About Receptive Ecumenism

Receptive Ecumenism: The Basic Idea

Compared with the high hopes and heady days following the entrance of the Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement at the Second Vatican Council, formal ecumenism has experienced a significant energy-drain over the past decade or so and has frequently found itself in a place of apparent impasse. Receptive Ecumenism offers a constructive way forwards – a way of hope – for this context. It continues to hold to and to serve the traditional Faith and Order concern to work for the structural and sacramental unity of the churches whilst also taking our changed situation seriously.

As pioneered through a series of projects operating out of Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion in recent years, Receptive Ecumenism proceeds by bringing to the fore the dispositions of self-critical hospitality, humble learning, and on-going conversion that have always been quietly essential to good ecumenical work and by turning them into the explicit required strategy and core task of contemporary ecumenism.

At the heart of Receptive Ecumenism is the conviction that further substantial progress is indeed possible on the way towards full structural and sacramental unity but only if a fundamental, counter-instinctual move is made away from traditions wishing that others could be more like themselves to instead each asking what they can and must learn, with dynamic integrity, from their respective others. This required receptive ecclesial learning is envisaged as operating not only in relation to such things as hymnody, spirituality, and devotional practices but as extending to doctrinal self-understanding and, even more so, respective structural and organisational-cultural realities. As such, Receptive Ecumenism represents a way of ecumenical ecclesial conversion and growth that is both remarkably simple in vision and remarkably far-reaching in potential. It is offered here as the way that the Spirit is today calling the churches to walk for the sake of their own greater flourishing in and witness to communion in God.