Sr Catherine Jones smsm
Fifty years ago, no one would have heard a Catholic bishop speaking the way we heard Archbishop John Dew earlier today,’ said Anglican Bishop Emeritus John Bluck, in summing up the Ecumenism symposium held at Johnsonville Uniting Church, on Saturday, 5 July, 2014.
Archbishop John was a keynote speaker, outlining Catholic principles of ecumenism, founded on the prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John: ‘Father … may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me’, (John 17: 20-21). Archbishop John drew on the pioneering work of the late Bishop Michael Putney to implement the call of the Second Vatican Council to become a church of dialogue and collaboration. He highlighted the deep spirituality of communion, ‘Christian unity is God’s gift … all we need to do is to open our hands to receive it.’
Other symposium speakers included Dr Terry Wall, who introduced two key documents of the World Council of Churches that point the way to the future.
The documents are The Church: towards a Common Vision; and Mission: together towards Life. Rev John Roberts spoke on the ground-breaking Anglican-Methodist covenant to work towards unity.
Sr Catherine Jones clarified the relationship between ecumenism and interfaith relations: ‘The most serious obstacle to a credible mission of the Church is the scandal of a divided Christianity. This calls all of us to a life-long ‘conversion of heart’, she said.
Looking to our ecumenical future, Bishop Bluck spoke of the importance of remembering the past, and recognising the progress we have made: ‘…we cannot look intelligently into the future without looking attentively to the past,’ he said. ‘Attentively’ was a key word as several speakers grappled with the question of why an earlier attempt to create a national council of churches in the 1980s had failed. ‘We were too confident – even strident – about what we knew, where we were going, and how we were to go about it.
Our new attempt will be built on the humility learned through this failure. It will be marked by a greater attentiveness to where the Holy Spirit is leading us to live out the unity Christ gives in the service of the world, in justice, peace-making and healing.
The gift has been given – God is just waiting for it to be received.’
Sister Catherine Jones smsm, is Chair, New Zealand Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations.