Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 23, 2006
Churches walk laborious path to full unity
Ecumenism calls for acting locally, thinking globally
By BILL GLEN
"I want to strive towards Christian unity that accepts the diversity within the Christian faith."
- Pastor Gerhard Redekop
Services like this can help unite Christians, Redekop said. It took centuries for denominations to be where they are and he suggests it would be načve to think unity can be achieved overnight. What needs to happen is to continue the journey and celebrate together.
"We do not appreciate each other enough," he said. "We need to think globally and do things locally."
Hammond cited Edmonton's Inner City Pastoral Ministry as one example of an ecumenical initiative.
Over its more than 25 years, the ministry has had United Church leadership along with Lutheran, Anglican and Catholics.
"This is where you see a mixture of Christians - some ordained and some not ordained - all working together," Hammond said. "They have been able to branch out to their own parishes and invite them to bring sandwiches every week. In this sense, the whole Christian community is engaged in a single endeavour.
"The Outdoor Way of the Cross is another example where Christians pray publicly to raise awareness of poverty and homelessness."
There is clarity regarding many Church's positions on, for example, sacramental questions or an approach to the Bible. However, sometimes the clarity shows what keeps Christians apart and what would have to be done to bring us together, Hammond said.
Authority structures within churches and how the authority should be exercised can cause barriers. What is biblical or what were the intentions of the disciples establishing the Church are questions that remain deeply rooted in each denomination.
"At the same time, what has been accomplished is a networking of professional people and grassroots folks working together in different activities and apostolates as a mixed group of Christians. People are educating themselves and getting involved with social issues - even praying for Christian unity - sometimes with and without the sanction of the Church," Hammond said.
"This has created an ecumenism of life, as Pope John Paul used to say. Aside from what is going on in the theology schools or in the official dialogues between the churches, there are Christians getting together on a level of friendship and faith practice, saying they might not agree on eucharistic theology, but they need to be here together to feed the poor or clothe the naked."
Hammond noted, "The council of churches in Edmonton has been strong for years. These are people dedicated to ecumenism. But just our willingness alone will not accomplish unity. We are dealing with real lives and real traditions developed over centuries.
"How do we move beyond it? In some ways, we have to go back, recognize the problems and then make amends."
The more closely official Church dialogues are connected to grassroots, multi-denominational initiatives, the more visible full Christian unity will be, Hammond said.
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