Emphasis is on communion: Bishop Gregory Cameron

 — Jan. 30, 201330 janv. 2013

SASKATOON — Understanding the church as communion changes ecumenism, said the inaugural speaker of the new De Margerie Series on Christian Unity and Reconciliation.

A paradigm of church as a communion or “Koinonia” shifts the understanding of church from a focus on our adherence to particular doctrines, to God’s action at work in us, said Bishop Gregory Cameron, inaugural speaker of the new series held Jan. 21 at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon. The Anglican bishop of St. Asaph in Wales, Cameron was director of worldwide ecumenical relations for the Anglican Church from 2003 to 2009.

“Communion clearly implies that the church is not merely an institution or organization, it is a fellowship of those who are called together by the Holy Spirit and who in baptism, confess Christ as Lord and Saviour. They are thus fully committed to him and to one another,” asserted Cameron.

The understanding of church as communion — which is clearly expressed in the New Testament — has been rediscovered and deepened in recent decades, he described.

“The shift has come about via a new emphasis of understanding the church less as a body of confessing believers, and more as a supernatural reality brought into being by God’s grace,” he said, after emphasizing the influence of paradigms in determining our ongoing understanding of any theological concept.

The church is a gathering of people — not filled with the correct faith — but brought by God’s grace into relationship with him and therefore with each other.

The church “is a gathering of people — not filled with the correct faith — but brought by God’s grace into relationship with him and therefore with each other,” he said.

A shift from “orthodoxy” to “communion” as the governing paradigm of the church means that the initiative for the creation of the church lies with God working in Jesus Christ, Cameron stressed. “As God, the Trinity, exists in relationship, in communion, so we too are drawn into communion with God through Jesus, and therefore, into communion with one another.”

He noted that this understanding of church as communion is expressed in such Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Unitatis Redintegratio (decree on ecumenism). It has also been the understanding expressed in several dialogues, including the Anglican-Roman Catholic joint statement, The Church as Communion, and in the Anglican Orthodox theological dialogue statement, The Church of the Triune God.

This emphasis on communion brings a number of consequences to the ecumenical movement, Cameron said.

“First, we must now affirm that we belong to one another, because we belong to God. And we cannot allow ourselves to live apart. Ecumenism becomes not so much ‘prove you wrong, prove us right’ sort of endeavour as a recognizing of the common work of God in our lives,” Cameron said.

“God has made us one, and we are called to the same destiny — we journey towards God all the more effectively when we journey together,” he said.

“Secondly, if we have responded to God, it is because God has been at work in us. His Spirit has been manifested in the call to faith and in our response, and the gifts of the Spirit are evidenced among us all.”

The paradigm of church as communion leads to a spirit of “receptive ecumenism” — an attitude that looks at the gifts each tradition can offer to the other, he said.

“There is the enormous heritage of liturgy shaped in each of our churches in a different but exciting way. There are the gifts of spiritual writing, ways in which the understanding of Christian discipleship have been elaborated and explored by writers in very different contexts. There is the glorious heritage of Christian music, of art, and of all elements of the Christian patrimonies of the different traditions whereby we learn from one another.”

Allowing communion to become the paradigm of our understanding of church does not usurp or invalidate orthodoxy or the ongoing “dialogue of truth” among Christian denominations, said Cameron. “However, I do believe that it brings us back to the doctrinal space in a different way from where we started.”

The paradigm of church as communion has led Christians of different traditions to discover each other as people of faith, as people of prayer, as people in whom the Spirit of God is at work.

The paradigm of church as communion has led Christians of different traditions to discover each other as people of faith, as people of prayer, as people in whom the Spirit of God is at work, he stressed.

Communion has changed ecumenism because it has set a different agenda, it has created friends, it has opened up the vast variety of Christian heritage in different forms to one another so we can learn and grow from one another, Cameron concluded. “It has allowed us to see that we belong to one another and the ecumenical quest cannot be abandoned.”

