Forging liaisons between neighbouring congregations is goal of Covenanting 2000

 — May 16, 199816 mai 1998

Giving visible witness to Christian unity is the goal of a number of Saskatoon churches which have joined themselves together in Covenanting 2000.

The project is aimed at formalizing the ecumenical relationships already enjoyed by local neighbourhood churches. It invites and encourages congregations to enter into written agreements, or covenants, to pray and study together, to determine ways of sharing in neighbourhood ministry to the poor, evangelism, hospital and home visiting, social advocacy, and to develop opportunities to socialize together.

Nicholas Jesson, Director of the Centre for Ecumenism, was a member of the Saskatoon Council of Churches sub-committee that studied and recommended the project and says local congregations are encouraged to enter into individual partnership relationships with neighbouring congregations.

“In real terms, they develop to a relationship that expresses itself in a written document. Each neighbourhood church is encouraged to develop an agreement according to what seems appropriate to their neighbourhood and their church. It is up to them to determine what kinds of expression their covenant will take.”

Jesson says the Covenanting 2000 Commission that has been established to promote the project was deliberate in its choice of words.

“We are acutely aware that what we are talking about is a biblical term. The word, covenant, in scriptural terms, is an expression of the relationship of the community to God. It also expressed something about the commitment to God. For us, a covenant between two churches is a celebration of the shared faith, saying we are part of the same covenant relationship with God. We are part of the same baptismal community, but we are also part of the same civic community.”

According to Jesson the ways of interrelating are as varied as the churches that make up the partnerships. He points out the covenants of an inner city church would be quite different from those that suburban churches might develop.

Rev. Walter Donovan, of Calvin Goforth Presbyterian Church, is an enthusiastic supporter of the Covenanting 2000 project. His church has been twinned with Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church for a two-year period.

“I am a bit of an ecumaniac’ myself. The scripture reference in the Covenanting 2000 statement is the basis for it. Jesus calls us to unity so that the world may believe in him.”

Donovan credits the vision and work of Pope John XXIII with the development of the ecumenical movement that has worked towards promoting church unity.

“I was around when Pope John XXIII was elected. There were seven votes before he was elected. At the time, the American Cardinals and the Italian Cardinals were supporting two different candidates.

“Finally, they decided to compromise and elect this man because they thought he was old and would not be there very long, and could not do much harm. I think he was the choice of the Holy Spirit.”

Donovan says that John XXIII introduced use of the term separated brethren’ to refer to other Christians, which changed the practice of calling each other heretics’. He says that set the tone for much of the development of the ecumenical movement.

“The Roman Catholic branch of the church is the reforming church of this century. It has led in it, and without Pope John XXIII, I do not think the change would have been near what it is now. He called for an examination of the life of the church and set the example of reaching out to others.”

Donovan is keenly aware that there needs to be a common, united front among, what he calls, the different branches of the Christian church.

“Until we can say we have the good news, and that it is good news for all people, that God is our friend, together, others do not take us seriously. Philosophers question whether this is a friendly universe, given the strife and discord evidenced in the world. The sad part is that, through all the years, the church has been far too close to the establishment and being part of the problems instead of declaring that God offers to be your friend.”

He suggests that each branch of Christianity needs to be a little more humble in their attitude to truth because no one has a monopoly on it.

“When we stand at the foot of the cross, we are all on the same level. We all need the publican’s prayer, God, be merciful to me a sinner,’ My greatest challenge, and the greatest challenge of every person, is to be a member of the human race, and to remember we are all prodigal sons and daughters who need to be welcomed home.”

According to Donovan, the church needs to recognize that the enemy is not other Christians, or even other people. He says the enemy is the evil that is in everyone and the selfishness that is characteristic of human nature.

“Vern Ratzlaff uses a quotation from Tommy Douglas that I like. He said that even when we have done all that we can, politically, socially, and economically, that will not yet be the kingdom of God. I think in our attempting to live out the kingdom of God, too often, our own little individual kingdoms crowd out the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Donovan is one of the eight church leaders and representatives who has signed the Covenanting 2000 pastoral letter encouraging local inter-church initiatives. It has also been signed by leaders and representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Mennonite Ministerial, Orthodox Church of America, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches, and the United Church of Canada.

Posted: May 16, 1998 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon

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