an introduction to receptive ecumenism n.
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  1. AN INTRODUCTION TO RECEPTIVE ECUMENISM Fr Gerard Kelly Catholic Institute of Sydney

  2. Some background • Durham Conferences • Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning (2006) • Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Ecclesial Learning (2009) • These conferences received support of church leadership at highest level • A favourable time … • After forty years of bilateral and multilateral dialogue set churches in new relationship with each other

  3. What is receptive ecumenism? • It calls on the churches to make a ‘programmatic shift’ … • From asking what do our dialogue partners need to learn from us • To asking what can we learn / do we need to learn from our dialogue partners • A step beyond theological dialogue… • Openness to practical conversion, growth & development • ‘Given the consensus reached in dialogue, what can my church learn from the other?’

  4. What is receptive ecumenism? ... that critical and constructive modes of theological analysis, the traditional preserve of historical and systematic ecclesiologists, need to be held together with pragmatic-organisational and other relevant empirical modes of analysis, the traditional preserve of practical theologians and social scientists. (Paul Murray)

  5. What is receptive ecumenism? • Another perspective: the internal life of churches • Many have reached an impasse on important matters of faith and witness • Receptive ecumenism offers a way to learn from others in facing these challenges – hopefully breaking through impasse

  6. Is reception such a new idea? • New Testament • 1 Corinthians 11:23, ‘I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you’ • More than repeating the account of the Last Supper; Paul receives it in such a way that it speaks a fresh word in a new context • Reception = hearing word of the Lord; appropriating it so that it shapes the concrete life of the community • Reception is integral to shaping the faith, life and witness of the community

  7. Is reception such a new idea? • Early centuries of the Christian movement: the early councils • Decisions of a council were ‘ratified’ at a subsequent council • This is quite a formal (juridical) process of reception • Spiritual process by which decisions of a council become part of the life of the local church • New ways of speaking and thinking have an impact on the already existing life of the church

  8. Reception in ecumenical movement • Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982) asks the churches: • The extent to which you church can recognise the faith of the church through the ages in this text • Consequences your church can draw from the text for relations & dialogues with other churches which also recognise the faith of the church • Guidance your church can take form this text for its own worship, educational, ethical, and spiritual life and witness

  9. Reception process in BEM • Reception begins with various acts of recognition • A spiritual process leading to renewal & reform:‘The achievement of unity will involve nothing more than a death and re-birth of many forms of church life as we have known them. We believe that nothing less costly can finally suffice’ (WCC Assembly, New Delhi 1961) • Churches need to be self-critical and open to conversion and renewal • Cf. principle of semperreformanda or semperpurificanda

  10. Reception of BEM • Many churches have used Eucharist section of BEM as basis for preparing new Eucharistic Prayers • Growing reception of epiclesis as integral part of Eucharist • Many churches that do not have personal episcopal ministry are studying this question • Some churches that do not practise water baptism are considering whether they might adopt it

  11. Reception – the next level • Durham conferences built on this and went further • Focuses on what the churches do after dialogue • Note one consequence of BEM was renewed confessionalism • Negatively: churches build walls around themselves; focus is on identity; division is entrenched • Positively: renewal of ecclesial heritage and identity; become more true to apostolic origins; gift for the whole church • Ecclesial learning rather than confessionalism

  12. Reception and ecclesial learning • Be aware of theological and non-theological factors that prevent ecclesial leaning • Ladislas Orsy’s criteria for authentic reception: • Identity and its preservation • Truth and falsity • Prudent judgement • Become a creative agent: a church develops the inspiration it received all over again, out of its own resources

  13. The Durham Project • Three areas of research • Governance & finance: how are our churches organised & administered? • Learning & formation: what are the structures & processes that promote the transmission of Christian identity, faith and mission? • Leadership & ministry: how are our churches responding to the issues surrounding declining numbers of clergy/ministers? How do our churches nurture active congregations?

  14. Catholic Reception of Justification • 1999 Lutherans & Catholics signed Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification • How has doctrine of justification been shaping spiritual and pastoral life of Catholic Church? • In richness of the other we discover our own richness • Translate Luther’s experience of a merciful God so that it communicates something to people today • Go to heart of the gospel and heart of our pastoral mission

  15. Safe as Churches? ‘While significant initiatives have already been taken in many Churches, a comprehensive approach is required for Safe as Churches to become a statement of reality. For this to happen all Churches will need ecclesiastical will, financial resources and a change of culture. In bringing the Australian Churches together for a consultation on sexual misconduct and abuse the National Council of Churches in Australia has made a significant contribution to them becoming safe places.’ (NCCA Consultation, March 2004)