Learning from other churches

Biblical texts

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  1 Co 12:4-7

Pope Francis has called on the local churches to involve the other churches at all levels in their preparations for the World Synod. They have often in their history preserved the synodal character of the Church better than the Catholic Church, which has very strongly emphasized hierarchical structures. We can learn a lot from their strengths and weaknesses.

  1. In the Orthodox Churches, synodal practice in accordance with the tradition of the Fathers has continued and is still alive today, e.g. the practice of a permanent synod to resolve liturgical, juridical and practical issues. A weakness of Orthodoxy is the close ties between the Church and the State, which exerts influence on ecclesiastical life.

2 In the Anglican Communion, synodal practice has remained a constant practise at all levels – local, national and supranational. It creates a synergy between the legislative authority of synods, in which all members of God’s people participate, and the executive power of bishops.

  1. One cause of the Reformation was abuse of power by church authorities. At that time, it was the selling of indulgences and the corruption of the clergy; today it is sexual abuse. The Reformers rightly emphasized the universal priesthood of all baptized and the participation of the laity in decision-making processes. The absence of a final authority and the one-sided emphasis on individual “freedom of the Christian” led to a fragmentation of Protestantism. The synodal process should be aware of this danger.

4 The rapid spread of charismatic churches, especially in the global South, shows that the pastoral ministry of the traditional churches does not meet the religious needs of many people. What attracts young people to them in particular is a form of worship in the language and music of today’s culture, the experience of a living community and the freedom of individuals to bring in their charisms.

The Synodality of the Church and “the principle of equality between the hierarchical and charismatic gifts in the Church” were rediscovered in the Second Vatican Council and embodied in new pastoral structures at all levels: regular synods of bishops, national and regional episcopal conferences, pastoral councils in dioceses and parishes.
The synodal process has several goals:

– To infuse these existing structures with a missionary spirit so that they are not only concerned with internal issues of the Church but know themselves to be primarily responsible for the mission of the Church in the world.

– To involve lay people in the decision-making processes not only as advisors but as co-responsible.

– To see decision-making not as a dispute of opinions, but as the common search for God’s will for us today.


We stand before you, Holy Spirit, as we gather in your name.
We are weak and sinful; let us not spread disorder,
let not ignorance lead us on a false path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find our unity in you, so that we may walk together towards eternal life
and not deviate from the path of truth and what is right.

 African Proverb „Ba alu pamvu siri ru“ (Lugbara: Uganda) The footprint of one person is very small.