Thursday, July 9, 2009

National Workshop on Christian Unity

This report is WAY overdue! I’ve had trouble wrapping my mind around all that happened at the National Workshop on Christian Unity. I’ve been involved in ecumenism since my days as an undergrad, participating in several campus ministry groups. I became ‘officially’ involved as an intern at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1996. I’ve served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (now Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations) and the Episcopal-Moravian Dialogue. So, the National Workshop was, among other things, a chance to see long time friends and make new ones. That was definitely the highlight for me, and I think the crux of ecumenical relations.

This year’s workshop was in Phoenix during the last week of April. Much of the conference involves denominational meetings of ecumenical officers. Thanks to Province VIII, who provided funds for the diocese to send someone, San Joaquin was represented for the first time in years. As you can imagine, I was greeted very warmly by the other Episcopal representatives!

Opening Worship

The opening worship service was a grand celebration of our diverse denominational and cultural traditions. The Rev. Dr. Cliff Kirkpatrick, former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and current President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, was the preacher. Bishop Kirk Smith, of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, joined the Rev. Dr. Ken Moe (Presbyterian), Bishop Thomas Olmsted (Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix), Metropolitan Gerasimos (Greek Orthodox), Bishop Minerva Carcaño (United Methodist), the Rev. Dr. Dennis Williams (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Dr. Jan DeVries, (Presbyterian Synod of the Southwest), Bishop Gerald Kicanas (Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson)and the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer (United Church of Christ) in leading the service of music, readings, and prayer. A local Gospel choir and the Sudanese Lost Boys choir added their rhythm and spirit to the service.


The Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (EDEIOs) had a full agenda, including discussion of our bilateral dialogue with the United Methodist Church and the proposal for full communion with the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church. The Rev. Dr. Otto Dreydoppel, of the Moravian Church, was present, as well as many current Episcopal members of the bilateral dialogue. We had a fruitful conversation about the similarities between us and the Moravians, as well as some of the differences that promise to be enriching as we go forward. Those of us who have been a part of the bilateral dialogue have been blessed by the genuine humility and pastoral sensitivity of the Moravians, not to mention their rich musical tradition. On the final evening of the conference we participated in a Moravian love feast at the Trinity Cathedral. This is a lovely meditative service of music, prayers, and fellowship, in which the congregation shares coffee and sweet buns. It is a sort of coffee hour ritualized, which seems right up our alley as Episcopalians!

Plenaries, Workshop, and Bible Studies, oh my!

While much of the conference was spent in denominational meetings, there was a full program of plenary presentations, Bible study, and workshops for all participants. The opening keynote address was given by Metropolitan Gerasimos, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In his compelling address he both praised the ecumenical work that has been accomplished and challenged participants to seek greater reconciliation in Christ.

Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School, led Bible study throughout the conference on 1 Corinthians and Paul’s call for Christian unity.

Fortunately, many of the workshops and plenaries were recorded and are available at the NWCU download center so that you can join the conversations of our brothers and sisters who offer wisdom and insight for our shared journey in Christ.

Reprinted in the Sept. Episcopal Life San Joaquin

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