Churches finding common ground

 — June 14, 199714 juin 1997

by Gordon Legge, Calgary Herald

Calgary Roman Catholic Anna Tremblay spent a week in Montreal a year ago that energized her faith as a Christian.

She attended a week-long institute on ecumenism at the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal.

“It gave me the bug,” she says. “It was a really wonderful experience.” Next week, the institute will be in Calgary.

Tremblay, who was a member of the ecumenical committee for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, arrived thinking she would be out of place.

She soon discovered everyone was so enthusiastic about their mission to bring unity to the body of Christ, that it was impossible to feel like an outsider.

She returned and poured her heart and soul into organizing the signing of Covenant ’96, a historic agreement between the Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops in southern Alberta last fall.

The first agreement of its kind in the country, the bishops agreed to co-operate as much as possible in five key areas: moral, social, spiritual, intellectual and organizational.

The high point came when parish representatives from across the city came forward two by two and laid dozens of covenants signed by local churches at the foot of the altar table.

Since then, the implementation of Covenant ’96 has varied across the city. In some church communities, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who knows what it is. In others, like the churches in the southwest quadrant of the city, it’s becoming a living document.

Furthermore, the United Church, which was not included in the original signing, is an active participant in many activities at the community level.

When Shepherd King Lutheran rededicated their church recently, all the mainline churches were present.

The theme for the Summer Ecumenical Institute, which begins next weekend, is Covenants and Covenanting Churches.

Talking about their understanding of what covenant means, it features a cross-section of guest speakers, including an Orthodox Jew, a representative from an association of interchurch families, and a member of an international community of people who are mentally and physically challenged.

“This is not so much a looking back as a look forward,” says Tremblay. “How can we improve? How can we work together?”

Over the past 50 years the churches across Canada and around the world have been growing together in mutual appreciation and understanding, says Everett Koeller, another organizer.

“As the churches seek to implement the agreements reached with their partner churches, grass-roots ecumenism and ecumenical education is taking on increased importance,” he says. “Congregational study and implementation of the ecumenical agreements is the focus of the new `ecumenism.’ ”

After a flurry of ecumenical activity in the ’60s and ’70s, churches entered what some described as the winter of ecumenism. But Rev. Thomas Ryan, former director of the Montreal centre, notes in the most recent issue of the centre’s magazine, Ecumenism, that there have been several advances of late. They include:

– Early this year,the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops applied to the Canadian Council of Churches to become a full member;

– This summer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will vote on a proposal for full communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in American and the United Church of Christ;

– The final report of the Pentecostal-Roman Catholic dialogue on evangelization is expected this month.

Jim Wallis, in the recent issue of Sojourners magazine, says churches in the the next century will no longer operate within a narrow structure. In the future, horizontal patterns between congregations will be the norm, he says.

These new connections will be profoundly local and focused on co-operation around specific and practical issues facing communities and neighbourhoods.

Posted: June 14, 1997 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Calgary, covenant, Summer Ecumenical Institute
Transmis : 14 juin 1997 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Calgary, covenant, Summer Ecumenical Institute

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