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"The truth is the centre of all religion," Mary Baker Eddy wrote. Here, you'll find ideas that honor that center, the "circle of faith" of which we're all a part. We hope they are helpful as you listen and contribute to the healing dialogue going on between faiths worldwide.
As the New Year begins, Christians around the world will participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This type of ecumenical activity provides people an opportunity to deepen their own understanding of what it means to follow Christ, to learn from others, and to clear up misperceptions. It does not require giving up essential theological points; it is an opportunity to think about and live them more thoroughly. Christians can pray throughout the year and especially from Friday, January 18 through Friday, January 25 in support of this increasing understanding and quest for Christian unity.
This year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity focuses on Deuteronomy 16:20a: “Justice, only justice, you shall pursue.” (NRSV) That verse comes from a section of Deuteronomy which includes instructions to public officials, such as judges, who are responsible for people’s decisions on questions about Deuteronomic law (Deu. 16:17-20). The repetition of the word “justice’ emphasizes the instruction itself as well as the importance of pursuing “only justice” in decisions and treatment of the people. The Hebrew word צֶדֶק-- tsedeq, translated here as “justice” can also be translated as “righteousness.” Some people also relate righteousness with equality.
Throughout this past year, the topics of justice and equality have been primary focus points for many Christian churches and organizations. During the week of prayer for Christian unity, some Christian churches, organizations, and individuals might ask, “What is the association between Christian unity and justice? For Christian Scientists, perhaps one connection between unity and justice is the fact that our prayers for righteousness and justice for all humanity can contribute to healing what divides and separates us from others, including our own misperceptions about our fellow Christians.
Most everyone reading this blog will encounter multiple opportunities in their communities this year to meet and engage with Christians from different denominations. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, people might want to watch for invitations from local Christian Church Councils and organizations that are typically sent out to nearby congregations, faith groups, families, and individuals, welcoming people to pray at home and/or attend special worship services. The Circle of Faith team will be prayerfully establishing a spiritual foundation for our work as well as responding to various ecumenical opportunities this week and throughout the year. We will continue to share our ideas and would love to hear about your inspiration, opportunities, and activities as well.
By The Ecumenical Team
Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year
As we approach Christmas day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus in a manger in a small village called Bethlehem, we wish to express our love and gratitude for all of you. The life, teachings, and healing work of this master Christian remains in the forefront of our work throughout the year.
We look forward to another full and fruitful year as God/Spirit leads us to new opportunities to grow spiritually, to pray, to engage with others, to heal.
The Ecumenical Team: Barry Huff, Susan Humble, Susie Jostyn, Madelon Maupin, and Maryl Walters.
(Words from “Here we Come a A-wassaling”)
By Maryl Walters
In July, the National Council of Churches (NCC) joined with Buddhist and Hindu national organizations to hold dialogues in Los Angeles 8 days apart. I attended both of them representing the Ecumenical team of the Christian Science church. My official role with NCC is as a member of the Interreligious Relations Convening Table whose mission has been to dialogue with Jewish and Muslim national organizations, and now Hindu and Buddhist.
See a summary of the dialogues here: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/dialogues/
This report will focus on the Buddhist-Christian dialogue. The accompanying picture is of the participants in that dialogue. Both Hindu and Buddhist dialogues were held at the Guibord Center in the First Congregational church in Los Angeles. The mission of the Guibord Center is “to bring people together to challenge assumptions, unleash the Holy and affirm the faith that transforms the world.”
This was perhaps the first Buddhist-Christian dialogue of this sort on the national level. The purpose of the dialogues is to grow in relationship, work together, and be changed by the experience of being at the table together.
There are many branches of Buddhism, and several were represented at the table, as well as several branches of Christianity. All participants introduced themselves, their organizations and their work, so we could all get a feel for the breadth and diversity of participation at the dialogue. I was particularly interested in how the representative of the Episcopal church characterized current thinking in his church as their being the “Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.”
When it was my turn I was able to share a little of the beginnings of Christian Science, its practice of original Christianity including healing, its being founded by an American woman, Mary Baker Eddy, and its gender free practice. I also spoke of the role of the Christian Science Monitor.
Buddhism has been here in the United States since the late 19th century. There are ethnic Buddhist temples, focused around immigrant Asian groups, as well as “convert” temples for Americans who have taken up Buddhism. Buddhist teaching is about wanting to be free from suffering. They believe people suffer because of being attached to their things. Following the Buddhist 8-fold path, you gain freedom from suffering, and then you can liberate others. It teaches the “radical notion” that you’re already liberated.
