity," Reformed Liturgy and Worship, 21 (2) (1997) 8892. f. senn, Christian Liturgy (Minneapolis 1997). world council of churches, faith and order commission, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (Geneva 1982).

[t. j. talley/

k. f. pecklers]

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Liturgical Movement, III: Ecumenical Convergences

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