Pastor Dietrich Werner was a participant at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which met in Karlsruhe, Germany, in August–September 2022.
In a review of the gathering, he sets out the context in which the assembly took place, the main issues discussed, and perspectives for the future.
The article argues that the assembly in Karlsruhe demonstrated that the ecumenical movement still is alive and can offer enormous potential in a world at the brink of a new East–West divide, facing a significant weakening of multilateral structures of cooperation, and even the threat of nuclear war. Moreover, the Karlsruhe assembly demonstrated that on subjects such as the Middle East, peace ethics, and nationalism, and in the deep commitment and spiritual life of its participants, the ecumenical movement is vital and vibrant and represents a countercultural force against rigid nationalisms.
On Sunday 21 May 2023 Rev Dr Robert Gribben, a former General Secretary of the Victorian Council of Churches, preached at Highfield Road Uniting Church on 'Ascension and Unity'.
His sermon commented on Isaiah’s ringing denunciation of false worship, the Ascension narrative in Acts and the Gospel as found in John 17: 1 – 11. Dr Gribben noted that the Gospel was a plea from Jesus’ lips that his future disciples should be one in a unity which is modelled on that between God the Father and God the Son, promised and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Not just a
unity enjoying some friendly fellowship or borrowing a bit of each other’s liturgy or spirituality.
Click here for notes of his sermon.
As Victorian Council of Churches executive officer, Sandy Boyce (pictures) aims to continue ensuring the organisation is heard, and says a 1952 ecumenical statement offers a guide to how churches can come together in that space.
In the Third Faith and Order Conference in Lund, Sweden, that year, the principle for ecumenical relationships was set out: “Should not our churches ask themselves whether they are showing sufficient eagerness to enter into conversation with other churches, and whether they should not act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately?” the principle states.
Sandy says the Lund principle still resonates 70 years later. “Instead of doing ecumenical things, Christians and churches should try to do things ecumenically, in particular, to do things together which are already a part of their normal life, that is to share a common life,” she says.
“At the heart of the ecumenical movement is this strong commitment to working together, a sense of partnering with other churches from other traditions.
“It’s about what we can learn from each other as we work together and about building relationships, trust and respect together as a witness to the Gospel.”
[from an article by Andrew Humphries in “Crosslight” the Uniting Church of Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Magazine February 2023]
RU OK Day, where we are reminded to be aware of mental health issues in the community, occurs in September. The Canterbury Council of Churches held its Mental Health Liturgy on the same theme, on Sunday 11th September at Highfield Road. It was attended by about 50 people.
After a clip of harp music, we heard the reading of David playing the lyre for King Saul when Saul was depressed [1 Samuel 16: 14 – 23]. Jesus’ words: I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly, [John 10: 10] were an appropriate text for the theme. Sister Ros Cairns, a former manager of Mental Health within the Healthcare Chaplaincy Council of Victoria, inspired us in her address, with her understanding of mental illnesses both on the person concerned and their families.
It was pleasing to see the choir stalls filled with members of the Anglican and Catholic churches, combined with our members. There was a great buzz of conversation in the foyer for supper afterwards when we got to know other Christians in our area.
Rev. Ross Pearce and Father Kevin Toomey of St Dominic’s were the co-presiders at this, the second of such ecumenical services.
By Alan Ray
The real challenge of ecumenism is to share a common life; that is, to do together whatever we do not need to do apart.
On 15th August 2022, it will be 70 years since the start of the Third Faith and Order Conference in Lund, Sweden (1952). The important Lund principle for ecumenical relationships was articulated at that conference:
“Should not our Churches ask themselves whether they are showing sufficient eagerness to enter into conversation with other Churches, and whether they should not act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately? “
Instead of doing ecumenical things, Christians and churches should try to do things ecumenically, in particular, to do things together which are already a part of their normal life, i.e. to share a common life.
Thanks to Fr Frank Brennan and all who contributed to our Winter Breakfast on 30 July 2022.
Fr Frank spoke on ‘The Christian Churches and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine’. He summarised his presentation as follows:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be justified. There is no end in sight to the conflict. Both sides will want to avoid a nuclear conflagration. Christians and all people of good will should try to understand the perspective of both sides in the conflict. We Australians know something of the perspective from Ukraine. We know little of the Russian perspective. Putin may be a mad, evil loner. But then he may not be. We need first to understand the different mindsets at play. We need to understand the religious landscape.
We might then ask, ‘What should Pope Francis do or say?’ We should critique the actions of both sides. We should agitate for reform of the international regime for maintaining good order, conceding that NATO’s intervention in Kosovo and the US alliance’s war in Iraq have made the use of force without approval of the UN Security Council more likely. We need to make prudential assessments of the likely outcome in what will be a protracted war.
We should support the Australian government’s commitment to providing Ukraine with military hardware, its enforcement of sanctions, and its willingness to assist more refugees from the conflict.
Listen at https://soundcloud.com/frank-brennan-6/a-christian-response-to-ukraine-invasion
Our local Canterbury Council of Churches is part of the Victorian Council of Churches which runs an Emergencies Ministry.
