In August 2017, with the blessing and support of the Disciples of Christ, the Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry, and the Episcopal Church of the United States, I left my work, my seminary studies, my parish ministry, my friends, and my city and traveled to Bogis-Bossey, a small town in the foothills of Western Switzerland, to study ecumenism, or rather, to live ecumenically. When I first flew into Switzerland I remember looking down from the airplane window at the tops of mountains and perfect squares of farmland. I remember thinking everything has already changed. And it had. My first steps toward the Ecumenical world are steps that rearranged the furniture in the rooms of my heart. I am different now because of my experience in Bossey, and I believe I am more fully who God is creating me to be. I am honored, thrilled, beyond thankful to have the opportunity to share this experience with you at the Disciples of Christ Northwest Regional Assembly.
First and foremost, in my sharing, I hope to engage the theme of this conference: “Courageous Engagement: hearing each other's stories & engaging diversity.” The ecumenical movement, both regionally and internationally, is just that: “courageous engagement.” When we love across difference, across discomfort, across pain, confusion, or misunderstanding, it is a greater love. This is not a complex or profound idea. Most of us experience this as small children. I remember, for example, the time when I was six and put a key in a light socket, thinking It was a door to unlock into an imaginary world. Of course, instead, I felt a shock go through my arm and watched as the socket turned black with smoke. I remember my fear—my father will be angry. Instead, he came running, he picked me up in his arms, he rocked me, he told me everything would be okay. When we love one another through moments of disappointment or hurt or even what feels like a betrayal, our love becomes something profound. This kind of love moves us, shapes us, inspires us. When we are cared for and care through difference, complexity and a struggle to maintain relationship something holy happens, and I have fallen in love with Ecumenism because of this.
Secondly, aligned to the forthcoming School of Theology and Ministry, and Disciples Seminary Foundation study — on Ecumenical and Interfaith Education and Formation, which identifies some ecumenical trends characteristics of ecumenism — I will seek to offer new or nuanced trends I witnessed during my time at Bossey and through my participation in the WCC World Mission Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Below are seven trends to serve as a kind of preview my presentation:
-Cultural Understanding & Cultural Location: We must lean into cultural identities, differences, and interpretations with curious, discerning, and open hearts—how can we begin a conversation without understanding the language in which the other speaks? Ecumenical conversations must be crafted geographically and contextually, rather than simply denominationally.
-Praying Together: Ecumenical prayer comes in two forms: Ecumenical prayer is both an opportunity to experience the other’s spiritual tradition and it is a creative opportunity to shape prayer that is a mutual offering of praise.
-Ecumenical Embodiment: The theme of this year’s Mission Conference in Tanzania was “A Pilgrimage towards Justice and Peace.” Ecumenism is an embodied, lived experience, one that necessitates moving towards shared values together and in tangible, practical ways.
-Grief of Ecumenism: There is a greater tenacity, it seems, to acknowledge the silent places of pain within the Ecumenical history and movement. This acknowledgment places all the dirty laundry on the table while trusting we will all stay at the table, and also pays attention, especially to those most affected by colonization and neo-colonial agenda.
-Interreligious Dialogue: Although clarifying Christian identity has been a part of the goals of ecumenical movement since its early formation, the shrinking of the world has brought about new and interesting challenges and urgency to this task.
-Intergenerational Wisdom: The Ecumenical movement has made intentional steps to respond to the generation’s shifts in spirituality by inviting Youth (under 35) to participate more fully in publishing, conversations, conferences, and presentations. From my perspective, the voice coming forth is one of transparency, passion, and well-earned hope.
-Mutual Exchange Expands the Landscapes of our Faith: Convinced that we need one another as living members of the body of Christ, the ecumenical movement believes that authentic and mutual exchange deepens one’s own faith convictions and broadens one’s capacity for humility and imagination.