SEI 2009: Formation of Catholics on unity still ‘severely lacking’

 — June 25, 200925 juin 2009

This article originally appeared in the Prairie Messenger, June 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

SASKATOON – Four panelists reflected on the state of the ecumenical movement during a Summer Ecumenical Institute organized by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, June 2 – 5 in Saskatoon.

The churches and their leadership need a new conversion to Christian unity, said Rev. Bernard de Margerie, founder of the Prairie Centre. “The journey has become too long, too heavy, and light has dimmed.”

The centre was founded in 1984 because the formation of Roman Catholics about the need for Christian unity was severely lacking. “And so it has stayed,” he said. “There are too many other ideas, too many other priorities, too many other teachings” drawing energy away from Christian reconciliation.

“The command to go reconcile with your brother or sister is higher than the command to worship in church, so says the Lord. If you’ve got a problem, leave your church service and go do your reconciliation first,” said de Margerie, adding that he is not giving up hope nor his “work in the vineyard.”

Rev. Sandra Beardsall, professor of church history and ecumenics at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, said she has seen an increasing desire among Christians to live, work and minister together in their daily work. “Increasingly I meet Christians for whom the church of the future is an ecumenical one, and not just superficially, but sharing a building and resources, worship and life, and ministry personnel.”

At the same time, Beardsall expressed concern for a decline in interest in the ecumenical movement among members of the United Church of Canada. She described the failure of union efforts with the Anglican Church in 1975, after enormous spiritual energy was poured into the effort. “That really took the wind out of our sails.”

A United Church statement on “Membership, ministry and human sexuality” in 1988 affirmed that “all persons who profess faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of their sexual orientation, are eligible to be considered for ordered ministry.” This opened the doors to the possibility of blessing same-sex marriages, and it seemed to bring about a cooling in ecumenical dialogue. In turn, “many United Church members have become sort of cavalier about their church’s ecumenical relationships.”

However, Beardsall stressed that “we don’t enter into dialogue because we already agree, but because Jesus has thrown us together.”

Panelist Ralph Shidlowsky reflected on his experience with the ministerial association in Rosthern, which has taken practical steps in shared prayer and service, “making Christian unity look like something,” he said.

Rev. Amanda Currie, pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in Saskatoon, commented on ecumenism not being a priority for struggling mainline denominations. Because of her marriage to a Roman Catholic, however, Currie said she has come to experience a profound yearning for Christian unity.

“I have been rediscovering sacraments and liturgy,” she said, “and I long for the time when people in my church will take that up.”

Not knowing even their own traditions, many young people simply have no longing for greater unity, because they have no idea that they are separated.

“They don’t see that denomination really matters,” Currie said. People must understand their own tradition and its gifts before they can experience the longing for greater sharing in the gifts of other denominations.

After eight years of marriage, she said, a Catholic church “is no longer a foreign place. Now, it’s another home. But it takes a long time to get to that point.”

Posted: June 25, 2009 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, Summer Ecumenical Institute
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, Summer Ecumenical Institute

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