With 800 authorised workers, representing 10 faith groups, speaking 57 languages, it supplies excellent support and services to families and local government municipalities for emergencies such as storm events, house fires, homicides and floods. There were 63 incident activations between January 2021 and April 2022. This ministry is now well understood and received by first responders and their commanders.
An exciting pilot program funded by the Victorian government, is making available 50 chaplains through the Emergency Ministry, for pastoral care to ambulance officers.
The Emergency Ministry motto is: Compassion, Care, Community, Dignity and Hope.
21 March 2022
The Victorian Council of Churches is delighted to announce the appointment of Reverend Sandra (Sandy) Boyce as Executive Officer. Sandy, an ordained Minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, will commence the role on Tuesday 19 April.
Sandy is currently President of DIAKONIA World Federation, an international and ecumenical community for diaconal ministry agents who are part of member associations. She has held the position since 2013.
Sandy has a long background working in the church, particularly with youth and young adults. In 2021, she concluded a long ministry placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide, where she supported and encouraged diaconal ministry in that congregation, and in the wider church. For six years, Sandy worked in a national role coordinating the volunteer’s program for those preparing for short term volunteer placements with overseas partner churches in Asia, Africa and the Pacific, with visits to volunteer placements and meeting with church leaders.
Sandy loves to cook and welcome people into her home, which has included many overseas students, 'couchsurfers' and other visitors including hosting a regular gathering of young people from various faith traditions and cultural backgrounds so they could learn more about each other while sharing a meal together.
In reflecting on her new role as Executive Officer, Sandy recalls the statement by Konrad Raiser (2003), former General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, who said that “ecumenism - the fellowship of Christian churches as a sign of hope for the world - is not a building project whose state we can describe in a neutral and objective way, but a living process with which we must engage if we want to understand and appreciate it.”
She is looking forward to being part of the vital work of the churches finding their unity in Christ with an openness and appreciation of each other, and discerning with intentionality what God is up to in the world and joining in as part of the praxis of living ecumenism.
"In a fractured, conflicted world with all its challenges and divisions, the churches have an important leadership role to play in valuing what we share in common and building towards visible unity, as well as speaking into the public space through the lens of justice, compassionate care, peacebuilding initiatives, and reconciliation".
The President of the Victorian Council of Churches Dr Graeme L Blackman AO said:
“I warmly welcome Rev Sandy Boyce as the new Executive Officer of the Victorian Council of Churches. Sandy brings a wide range of experience and expertise across many areas of church life including parish ministry, youth ministry and ecumenical engagement, especially within the churches in South Australia. The Council and Standing Committee of the Victorian Council of Churches look forward to welcoming Sandy to Melbourne and to working with her as we advance the mission and strategic plan of the VCC.”
“Theological dialogue and discussion bring people closer together and sets up the framework for joint action,..Joint action brings people closer together, and sets up the relationship that enables theological dialogue and discussion."
During a visit to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva on 16 February, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke on an “ecumenism of action” as he also congratulated the WCC on its 70th anniversary.
“Bi- and multi-lateral theological dialogue over the course of the twentieth century bore much fruit but at times it could be appear to be akin to diplomatic renegotiation of borders: the barriers to communion still exist but not where we thought they did,” said Welby. “The underlying problem with these discussions, however, is that they are what I would call negotiation of the frontiers.”
The negotiation of the ways in which frontiers are set down, and in which they are crossed, is one of the most difficult aspects of international relations at times of tension, he continued.
“Frontiers imply difference,” he explained. “They say that on one side of the frontier there is the ‘other’.”
Ecumenism that looks as though it is about the negotiation of frontiers is an ecumenism that is based on theological foundations of sand, he said. “Indeed, one might argue that it is not based on foundations at all,” he said. “Negotiated frontiers start with barriers.”
One of the great gifts of the ecumenical movement is that it has allowed Christians from different denominations, who might once have kept separate from one another, to get to know one another, Welby reflected.
“There were times before, say, the 1960s, when people of one denomination might never have entered the church building of another,” he said. “In England today, and I am sure it is similar in other parts of the world, many congregations are made up of people who started their Christian life in other denominations.”
The result of this is that traditions, ideas and worship styles from one church are brought into the other, he noted. “The wind of the spirit which has brought such movements into reality, is blowing ever more powerfully,” he said. “In many places it is becoming a hurricane.”
An ecumenism of action says that faced with evil, we come together in love and show that we are one.
“There is a great danger that the ecumenism of action turns into the ecumenism of being useful,” he cautioned. “We can easily fall into the trap of believing that if we cannot agree, then we can at least do something together that is nice and useful.”
But this is massively to understate and to misrepresent the nature of the ecumenism of action, he said. “The world is crying out in need,” he said. “We can become too pragmatic about this, forgetting its theological foundations.”
The ecumenism of action is also based in this reality that need does not wait for theological agreement, but for the compassion of Christ, he added. “When non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree among themselves, even though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a position to receive the true message?” he asked. “It is not the case that an ecumenism of action leaves theology outside the room.”
“Theological dialogue and discussion bring people closer together and sets up the framework for joint action,” he said. “Joint action brings people closer together, and sets up the relationship that enables theological dialogue and discussion.
from Visiting WCC, Archbishop of Canterbury speaks on “ecumenism of action” | World Council of Churches (oikoumene.org)