The World Council of Churches (WCC) is planning a year of activities in 2025 to mark the 1700th anniversary of the first Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325, a key moment in the history of Christian faith and for the ecumenical journey today.
“The anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the outpouring mission of God’s triune love and the implications this has for the common witness and service of the churches, it gives us the opportunity to ask afresh with others what Nicaea means for us today.” said WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay.
The first Ecumenical Council was a gathering of Christian bishops in Nicaea, now İznik in present-day Türkiye, as the first attempt to reach consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom.
“Then, as now, the call to unity was heard within the context of a troubled, unequal, and divided world,” recalled Pillay.
At the centre of the WCC’s activities in 2025 will be the holding of the Sixth World Conference on Faith and Order.
Organized by the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order, the conference will gather church leaders and theologians to engage the many issues that challenge churches today, and to reaffirm the desire for the visible unity of the church in the midst of deep diversity and changing contexts.
World conferences on Faith and Order have been held at key moments in the history of the ecumenical movement. The first such conference was held in 1927 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Faith and Order movement was one of the streams that lead to the creation of the WCC in 1948.
In its commemoration to mark the Nicaea anniversary, the WCC is planning to focus on three main issues: faith, unity, and mission. This would be an opportunity, Pillay said, for the fellowship of churches in the WCC to reaffirm, in a creative tension, their vocation of calling one another to visible unity and of pursuing the unity of all humanity.
“At the same time,” said Pillay, “the anniversary also prompts us to reveal those practices of discipleship resulting from the association of the church with imperial powers that require intense self-reflection.”
The year 2025 also marks the 100th anniversary of the holding of the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work in Stockholm. Sometimes described as the “Nicaea of Ethics,” this was the first large-scale organized expression of the 20th-century ecumenical movement after the destruction of the First World War. Together with the Faith and Order movement, it fed into the creation of the WCC in 1948.
The Nicaea anniversary will be reflected in the plans and activities of all WCC programmes, including both thematic events and activities organized jointly with ecumenical partners, member churches, Christian World Communions, as well as theological associations and institutions.
It is planned to organize webinars on theme-related topics, encourage contributions by younger scholars and students, and invite local churches to mark the anniversary in-person or online.
“The Nicaea 2025 celebration will therefore create an opportunity to foster the idea that the churches are called to nurture an ecumenical theological vision that is dialogical, mutually enriching, and resourceful for the Pilgrimage for Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity that was mandated by the WCC’s 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe in 2022,” said Pillay.