Ecumenism For A New Millennium

This closing Millennium commenced with a major split in the Christian Church as East and West parted company and with the Crusades seeing Christians slaughter Jews and Muslims in failing attempts to secure continuing Christian control of the ‘Holy Land’. The middle of the Millennium witnessed the expulsion or forced conversion of Jews and Muslims in Spain while Columbus was opening the way to exploit and Christianise the New World. The second Millennium has ended with a century of ecumenism on the one hand and continued episodes of ethnic and religious cleansing.

This closing century has seen a growing mutual knowledge of and appreciation of the spiritual depth among many religious groups that had previously been hostile. No longer do most Presbyterians consign Baptists to hell and vice versa, nor do Lutherans regard Anglicans as heretics, and even Roman Catholics have somewhat softened their official views of us their ‘separated brethren’, while most mainline Christians have backed off the necessity of converting Jews.

Diversity of religious expression and organisation has challenged this Millennium’s search for the one way to God, the one way to worship, the one creed, the one religious life, the one religious organisation. The end of this Millennium coincides with the end of that search. Now diversity is not just tolerated, but is viewed as a positive virtue and strength. We demonstrate to save bio-diversity and would march in the streets if anyone were to threaten the diversity of our cuisine, music, art and spirituality.

Centre for Christianity and Culture

In this context the Centre for Christianity and Culture
established by the Anglican Diocese of Canberra Goulburn offers hospitality to any and all who seek to connect with that which is more, the extraordinary, the transcendent, the beyond, the sacred; to any and all who wish to pray, meditate, contemplate or study. This is the symbol and location of the ecumenism of the Third Millennium.

This ecumenism calls the Abrahamic faiths to respect each other and move to respect Buddhist, Hindu, Aboriginal and others as legitimate godward pathways to a vital and healthy spiritual life. This ecumenism respects difference as God given and seeks to learn from it rather than overcome it. Difference becomes resource rather than problem.

This will be a ‘suck it and see’ ecumenism. Faith tried in its practice; not argued out in theory. Faith ventured; rather than faith considered. Faith of the people; not the faith of the fathers, or the experts, or the hierarchy.

Situated in Canberra on the National Anglican Site incarnating the vision of Bp Browning, The Centre for Christianity and Culture offers a venue for all to assemble in celebration, mourning, remembering, and connecting. The site has already been used for marking the death of Diana and making moves of reconciliation between Aboriginal and European Australians.

This is a bold move, a proposal at the cutting edge of religious life in Australia and the world today. It offers hospitality to all from an Anglican home. After all, all hospitality is offered from a heart, a home. But the hospitality is offered to all, both expecting and respecting diversity, disagreement, controversy and asking those who receive it to take the time and energy to learn from others respecting their difference. No one model will be imposed, the symbols of the home are present but not dominating. There is no dream that some form of uniformity of expressed faith will flow from this space; just that the Centre will be prayed and celebrated into existence.

Gary D Bouma

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