Just spent a wonderful weekend helping host a visit to Perth by Professor Paul Murray of Durham University. “Receptive Ecumenism” is his forte. It is about opening heart and mind across the traditions that identify the diversity of the Christian story yet also divide and fragment its unity. We stand at a time in history where correctives such as programmes, councils and committees seem to lack energy and impetus. The spirit of receptive hospitality, invitation and immersion in the possibility of enrichment by the other is stirring. Great stories, examples and possibilities.
We can try and create events that proscribe the words of Jesus’ deepest and most intimate prayer. We set up councils and events and programmes to “promote” Christian unity. This is good and necessary work, even when frustrations put stumbling blocks in the way.
It is not through the structures we create, however, but it is in the relationships we form in working through our difficulties and differences of perspective that we discover the unity we seek.
Jesus must have known this when he broke all human resources rules by putting together so many opposing personalities on his original team of twelve. Fishermen and tax-collectors, zealots and conservatives, idealists and pragmatists. How was he ever going to get them heading in the same direction?
Yet here is the confidence of his prayer “… so that they may be one, as we are one…” He knew something about the magnetic, melting power of the application of the kind of love that emanates from the heart of the Creator.
Great celebration of Edinburgh 2010 in Perth today. 100 years ago missionary organisations came together in Scotland in the recognition that Christian mission could only advance with a united front. The modern ecumenical movement was born. We celebrated at St Peter’s & Emmaus (a combined Uniting Church/Anglican parish) with the help of choirs from local Indonesian and Korean congregations, a reading from Matthew 28 in Aramaic (courtesy of the Syrian Orthodox Church) and a challenging message from the Anglican Dean of Perth, the Very Rev’d John Shepherd.