Professor Emeritus, Alumni join Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation

28-31 May 2019 • Contookook, NH

Alumni from St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVOTS) represented the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] at the 98th Session of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.

The gathering, held at the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center, Contookook, NH, May 28-31, 2019, was co-chaired by His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston and His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, NJ. The participants—eighteen theological scholars of varying disciplines—contributed to discussions on pastoral, theological, and practical matters.

Laura Wachsmuth graduated cum laude with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, with a commendation for service to the community.Laura Wachsmuth graduated cum laude with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, with a commendation for service to the community.Recent SVOTS graduate Laura Wachsmuth, the Class of 2019 salutatorian, was invited to be a “steward” at the Consultation’s spring meeting in part because of her interest in Orthodox-Catholic relations. Laura attended a Roman Catholic Seminary in Oregon for a year prior to enrolling at St. Vladimir’s.

“It was an invaluable experience for me to see this dialogue in action,” said Laura. “I was struck by the community of friendship that has developed among the Consultation members over the years. These friendships have helped create an atmosphere where difficult, complicated, and controversial topics can be broached.

Other SVOTS alumni in attendance included His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas, the South, and the Bulgarian Diocese; and Dr. Paul Meyendorff, the Seminary’s Father Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology, Emeritus.

"This theological consultation, the longest-lasting Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, has issued a number of significant agreed statements, including on baptism, the eucharist, marriage, and most recently on the laity,” said Dr. Meyendorff. “Meeting regularly since 1965, the group has continued its work unimpeded by the conflicts that at times hindered the progress of the official international dialogue.”

SVOTS Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Meyendorff (second from far right) has remained active in ecumenical dialogues since his retirement from the Seminary in 2016.SVOTS Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Meyendorff (second from far right) has remained active in ecumenical dialogues since his retirement from the Seminary in 2016.“On a personal level, it has brought me into contact with leading Orthodox and Catholic theologians, which has served as an extension of my tenure at St. Vladimir's."

Meyendorff has remained active in ecumenical dialogues and gatherings since his retirement from SVOTS in 2016, and he has represented the OCA at previous North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultations. He has participated in the Faith and Order Commission of both the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). His ecumenical work dovetails with his responsibilities as an advisor to the Department of External Affairs of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), a position he has held since 2000. Meyendorff is also a charter member of the St. Irenaeus Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, which just published a significant statement on primacy and conciliarity, entitled "Serving Communion.” The statement is included in a recent volume of the St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly (SVTQ), Vol. 63, No. 1, 2019.

During the Theological Consultation, participants discussed an unofficial international Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue, the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, and considered one of this Dialogue’s statements on primacy and synodality. Additionally, participants examined the issue of mixed Orthodox-Catholic marriages and made final revisions to a statement titled “Vocation and Mission of the People of God.”

On Thursday, May 30, the Consultation joined the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, co-chaired by Metropolitan Methodios and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. The two bodies met to discuss mixed marriage, reflect on synodality in the Church, and consider interchurch relations between and within their respective traditions.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation was founded in 1965 and is sponsored by the Committee for Ecumenical Relations of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Reports from past Consultations are available online.

Sections of this article have been reprinted from
Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center