Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moltmann on ecumenism revisted

In a comment on a previous post on Jürgen Moltmann's reflections on the modern ecumenical movement, Stefanie Riley--a student at Campbell University Divinity School serving on the ministerial staff of the First Baptist Church of Wilmington, NC--posed a question I thought worth pulling into a main post. Stefanie's question concerned

" of the church's greatest fears in engaging in ecumenical dialogue: 'How do we maintain our own identity through our distinct heritage if we are compelled to accept the approaches utilized in other traditions as valid?' I would be interested to think further on the differences between the concepts of 'tradition or heritage' and that of 'origin'."

To which I replied:

It's possible to associate "tradition or heritage" with a commitment to remain in continuity with it and "origin" with a point of departure with which one doesn't necessarily maintain ongoing connections. But rather than thinking about ecumenical dialogue as something that makes us "compelled to accept the approaches utilized in other traditions as valid," I prefer to think of it as an opportunity for two things: first, for an earnest contestation of the faith in which all parties care enough about the truth disclosed in Jesus Christ that they are willing to contest their different understandings of it en route to a clarification that enables greater unity in the truth; and second, for an exchange of ecclesial gifts in which our tradition/heritage/orgin is seen as something that has preserved some aspect of the catholicity of the church that the rest of the church needs in order to be fully catholic, and at the same time is seen as our standpoint within the whole church from which we are able to receive the aspects of the church's catholicity that have been preserved in other traditions.

Stefanie is attending a Theological Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann conference next month, after which maybe she'll be able to share with us Moltmann's response to her question.

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