Ecumenical Relations Newsletter
Interdependence and Ecumenism: A Young Adult Reflects on Spring Meeting of World Communion of Reformed Churches' Regional Council.
Many have a tough time growing up. This generation is dealing with many issues on a daily basis that have not been as prevalent in past times. These issues are not restricted to gender or geography. We as humans tend to cause problems for ourselves. These problems can only be solved through the grace of God.
Struggling to grow up in the church surrounded by the busy streets of New York City, I had a narrow understanding of ecumenism. The common thought process was to try to find solutions for your problems and not to complain about it because everyone had their own to deal with. It was not until I began to work with youth from other NYC Presbyterian churches that I realized the problems we had in my church in the Bronx, were very similar to those experienced in the other Boroughs in the City. All of the churches in the City that were represented were trying to find new creative ways to gain relevance in the lives of local youth.
This past spring on the island of Jamaica, in the heart of the Caribbean, God granted me a clearer understanding of ecumenism. The gathering in Jamaica was a joint meeting of The World Communion of Reformed Churches’ regional council for the Caribbean and North America, or CANAAC, and The Canada and North American Council of Mission, or CANACOM. These two groups work diligently to put to action the Word of God wherever there is need. CANAAC and CANACOM focus on the North-America region, ranging from as north as Canada and as south as the Caribbean. This meeting in particular focused on addressing and journeying towards a solution regarding human trafficking.
At first this issue was not one that I believed pertained to me, for I had no known I had interaction with the human trafficking business. I did not think that was occurring in my neck of the woods. As the meetings progressed, I realized that many young women and men are abducted from the Caribbean and sold into servitude in the United States and Canada. The issue of human trafficking began to resonate with me, because it was affecting my backyard. This issue was stealing away the childhood of youth that resembled me, that struggled to grow up in areas of the world that were very similar to the Bronx. These youth were very much like the youth the NYC churches were trying to reach, and yet they were invisible to us.
Looking through the lens of ecumenism allowed me to feel the pain and struggle of those that resided in areas many miles from my home church. It encourages us to not only seek a solution for our own problems but also for the problems that plague our brothers and sisters across the globe. The problems that arise in your neighborhood are almost mirror images of those that disturb others on the other side of the world.
Man has many issues to deal with and God has given us His grace to find solutions, only in ecumenism can We All thrive together. Ecumenism means all of us, our Father’s children, together. We all have problems, let us be ecumenical and solve them all together.
The newest class of members to the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations (GACEIR) will gather before the fall 2014 meeting of GACEIR for orientation. During this time new members share with one another their call to ecumenism and hope for Christ’s church. The Rev. Robina Winbush, Associate Stated Clerk for Ecumenical Relations, spoke with Rev. Robert C. Reynolds, Presbytery Executive for Chicago Presbytery to learn more about his journey and call to unity.
Please share a bit of your own personal ecumenical and interfaith journey. As a Presbytery Executive what excites and challenges you about ecumenical and interfaith relationships?
One of the great ends of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is “the promotion of social righteousness.” Exciting local and global challenges for doing so are presented to Presbyterians today through ecumenical and interfaith collaboration. We have opportunities to cultivate the common good in rich soil of mutual trust, respect for truth, love of God (as each knows God), commitment to the well-being of the Earth, and care for the whole human family. As executive presbyter, I have served and led metropolitan ecumenical/interreligious councils in Chicago and St. Louis, which include religious leadership relationships among every major religious tradition. In Chicago I am a member of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries (Ecumenical-Interfaith Media Ministry), and I attend Religion and American Foreign Policy Annual Workshops sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (NYC). While in Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery (St. Louis), I chaired Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Episcopal Presbyterian Charitable Health and Medical Trust, and the Ecumenical Judicatory Coordinating Council for Faith Based Community Organizing. Also, I served as a director of St. Luke’s Episcopal Presbyterian Hospital and St. Andrews Episcopal Presbyterian Foundation (Sr. Citizens Housing).
The Presbytery of Chicago has an active Ecumenical and Interfaith committee. Please share how this committee was formed and how they’re structured. What have been the highlights and challenges of its work?
The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group (EIWG) was established in 2002 as part of an overall redesign of Chicago Presbytery. It consists of diverse members accountable to the Presbytery Coordinating Commission. In 2013 the presbytery established a formal covenant with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago in which both communities committed to collaboration for the common good. This resulted from over twelve years of dialogue and is the first of its kind in the PC (USA). In an equally important way during this period, the EIWG engaged in robust quarterly dialogue with Chicago area Jewish leaders and initiated timely communications with them when anticipating tensions over presbytery and/or GA resolutions on the Middle East . These have increased trust. Seven years ago, the presbytery created an Interfaith Solidarity Network among our churches that responds to religious hate crimes. To date, the Network responded ten times, through personal presence or letters, to incidents of defamation and violence aimed at other religious communities.
The Ecumenical Stance of the PCUSA sets forth as one of ten priorities that the church bridge the gap between the local and the Global, individual congregations and the denomination in relation to ecumenism. As someone involved in a presbytery, how do you see this happening in your context? What might the role of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations be in this priority?
As people of diverse faiths increasingly interface because of advancements in transportation and communication, and because of global conflict, the PC (USA) has recommitted itself to fostering the common good through ecumenical and interreligious collaboration. This will include both active dialogue and shared initiatives for peace with justice. As Presbyterians, we share values with other faith traditions that call us to love neighbors near and far. It is essential to maintain a priority on building and sustaining trusted relationships with ecumenical and interreligious leaders, even at times when our positions on important issues conflict. Our church’s future is tied to humbly and skillfully relating to people of other faiths as sisters and brothers in a global family, even though our ways of knowing and praising God may differ. To succeed, it is incumbent upon councils at every level to model the dialogue and to be mentors for others.