The De Margerie Series on Christian Unity and Reconciliation has been established by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and St. Thomas More College, with plans to make it an annual event. This year, it coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Week of Prayer concluded Jan. 27 with a closing service at St. John Anglican Cathedral, with guest speaker Lutheran Bishop Cindy Halmarson.

Christians celebrate together

by Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — Representatives of a number of Christian churches gathered on a cold Sunday afternoon Jan. 20 to begin the 2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a worship service at St. Thomas Wesley United Church in Saskatoon.

Rev. Brian Ast of the United Church of Canada gave the welcome and the call to worship, while Lutheran pastor Rev. Mark Hedlin presented prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

A prayer of confession was led by Rev. Kevin McGee of St. Patrick, St. Michael and St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic parishes. “We confess that we preserve the inherited human barriers of caste, class, ethnicity, power and all things that keep Christians apart,” those gathered for the service prayed, asking God for forgiveness for acts of discrimination and disunity.

The week’s theme “What does God require of us?” is taken from Micah 6:6-8, with prayers and resources prepared by Christians in India.

Rev. Deb. Walker of the United Church of Canada read a faith testimony about a Christian Dalit woman in India, burned out of her home, who clings to her faith in the midst of suffering and persecution.

Rev. Ali Tote of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Saskatoon recalled visiting India in 2003 and described the plight of the Dalit people, living in poverty and on the margins of society, deemed “untouchable” in the caste system.

Sacred Scripture shows us how Jesus interacts with those who are rejected, Tote said, describing how he was able to witness the transformative power of the Gospel in India. “When the Dalits become Christian, how powerful that is for them. They know they can be touched, they know they can be loved; they know that they can be embraced; they know God loves them. They are no longer untouchable.”

Anglican Bishop Gregory Cameron of St. Asaph, Wales, read the Gospel about the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). In his homily, Cameron reflected on how the resurrected Jesus Christ changes the narrative that the discouraged disciples find themselves trapped in. Walking with them, breaking open the Scriptures, and breaking the bread, Jesus changes the disciples’ narrative from defeat to victory, from death to new life.

Cameron, a leader in ecumenical affairs for the Anglican Communion from 2003 to 2009, called on Christians to change the narrative of disunity and division to one of unity and reconciliation. “You and I are called to be narrative changers,” he said.

“As the Christians of Saskatoon, be bold in rewriting the narrative of this community,” Cameron said, urging his listeners to be agents of “Hesed” — the Hebrew word for unconditional love, kindness and mercy from Micah 6 about what God requires from us: “To seek justice, to love mercy (Hesed) and to walk humbly with our God.”

“Hesed is commitment, it is the readiness to go the extra mile and take on the extra task and receive others with love, joy and respect,” Cameron related. “It is the word that is used for God’s love for the world: an undying love, the love that goes the extra mile, the love that gives up an only son so that the world might be reconciled.”

Where there is injustice, loneliness, need or suffering, Christians must be “agents of Hesed to answer the needs of the world in the name of Jesus Christ,” Cameron said.

Cameron also urged the Christians of Saskatoon to work actively to rewrite the narrative of Christian disunity. “The Christian church cannot possibly proclaim the resurrection and the reconciliation of God and the world, if we cannot even be reconciled to one another,” he said. “That is the mission imperative of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. That is the mission imperative of Hesed in our Christian existence.”

Just as the Lord rewrites the narrative of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and rewrites the narrative of the Christians of India, “so the Lord says to you: be my people. Rewrite the narrative of Christian disunity into one of Hesed. Rewrite the narrative of your witness into a powerful testimony of my love,” Cameron concluded.

Rev. Jim Halmarson, a Lutheran pastor who serves at Christ Church Anglican in Saskatoon, led the prayers of intercession before the assembly prayed the Lord’s prayer together, each in their own language. The worship leaders then blessed the assembly.

Posted: Jan. 30, 2013 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=2973
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, De Margerie Series, ecclesiology, ecumenism, Gregory Cameron, koinonia
Transmis : 30 janv. 2013 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=2973
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, De Margerie Series, ecclesiology, ecumenism, Gregory Cameron, koinonia

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