There were presentations in the afternoon given by a Buddhist on “enlightenment” which was characterized as “going inside into the true nature of reality,” and by a Methodist Christian on “the presence of God” described as creator, care-giver, covenant-maker, judge, savior, sanctifier, and Trinity.
Many more ideas were covered, including the difficult subject of the treatment of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar, which the Buddhists at the table characterized as more an ethnic issue than a religious one.
I was grateful to learn about Buddhism and meet a number of fine Buddhist people. I was also grateful to have fellowship with my Christian brothers and sisters and experience ecumenism, a unity in diversity, with them.
By Susan Humble, PhD
As we pass the annual transition from summer to fall marked by Labor Day, the Ecumenical Team is looking forward to our scheduled ecumenical and interreligious activities ahead of us. Susie will be heading to northern California to contribute to a workshop that includes the topic of ecumenism. Madelon and Maryl are traveling to Toronto Canada in September and November. The Parliament of the World’s Religions is being held in Toronto in early November and Maryl will be presenting a pre-Parliament workshop to Christian Scientists on several inter-religious topics in September. Madelon will be presenting a talk at the Parliament in November titled “Love Without Borders: A Biblical Model.”
For the first time, Susan, as Head of Ecumencial Affairs, will be attending the Christian Churches Together (CCT) annual convocation. Attendees of this gathering represent Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox, and Historic Black Churches. CCT is an ecumenical organization the Ecumenical Team plans to get to know better.
In late fall the annual Christin Unity Gathering (CUG), which is the annual meeting of the National Council of Churches, will be held in Washington DC. Four of us who serve on Convening Tables (the NCC’s name for working committees) will be present.
Shirley Paulson will be one of our team members attending, but this will be her final year to attend as she notified the team recently that she thought it was time for her to resign from the Ecumenical Team. She assured me that she felt she had given her best to the Church’s ecumenical activities, that it was in good hands, and she has new opportunities she is pursuing. Shirley was the first Head of Ecumenical Affairs for the Christian Science Church, and she, along with a few others, actively worked to develop the Church’s relationship with the National Council of Churches, starting in 2008.
It is impossible in the space of this blog to recount all that has been accomplished in the advancement of ecumenical relations in the past 10 years that Shirley has been dedicated to working ecumenically with other denominations and organizations. Her most outstanding contribution is her love and selfless dedication to educating others about Christian Science and patiently addressing the many misconceptions about Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy.
We will always be grateful for her patience, generosity, enthusiasm, teaching, and dedication to the success of this important work for Church.
Ecumenical Affairs works under the auspices of the Committee on Publication, and is engaged in ‘correcting in a Christian manner’ the misconceptions of Christian Science, particularly within the Christian community. Ecumenical team activities include writing pieces that appear on christianscience.com and articles for The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel, and participating in ecumenical conferences, meetings, and organizations such as the National Council of Churches.
Ecumenism is a worldwide movement among Christians to promote unity between Christian churches or denominations (or ‘communions’) in response to Jesus’ prayer that we be one (John 17:21). It recognizes the body of Christ in its entirety, learning to understand the ways, values, and communications styles of our fellow Christians. Ecumenical dialogue is vibrant and respectful, welcoming the gifts of others, while maintaining the integrity and purpose of each Christian faith tradition.
The ongoing dialogue with Christian leaders, clergy, and religion educators allows everyone to grasp better the idea exactly why Christian Science is Christian.
All churches and denominations are concerned with maintaining the purity of their ideas and practice of religion, and the ecumenical dialogue respects that integrity in others. It is with a spirit of humility that Christians value one another's faith and service to the common cause of Christianity. As we learn from others, we often find ourselves learning to appreciate and articulate better our own denominational roots. We have the opportunity to cultivate bonds of love and dispel misunderstandings. Ecumenism is one of many ways to practice active Christianity.
One of the most compelling reasons Christian Scientists have become ecumenically involved is that other Christians have been asking for us to participate in the greater dialogue and especially to explain and share our unique gifts more widely.
One of the greatest stumbling blocks to successful ecumenical engagement can be the language we use. Every church or denomination has its own jargon, which can be baffling or unwittingly offensive to others. Without understanding the language, culture, and history of others, we often find ourselves trying to share our most precious ideas only to discover they mean something entirely different to our listeners. With love for others, we make the effort to learn their Christian ‘language’ in order to communicate the greatest depth of thought. Just as we maintain our own culture and identity when we learn a foreign language, we also maintain the identity of Christian Science while we learn the Christian practices and theology of others.
Michael Kinnamon talks about the meaning of ecumenical dialogue (YouTube video)
Discussion with Michael Kinnamon about Christian Science in ecumenical dialogue (in The Christian Science Journal)