That was the title of the episode of Perspectives: The Weekly Edition, which aired Firday night on Salt + Light TV. Host Pedro Guevera Mann invited some representatives of the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith & Witness to discuss the topic, and I was privileged to be interviewed along with my colleagues Dr. Mary Marrocco, and the Rev. Dr. Gilles Mongeau, SJ.
It is a huge topic, and we didn’t have nearly enough time, but it is wonderful that Salt + Light TV is showing an interest in ecumenism and trying to generate some discussion among their largely Catholic audience.
There isn’t an overwhelming interest in ecumenism on the grassroots level these days. It was interesting to hear about why this is the case in Catholic circles. In spite of clear teaching from Vatican II and subsequent magisterial documents like John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint, many Catholics are still under the impression that ecumenism means bringing protestants “back to Rome.” On the protestant side it would seem as if Christians are becoming more “ecumenical” in that denominational differences are no longer as signficant as they used to be. Many people don’t really care at all about what denomination they belong to, as long as they feel at home in their local congregation. But I think that it is precisely this dismissal of the significance of denominational differences that can undermine serious discussion about Christian unity. If our differences don’t matter at all, then there is no reason to try to overcome them!
Still, the current situation is preferable to the hostilities of past generations. And even if there is not an overwhelming interest in “official ecumenism” via bodies like the Canadian Council of Churches, there is, it seems to me, a lot of interest in “informal ecumenism,” as seen in some current trends in worship and spirituality (such as the growing interest in spiritual direction among evangelicals).
Salt + Light decided to do a show on ecumenism because this is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs from January 18 to 25 each year. This year, the week of prayer is focused on the church in Jerusalem, and the resources for the week (which can be found here) were prepared by Chrisitans from Jerusalem. The theme is “One in the Apostles’ Teaching,” taken from Acts 2:42.
I’ll leave you with my favourite prayer from this year’s Week of Prayer service:
may your life-giving Spirit
move in every human heart,
that the barriers that divide us may crumble,
and hatreds cease,
and that, with divisions healed,
your people might live in justice and peace.
We pray to the Lord.