Ecumenical Vision Statement
Approved by the 212th General Assembly (2000)
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Together with Christians in every time and place, Presbyterians confess belief in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The Nicene Creed’s marks of the church are not accomplishments of human performance or objects of human striving, as if the church depends on our efforts. The unity of the church is a gift of its Lord. The source and the shape of the gift are proclaimed in Scripture: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
By God’s grace, the holy, catholic, and apostolic church is one. And yet the one church is divided, fragmented into distinct traditions, communions, and denominations that live in various degrees of estrangement from one another. In turn, each part of the church embodies tensions in its own life that threaten to divide the one church yet again. These divisions do not eradicate the church’s unity, but they obscure it, impairing common witness and weakening common mission.
The one church is not theological abstraction; the divided church is not a sociological necessity. The unity of the church is both God’s real gift and God’s effective calling. Thus, the one church of Jesus Christ, established by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to break down dividing walls of hostility that separate churches from one another and to build up the fullness of communion that binds churches together in common faith and witness.
As an expression of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has never been able to live in comfortable detachment from other churches. Instead, we search diverse patterns of the visible unity of Christ’s church, seeking concord in essential things: faith, sacraments, mission, and ministry. Such forms of communion are both signs of the church’s unity and means by which the church’s unity is achieved.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seeks patterns of visible unity in a variety of ways. We enter councils of churches such as the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches, pursuing oneness in faith, order, and mission. We establish relationships of full communion with other churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ, embodying relationships of mutual responsibility and mutual accountability. We explore possibilities for living out common faith and witness in covenant communion within communities of churches such as Churches Uniting in Christ. We participate in mission globally with ecumenical church partners, and in mission nationally with regional councils, local associations, and neighboring congregations. We engage in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with other churches and traditions in order to remove barriers of misunderstanding and establish common affirmations. We work for the reunion of separate churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed family. We reach out to unfamiliar traditions and associations of churches.
In God’s grace the one church has been given gifts to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in gratitude for God’s grace and mercy, commits itself to faithful use of God’s gifts in search for the fuller expression of the visible unity to which we are called.