Diocesan Ecumenists Discuss Concerns

Episcopal News Service. May 14, 1981 [81148]

Barbara Leix Braver, Editor of Episcopal Times

Boston -- Episcopal diocesan ecumenical officers and associate officers from around the country held their seventh annual meeting in Boston May 4-7 in conjunction with the 18th annual National Workshop on Christian Unity.

In addition to the workshops, seminars and other activities of the Workshop itself -- which drew over 450 participants from approximately 25 denominations -- the Episcopal ecumenical officers had a full agenda for the event, held at the Park Plaza Hotel here.

During the three-day period, the 125 Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers, representing 76 dioceses, met as a total group for their annual meeting, in provincial working groups, and with their Roman Catholic counterparts -- the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers. During the latter meeting, the group received the report of a joint standing committee "on couples living in Episcopal-Roman Catholic marriages."

In his report, the chairman of the Episcopal group, the Rev. William B. Lawson of the Diocese of Massachusetts, said that "1981 is a critical year" during which the ecumenical officers are working toward the General Convention of 1982 and addressing the theme of "the diocese with its congregations."

A national consultation on ecumenism is planned for November in which the ecumenical officers will play a part, along with the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, and the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations. Each of these groups will have an input to make on the general subject of how decisions on ecumenical concerns are made, and then implemented at all levels.

The purpose of this consultation is to produce a model for responsible action by dioceses and congregations in ecumenical dialogue.

In preparation for the November consultation, the Episcopal provincial groups discussed the results of a questionnaire on diocesan ecumenical activities which was sent some months ago to all of the dioceses.

The executive committee will meet in June to refine questionnaire results and determine patterns and trends. Preliminary results indicate a need for educational programs on ecumenism. They also show that, too frequently, ecumenism is viewed as "another program" in a diocese, rather than a component of all programs.

Another subject for the officers' consideration was the joint statements which have just come out of the second round of dialogue with four Lutheran churches. According to Lawson, the statements indicate that "we are moving toward a special relationship with them, including the development of covenant churches, and times of mutual Eucharistic hospitality."

The Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers are launching a study of the joing statements to see how they will speak to Episcopal-Lutheran interaction on the local level. Results will help to formulate resolutions to come before General Convention in 1982.

The Rev. William A. Norgren, ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, was introduced by Lawson as "a model of a servant/leader." Norgren told the group of some "notes of hope." He said that although "some recent events make it evident that doctrinal dialogues have failed in drawing us together... our commitment does not allow us to lose nerve or back down in this struggle for unity." He believes that ecumenical work in this decade will be characterized by "more modest expectations but more substantial gains."

James Morse of the Diocese of Michigan was elected vice-chairman, succeeding Phoebe Hoff of Virginia who is retiring from that position. She was given a silver pendant of the organization's symbol and applauded by the group when Lawson thanked her as a "founding mother, having been with EDEO since before its birth."

The Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop of Kentucky, who chairs the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, told the ecumenical officers that ecumenism is not a priority in the dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and structural programs are not being carried out. In spite of that, he noted that more ecumenical activity than ever is taking place. He believes that ecumenism is being built on personal relationships at various levels, and that these relationships need careful nurture.

The group passed a resolution of continuing gratitude for the "work and witness" of Peter Day, who retired in 1979 as ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church because of ill health, and his wife, Lorraine. The Days are now living in Wisconsin.

Prayer and worship were central to the program. A Eucharist was celebrated each morning for all participants at the National Workshop on Christian Unity, followed by a one-hour Bible study. In addition, the Episcopal group held a corporate communion at Boston's Old North Church at which the Archbishop of New Zealand, the Most Rev. Paul Reeves, was the preacher. The vicar, the Rev. Robert W. Golledge, and the Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. John B. Coburn, welcomed the ecumenical officers to the historic church. Built in 1723, Old North played a part in early American history, as it was from the steeple there that lanterns were hung to signal to Paul Revere of the route of attacking British troops.

Provincial coordinators were elected during the meeting. They are: Province 1 -- the Rev. Canon Joseph R. Bolger, Diocese of Maine; Province 3 -- the Rev. Henry Male, Diocese of Bethlehem; Province 5 -- the Rev. Ralph Stanwise, Diocese of Eau Claire; Province 6 -- Patti Drapes of the Diocese of Montana; Province 7 -- the Rev. Warren E. Crews, Diocese of Arkansas.

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