The National Workshop on Christian Unity, Oklahoma City, April 16-19, 2012

The theme for this year’s National Workshop on Christian Unity is The Hope of Our Calling inspired by Ephesians 1:18. Oklahoma City provided the many advantages of a center city site with nearby churches for liturgical functions such as the Opening Worship Service and the CADEIO Mass. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, the local Catholic ordinary, was homilist at the Opening Service at the First United Methodist Church and the celebrant of the CADEIO Eucharist at St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral. (CADEIO is the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers.)

The NWCU National Planning Board gave full attention to the Fiftieth Anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, with a presentation by Dr. John Borelli who is Special Assistant Interreligious Initiative at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Following his lecture, John Borelli participated in a panel discussion addressing the “Implementing the Surprises of Vatican II: Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations”. The other panelists included Bishop Frank Griswold, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA and Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, United Methodist minister, and Professor of Worship at Boston University School of Theology. The moderator of the panel was Bishop Emeritus Donald McCoid, Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Workshops Sponsored by the NWCU
There were nine Workshops sponsored by the NWCU covering a wide range of topics. I attended the workshop on The Hope of Eternal Life: Common Statement – U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue presented by Dr. Michael Root who is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, a recent Catholic convert from the Lutheran Church and member of the International Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. Among the issues he discussed were continuity in the communion of saints, prayer for and about the dead, meaning of death, purgation, and the promise of the resurrection.

I also attended the workshop on Young Adulthood Interrupted: Is There a Place in Today’s Churches for Young Adults? presented by the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner (PC-USA). She is the editor of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, and based her observations on the Pew Study of Religion as it applies to Young Adults, identified as Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995).

The third national workshop I attended was on the subject of Native American Spirituality presented by Bishop Steven Charleston (Episcopal) a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. He focused on the forced migration of Native Americans to Oklahoma and other parts of the Southwest under President Andrew Jackson. Bishop Charleston showed the sharp contrast between the spirituality and world view of traditional western Christianity and the spirituality and culture of the Native Americans for whom Oklahoma is now a homeland.

CADEIO Program
In addition to the items already indicated, CADEIO sponsored two workshops the first by Archbishop Kevin McDonald Reflections on the 1993 Ecumenical Directory in the light of the ecclesiological teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Archbishop McDonald is Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark, England. He worked as an official at the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome from 1985 until 1993, and served as staff for the work on the Ecumenical Directory of 1993.

Fr. Tom Baima presented Cleaning the House before the Guests Arrive: Intra-religious Dialogue as preparation for Inter-Religious Engagement. Fr. Baima is Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Professor in the Department of Systematic Theology at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Evaluation

In conversations with other long time participants of the NWCU, we agreed this one stood out as outstanding. It was evident that the collaboration of the National Planning Board members focused on the overall quality of the workshop and each offering was well worth the time and effort to be there. The NWCU has come a long way. It is better organized, more substantive, and shows a willingness to share speakers on a common agenda based on the topics to be treated. Places of worship were within easy walking distance and transportation was provided abundantly. For the first time in my memory there was even free transportation to and from the airport! The future of the ecumenical movement looks bright judging from the many new ecumenical officers appointed by their bishops and who come with pastoral experience as well as theological preparation.

(This article appeared in the Parish Bulletin of St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church on Sunday, June 3, 2012)