Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 28, 2000
Theology students meet at Newman
National ecumenical conference examines Jesus and social justice
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Theological students from across Canada have converged at Newman Theological College for an ecumenical conference on the meaning of Jesus.
The 60 students at the conference come from Christian theological colleges and seminaries from Quebec to British Columbia. Some 12 denominations were represented at the Feb. 20-24 conference, including Anglicans, Lutherans, United and Roman Catholics.
This is the first time the conference has been held in Alberta since it began in Toronto 46 years ago.
The conference is held each February by the Canadian Theological Students Association to discuss theological issues from an ecumenical perspective. It is co-sponsored by the Canadian Churches' Forum for Global Ministries.
"The conference provides an opportunity for students from various traditions to work in an atmosphere which promotes dialogue and open communication," says the conference's brochure.
"Each year we select a theme rooted in social justice which will engage us to enter into a discussion which will hopefully lead us to put theology into practice," said local seminarian Kevin Smith, a member of the conference's national planning committee.
Keynote speakers are usually from the Third World, he said.
This year's discussion revolved around Jesus under the theme Two Thousand Years Since What? Jesus Yesterday, Today and Forever!
The keynote speaker was the Rev. Christopher Duraisingh, a theologian and minister of the Church of South India who currently teaches at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.
Participants also took part in a panel discussion on Jesus and had a chance to participate in 16 workshops on Jesus' presence in various ministries, Smith said.
This is the second conference for Smith, who is preparing for the priesthood for the Winnipeg Archdiocese. What attracted him to the event is the chance to meet with students from other churches.
"Most of the discussions here occur around the coffee table," the fourth-year student noted. "What I've discovered is that as much as the traditions are different we all have a common understanding of Jesus Christ. Through the dialogue, we all get closer to each other."
Leslie Giddings, a student at Thornloe College, an Anglican college affiliated with Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. was happy to attend.
"I wanted to hear other people's stories and experiences and share my own," Giddings said. "This is an excellent way to discern my calling (to the priesthood)."
Elaine Clark, a second-year divinity student at Huron (Anglican) College in London, Ont. had heard about previous conferences and was eager to attend one.
"I wanted to experience ecumenism in a very real way, to come together with people from different Christian traditions and explore Jesus in a broader setting."
Tom Dowd, a seminarian at the Grand Seminaire in Montreal, came to the conference for "the chance to meet and dialogue with Christians of many different backgrounds and get a new perspective."
He is happy he came and believes the experience will serve him well after he is ordained next year.
"You can't help but get into many different discussions," he said. "Discussions are very enriching. The people who are here are future theologians and future priests, or both."
How did it all begin? After the second assembly of the World Council of Churches at Evanston, Ill., in 1954, the Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM) organized a Christmas conference for theological students of the various non-Roman denominations. Roman Catholics were "unable" to attend although they were invited.
The Second Vatican Council, however, created a new atmosphere in Catholic circles. A group of theology students in Toronto decided to resurrect the Canadian Theological Student Conference.
Due to their efforts, the first ecumenical conference of Canadian theological students to include Roman Catholics was held in Toronto, at Christmas 1963.