Friday, October 23, 2009

Receptive Ecumenism

One of the most encouraging aspects of my participation at the recent WCC Faith and Order Commission meeting was the evidence I encountered in the form of paper presentations, discussions, and informal conversations that "receptive ecumenism" as an approach to ecumenical engagement is gaining traction. In a glossary appendix to my forthcoming book Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity, I define "receptive ecumenism" as follows:

Receptive ecumenism—An approach to ecumenical dialogue according to which the communions in conversation with one another seek to identify the distinctive gifts that each tradition has to offer the other and which each could receive from the other; given expression by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical on ecumenism *Ut Unum Sint (“That They May Be One”): “Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some ways it is always an ‘exchange of gifts’” (§ 28). Some *interconfessional dialogues, such as that between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council, have worked toward concrete proposals for the exchange of ecclesial gifts.

Paul D. Murray, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University (UK), has been one of the major voices advocating and exploring the possibilities of receptive ecumenism, especially through his leadership of the ongoing Receptive Ecumenism project at the Centre for Catholic Studies. A virtual version of the Centre's January 2009 conference on "Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning: Learning to Be Church Together" is online (click on conference title above).

I close this post with the Centre's brief explanation of receptive ecumenism:

The essential principle behind Receptive Ecumenism is that the primary ecumenical responsibility is to ask not “What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?” but “What do we need to learn from them?” The assumption is that if all were asking this question seriously and acting upon it then all would be moving in ways that would both deepen our authentic respective identities and draw us into more intimate relationship.

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