Act3, Wheaton IL

act3

Jesus’s final prayer for His disciples that “you may be one” has always been a strong passion of mine.  There is so much that brings us together as believers than what sets us apart. As a Roman Catholic, I’m a strong support of ecumenical efforts believing that “what we can do together we must do together.”  Dr. John Armstrong shares this desire but approaches it from a protestant position.  Over the past few years I’ve watched as John has organized some fantastic gatherings of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, especially those engaged in ministry at the margins of society.  Supporting this type of missional ecumenism is important in this day and age where there is so much united against the body of Christ.  United we stand, divided ….    Visit the Act3 website to learn more.  

 

In 2011 a group of us went to Rome and engaged in a remarkable few days of sharing with the professional ecumenists of various churches, our experience of doing “missional ecumenism” at the margins.  Here is my journal from that trip.

 

Rome 2011 Journal

From March 8th to the 15th 2011, I traveled to Rome Italy with a small contingent of Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic believers who are all engaged in what we are calling “missional ecumenism”, that is bringing the Body of Christ together in grassroots ministry among the poor.  Members of our group include John & Deanna Hayes, Nate & Jenny Bacon (Nate was the prime mover and organizer of this event), Jose Penate, and Darren Prince all of InnerCHANGE, an ecumenical order among the poor. Dr. John Armstrong, author of Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church also joined us. To view a letter I sent out to friends and supporters of Emmaus Ministries in March of 2011, click here: Rome

Here’s a brief summary of the trip:

I arrived, after a sleepless plane ride, on the morning of Ash Wednesday 2011.  Our first meeting was with Dr. Teresa Rossi , Associate Director of the Centro Pro Unione.  She is also a Roman Catholic member of the official Roman Catholic – Baptist Dialogue and involved in the Roman Catholic – Pentecostal Dialogue.   The Centro is a library, training center, and place of hospitality to those interested in ecumenism.  It is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.  We met in the library which has an historic past.  In 1962, it was the gathering place of all the protestant “observers” to Vatican Council II and their Roman Catholic hosts.  A young Joseph Ratzinger met in this room and shared many a cigar and glass of vino with his non-catholic counterparts from around the world.  Friendships were formed in this room that continue  today.  Dr. Rossi shared with us her own journey into the field of ecumenism and showed us around the extensive library.  Over 20,000 volumes of books and  100,000’s of articles and periodicals line the walls.  Christians of all types come to the Centro to research ecumenism.  Besides the library, the Centro offers summer classes in ecumenical studies as well as a program for children ages 7-13 that introduces them to the beliefs and history of Christian churches other than their own.

It was the first time our small contingent got to share our own stories of “missional ecumenism.”  John & Deana Hayes, Nate Bacon, Jose Penata, and Darren Prince of InnerCHANGE talked about their 25 year old mission that started as an all protestant mission but has brought on board Roman Catholics (like Nate and Jose) over the last couple decades.  Dr. John Armstrong gave a short description of his work in the ecumenical field and I shared about the work of Emmaus Ministries and our key value of bringing Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants together in a grassroots effort of evangelization among the poor.  Our group shared our successes and struggles in not just doing a social ministry together but actually working in a missional way to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and how we do that ecumenically.  Dr. Rossi was encouraging of our efforts and made some good suggestions for further reflections.

That event we went off to the Sant Egidio Community for evening prayer.  This group was started in 1968 and now numbers 50,000 worldwide with communities in the USA in Boston and Notre Dame University.  Although not an intentional community that lives together, this community is drawn to daily weekly prayer, friendship with the poor, ecumenism with other Christians and dialogue with other religions, and peace activism.  It is Roman Catholic based but welcomes any Christian.  In their church is an early icon of the Blessed Mother and Christ that dates to the early 2nd century. [Right]  We met several community members and learned about their work with the poor.

In the afternoon of March 9th, we headed over to the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, informally known as the “Angelicum.”  Our meeting there was with Fr. Paul Murray, Professor of Spiritual Theology.  Again, we each shared who we were and our involvement in “missional ecumenism” and Fr. Paul described some of his background and work.  He initially seemed to think we simply meant we did service to the poor together, like soup kitchen or shelter work, when we clarified that we meant missional work; sharing the Gospel, bringing people into a relationship with God, he was very intrigued.  He also appreciated the galley copy of “Streetwalking With Jesus” that I gave him.  Incidentally, we ran into Fr. Paul the following day.  He had read half of SWWJ and watched the Emmaus Ministries video.  He was very impacted by the video, thought it was tremendously done, and planned to show it to his students.

Other visits included one to the Vatican where we met with the Roman Catholic chief ecumenicalist Fr. Juan Usma and Fr. Gosbert Byamunga.  We also went to the Anglican Mission to the Vatican headed by Fr. David Richardson and enjoyed a lovely time with him and his wife.

This has been a fascinating week.  Our small contingent of “missional ecumenists” had one more meeting on Monday with Dame Mary Tanner the European head of the World Council of Churches.  The last three days of meetings have filled me with hope for a greater unity among Christians, concern that we don’t slide into a “sloppy agape” in our quest for unity, and questions about how far we can go in a missional context.  It was a blessing to be part of this small effort to share with folks involved in the “official ecumenical dialogues” our experience of missional ecumenism.

 

 

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