Transforming Ecumenism – “listen to what the spirit is saying to the church” (Rev 2:7)

Ecumenical Facilitator for Hertfordshire, Doral Hayes, reports on the Fifth International Conference on Receptive Ecumenism in June 2022

8 July 2022

Approximately a hundred people from across the globe met together in Sweden at the beautiful Sigtuna Foundation from the 27-30 June 2022 to share their understanding of receptive ecumenism. The time together included a packed programme of speakers, worship, and the all-important breaks where people were able to share their experiences of life, church, ecumenical study and involvement.

For me there were several highlights from the formal programme, firstly, hearing Prof Paul Murray, who started the work on Receptive Ecumenism, and Rev. Dr Susan Durber, Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, WCC. This was an opening plenary with a very English feel as they discussed how Receptive Ecumenism and Faith and Order ecumenism can journey better together, and I hope that this is a conversation that can continue more broadly outside of this event. Secondly, a paper on Friendship, Spirituality and Imagination and the challenges of Receptive Ecumenism that was delivered in conversation by two friends, both theologians, Dr Antonia Pizzey, from Australia and Dr Sara Gehlin, from Sweden. The sense of friendship between the two women was striking and this had clearly contributed to their deep theological and practical understanding of Receptive Ecumenism in their different contexts. Finally, we were privileged to hear from Rev Dr Matthew Chandrankunnel who ‘zoomed’ in from India and Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar from the USPG in the UK. Both speakers challenged the conference to think more broadly about how receptive ecumenical practice might be used and received in inter-religious dialogue across different cultural spaces.

As part of the programme, there were also a total of thirty-six short papers, many from colleagues from the UK including CTE Trustees Rev Dr Callan Slipper and Victoria Turner. I also presented a short paper as did Fr Dominic Robinson and Rev Dr Elizabeth Welch from the Society for Ecumenical Studies, Dr Clare Amos from the Anglican Diocese in Europe and Rev Diane Ryan from the Church of England. The broad offering of study, reflection and practice were very rich indeed.

What I will take from this conference is that there is still so much more for us to learn from each other, from our different cultural contexts, experiences, reflections, and traditions. Time and space are needed to develop the skills and practice of Receptive Ecumenism.

The final session provided an opportunity for delegates to share what we would take home from the event in small groups. In my small group, we unanimously agreed that as much as we had benefitted from the deep theological insights and engaging speakers it was the sharing in prayer and conversing over a drink or a meal which had the most impact on our own journeys of faith and reflection. Through what we had received from one another during the four days, new friendships were made, new insights and appreciation of the other’s traditions were gained, and it was this that would leave an impact on the ever-expanding horizon that is the ecumenical journey.

Read the full outline of the conference and a list of the short paper sessions. A book of the papers will follow.

Find out more about Receptive Ecumenism.

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