Ecumenical Venture

The Christian Century, May 9, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Ecumenical Venture


A NEWLY FORMED ecumenical foundation has called on Christian churches in Canada and the U.S. to gather in 2004 for a "Second Conference on Faith and Order in North America." More than 75 church leaders, pastors, theologians and other religion scholars have signed a statement endorsing the call, said William G. Rusch, executive director of the foundation for a Conference on Faith and Order in North America.

The effort is notable in seeking out evangelical and Pentecostal churches that have not traditionally been a part of Faith and Order discussions, along with Roman Catholics, Orthodox and mainline Protestants. "Faith and Order" is the term used in church and ecumenical settings to denote the part of the ecumenical movement devoted to the theological issues that keep churches divided, and to the quest for Christian unity.

The foundation, an independent entity, sent letters April 16 to the principal leaders of 328 Canadian and U.S. church bodies inviting their participation. The letter said that organizers of the meeting and their consultants had determined that "no existing institution in Canada and the United States could undertake the preparatory task [for the conference] with sufficient breadth and theological depth." However, the foundation "will be in a cooperative and affirming relation" with other ecumenical agencies in both countries, the letter said.

The meeting and the study process that precedes it will be funded in part by foundation grants. A location and exact date for the 2004 gathering have not been selected. The first North American conference on Faith and Order was held at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1957.

The organization constituted itself in January and elected as moderator Bishop Richard F. Grein, head of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Rusch, a Lutheran, was elected executive director, a full-time post. Rusch has for five years served as the director of the Commission on Faith and Order at the New York-based National Council of Churches. He has resigned the NCC post to accept the new position.

Elected as secretary was Robert M. Franklin (Church of God in Christ), president of the historically black Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, and as treasurer Sister Donna Geernaert, S.C., ecumenical officer for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The foundation, which will have its offices in New York, is unique among ecumenical organizations, Rusch said, because it will bring together both Canadian and U.

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