a1 Professor and Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff Law School
The ecumenical movement seeks to achieve Christian unity through greater visible communion between the separated (or divided) institutional Churches of Christianity worldwide. The practice of ecumenism and ecumenical theology have developed principally at the doctrinal and theological levels. The juridical instruments of Churches have not thus far played a central role in ecumenical discourse – they are occasionally seen as the ‘missing link’ in ecumenism. This article examines for the first time, in a wide comparative compass, the treatment of ecumenism in the juridical instruments of separated Christian traditions and their institutional Churches worldwide. It proposes that these instruments should have a more prominent place in ecumenical practice and theology in so far as they tell us much about the scope of both the commitment of Churches to and their participation in the ecumenical enterprise. Juridical instruments define what ecclesial communion is possible and what is not, either enabling or restricting the development of greater visible communion between separated Churches in the quest for Christian unity. As such, this ‘juridical ecumenism’ offers both a theoretical and a practical framework for the global transformation of ecumenism to complement but not replace the current dominance of the doctrinal and theological focus in contemporary ecumenical method and practice.
(Online publication April 16 2012)