Washington, DC (BWA)-- Teams representing the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople held exploratory talks on the island of Crete that could lead to the commencement of formal international dialogue between Baptist and Orthodox Christians.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate enjoys the status of "first among equals" among Eastern Orthodox prelates, and is widely regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.
The two teams, which met from October 30 to November 2, reviewed earlier discussions between the BWA and the Orthodox Church and proposed that any international dialogue should be aimed, among other things, at increasing mutual understanding and knowledge of each other; the exploring of a common witness to the world; and the encouragement of common action on ethical and moral issues.
"The aim of the Baptist-Orthodox dialogue is to respond to the Lord's prayer to his Father for his disciples 'that they may all be one ... that the world may believe' (John 17:21)," said BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, who led the BWA delegation. "Facing this challenge today, we believe that we should continue to explore our common ground in biblical teaching, apostolic faith and tradition as well as practical Christian witness, together with our remaining differences."
Callam expressed the hope that Baptists and Orthodox will be able to commit to as wide a dialogue as possible, in truth, love, mutual respect and transparency.
Participants left the meeting with the understanding that the Ecumenical Patriarch would examine the proposal developed by the Crete meeting and determine whether to remit it to the Orthodox Churches with a view to securing their participation in the proposed Baptist/Orthodox international dialogue.
The delegations shared fellowship with the Orthodox community in Crete as guests of His Eminence Archbishop Irenaos of Crete.
Members of the BWA team were Callam; Steven Harmon, adjunct professor of Christian Theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in the state of North Carolina in the United States; and Paul Fiddes, professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
The Orthodox team comprised Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and professor of Orthodox theology and canon law; George Tsetsis, a former permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches; and Konstantinos Kenanidis, general director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
It is expected that a decision on whether formal dialogue will take place will be made by March 2012.