Ecumenism seeks to bring Christians together to love one another as God loves us and so to proclaim the Gospel.
Jesus said “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
Jesus prayed that all his followers, all Christians, would be one. The divisions and disputes between Christians through the centuries have shattered this unity. Ecumenism seeks to bring Christians together to love one another as God loves us and so to proclaim the Gospel.
The Catholic Church is totally committed to this ecumenical journey.
The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one church and one church only. (Second Vatican Council: Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, 21 November 1964 #1)Ecumenism within the Archdiocese of Brisbane
Ecumenism within the Archdiocese of Brisbane
The Archdiocese of Brisbane shows its commitment to ecumenism in a number of ways:
- The Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations promotes opportunities for Catholics to pray, dialogue and work on common projects with other Christians. It provides educational resources on ecumenism and guidelines on ecumenical issues.
- The Archdiocese was a founding member of Queensland Churches Together, the council of churches in Queensland, and is active in its operation.
- Brisbane Catholic Education supports three schools within its system which are initiatives of their local communities and which operate ecumenically. These are:
Exploding some myths
While ecumenism can be described as the bringing together of members of all the Christian families and traditions throughout the world in a spirit of unity, this does not clarify what this unity actually means or will look like.
Let us explode a few myths:
- Ecumenism is NOT about creating a “mega-church”. Unity does not mean uniformity, with all Christians thinking and behaving in exactly the same way.
- Ecumenism is NOT about “converting” people. There are many committed and faith-filled people in all Christian traditions and we can learn so much from each other.
- Ecumenism is NOT to be confused with Interfaith (see our section on Interfaith Relations). Christians share the same faith in God as Trinity and Jesus as God and Saviour. Interfaith refers to dialogue with other world religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, which have different belief systems.
- Ecumenism is NOT “watering down” or betraying the central and cherished beliefs of one’s own tradition in an attempt to find common ground or be “nice” to others. A good ecumenist is one who is deeply committed to his or her own tradition and who is prepared to enter into dialogue with other Christians in order to come to an understanding of the truth of the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
- Ecumenism is NOT just theologians debating difficult doctrinal concepts. Ecumenism is for everyone.
- Ecumenism IS celebrating the things we hold in common with other Christians and acknowledging our differences. It IS dialoguing with other Churches in mutual respect and openness on issues that divide us in search of the truth in love.
- Ecumenism IS unity in diversity. If we look at our own Catholic parishes we can see that diversity already exists within the Catholic Church. Across the world, we see the liturgy celebrated in numerous languages with a wide variety of cultural and religious traditions incorporated into the practice of the faith. The Church of Rome is in communion with a number of Churches from the Eastern Rite which provide even greater diversity in liturgy and discipline. Diversity is certainly not new to the Church.
First and foremost, ecumenism is about a change of heart.
“There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion. For it is from newness of attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love, that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way.” (Second Vatican Council: Decree on Ecumenism # 7,)
And so, we are all called to a change of attitude of mind and heart. To be open and loving in our relationships with all Christians, so that together we may listen and come to understand that unity which Jesus so earnestly prayed for at the Last Supper (John 17:21). What Christian unity will ultimately look like is in God’s hands. It is up to us, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to build the bridges and to examine our own lives to ensure that we are open to the truth wherever we may find it.
Prayer for Christian Unity
O Holy Spirit,
As breath, breeze and great wind,
As flame and fire,
As inspiration and imagination,
As Lord and giver of life,
You have come through the ages to God’s people.
Come now and heal the church,
make us one that the Reign of God
may be proclaimed through all the world
and God’s saving power may touch all people,
through the ministry of the Body of Christ.
(Thanks to Toowoomba Roman Catholic Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations for this prayer)
For further information regarding ecumenism within the Archdiocese of Brisbane contact:
Executive Officer Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations
GPO Box 282,
Brisbane Qld 4001
Ph: 07 3324 3453