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Ecumenical News

Ecumenical News

SA Dialogue of the Roman Catholic and Uniting Churches

An ecumenical dialogue has existed for more than 25 years in South Australia between the Uniting Church(UCA) and Roman Catholic Church(RC). Membership is appointed by the Synod Standing Committee of the UCA and the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Adelaide Diocese and the Bishop of Port Pirie Diocese. Each denomination has 6 members, one of whom is the country representative, involved in the work of the two churches in the whole state. The two co-chairs are Rev Dr Michael Trainor (RC) and Dr Marelle Harisun (UCA). 

Over the past two years the Dialogue has been focusing on Receptive Ecumenism. The aim is to discern how resources can be provided for congregations about Receptive Ecumenism (RE) and to encourage pairs of congregations to engage in “receptive learning” through building relationships. A cluster of “attitudes and values” has been identified that are believed to underpin the ecumenical process, and now there are two pairs of congregations willing to be case studies in the receptive learning process.

Port Pirie, Yorke Peninsula

Sister Sonia Wagner, enthusiastic about Receptive Ecumenism, initiated contact with the local UCA Minister, Rev Ernest Sorenson. Building on the past partnerships within the town, they organised an Ecumenical Dinner for their two congregations in 2015. About 80 people gathered in the Uniting Church for this “Dinner of Light”. Ms Geraldine Hawkes, Executive Facilitator of the South Australian Council of Churches, engaged the participants in a receptive ecumenism process. Also on the program were 9 tenors (RC), a choir (UCA) and a youth choir. The proceeds of the dinner were donated to the Ecumenical Theological College in the Philippines, a UCA project.

In 2016, 100 people gathered for the second “Dinner of Light”, where catering was provided by the UCA and the RC people were the waiters. The program was compered by two Ministers from the congregations. The co-chairs of the SA Dialogue were invited to speak about the theme “Mercy” (the year’s theme identified by the Pope) and their experience of Receptive Ecumenism. People from outside these congregations were also in attendance and were enthusiastic about the two denominations working so closely together and forming close friendships, saying it gave them great hope.

There are plans underway for the next dinner in 2017!

The Uniting Church Minister is now a member of the SA Synod Ecumenical Relationships Committee and represents the UCA on the SACC!

Adelaide CBD

In central Adelaide the Pilgrim Uniting Church and St Xaviers Cathedral are the second pair of congregations slowly discerning ways to engage in receptive learning. Leaders have shared light meals together, engaged in public laments for the treatment of asylum seekers in the Pilgrim plaza space, and an exchange of pulpits is planned. In 2017 these two congregations will participate in the celebration of the Reformation along with other congregations within the Central Business District. 

Adelaide CBD

Members of the South Australian Dialogue believe that Receptive Ecumenism is a process that enhances the understanding of “one Holy, Catholic and apostolic” Church, the Church Universal. The SA Dialogue has also worked on the World Council of Churches (WCC) document “The Church: Towards a Common Vision”. At the end of this year they will send a commentary on the document to the World Council of Churches. The focus of this response is on the extent to which the document encompasses the benefits of Receptive Ecumenism in moving towards the common vision.

In November 2017, the Dialogue plan to present a case study of this relationship building experience to the Receptive Ecumenism IV Conference in Canberra. It is hoped that the Port Pirie Christians will be present to share their experiences with others.