Conciliar fellowship: A model of church unity. The emergence and development of conciliarity in the World Council of Churches

Aram Keshishian, Fordham University


"Conciliar fellowship" became a key concept in the World Council of Churches' discussion on church unity during the last two decades. It meant an essential feature of church's nature, a pattern of her common life and the representative gathering of the one church. I tried to develop it as a model of church unity. As a background of this study, I outlined the ecumenical debate of the concept in its major phases and aspects. I considered the local church as the ground and context of conciliar fellowship since the latter is the communion of local churches. The church is a eucharistic gathering in a given place. It is through the eucharist that the church expresses her unity and catholicity. It is through the eucharist and the bishop that a local church enters into communion with other local churches. The eucharist is the core of conciliar fellowship. The sacramental fellowship is a pre-condition for conciliar fellowship. Conciliar fellowship is not a static reality; it is a becoming reality. It is "a way forward", "a goal" and a "vision" that the churches are called to seek. The present ecumenical fellowship is a "pre-conciliar fellowship" since it lacks eucharistic communion and unity in faith. However, it can be considered a framework and an instrument for a full conciliar fellowship. In spite of many ecclesiological obstacles, the conciliar fellowship is possible. The growing ecumenical togetherness and joint action in many areas particularly on local level, should gradually lead the churches to agreement on baptism, eucharist and ministry as well as consensus in apostolic faith as the ground of conciliar fellowship. The generally accepted idea that first unity and then conciliar fellowship, although ecclesiologically valid, practically is not feasible and viable. The consensus-building convergence process and the development of decision-making common structures are inter-dependent and complementary and, as such, they have to go together. Conciliar fellowship is a call to the churches to be faithful to the very being of the church as a koinonia and the very nature of unity as being the communion of local churches. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

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Recommended Citation

Keshishian, Aram, "Conciliar fellowship: A model of church unity. The emergence and development of conciliarity in the World Council of Churches" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8917237.