Break up the log jam on ecumenism, says De Margerie Lecture speaker

Clergy must be inculcated in spirit of ecumenism during formation to lead the way

By Paul Sinkewicz

It’s time to break up the log jam on ecumenism, said the featured speaker of the 2023 De Margerie Lectures on Christian Reconciliation and Unity.

The lectures featured the Rt. Rev. Bruce Myers, OGS (Anglican Bishop of Quebec), and were held for the first time in both Regina and Saskatoon last week. The event came during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The title of his presentation was Ecumenical Log Drivers: Forming Agents of Reconciliation for Church and World.

The De Margerie Lectures are named in honour of Fr. Bernard de Margerie, a priest of the Diocese of Saskatoon who has dedicated his whole life in ministry to the promotion of Christian unity. In this 10th year of the series, the annual event was expanded to offer lectures in both Regina and Saskatoon under the sponsorship of the Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas More College, the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, the Archdiocese of Regina, and Campion College.

Ecumenism is the concept and principle that Christians who belong to different Christian denominations should work together to develop closer relationships among their churches and promote Christian unity. (See definition, history of ecumenism HERE)

Bishop Myers grew up in the Ottawa Valley, and in studying the issue of ecumenism, the image of the historical log drivers working the river sprung to mind when analyzing the malaise afflicting the ecumenical movement. Decades of great ideas, movement and agreement have been piled up into a logjam of inactivity.

“Though the ecumenical movement has come a long way, it still has a long way to go, still,” he said.

Bishop Myers sees the ecumenical log driver as a kind of agent of mediation, who is able to use their skills to dislodge a decades-old logjam of ecumenical agreements so that they can freely flow down river and be received and processed by the churches and integrated into their life and work at every level.

“Which is, indeed, their intended purpose. Ecumenical agreed statements aren’t supposed to be exercises in theological speculation. They are intended to provide the theological tools necessary for the churches to make more visible their inherent oneness – a unity obscured by the sin of our divisions.”

Bishop Myers said the last half century of ecumenical conversations have been extraordinarily fruitful, except that the agreed statements risk having little life beyond the pages on which they are printed.

He wondered if our avowed commitment to ecumenism risks becoming performative, rather than a meaningful effort.

“A key missing link in the process of ecumenical reception, breathing life into them, putting flesh on their bones, is often ecumenical formation, particularly that of our ordained leadership,” Bishop Myers said.

“All of God’s people are called to walk the way of ecumenism, but in most of our traditions it’s our theologically trained clergy who have a particular responsibility and vocation as teachers of faith in our communities.”

“Therefore, if the faithful who constitute our congregations and parishes are to develop an ecumenical consciousness, committed to growing in unity and mission with their Christian neighbours in other traditions, the chances of that happening are simply better if the clergy serving them have themselves been inculcated with an ecumenical awareness and spirit.”

Both the Wednesday, Jan. 18 lecture at Campion College in Regina, and the Thursday, Jan. 19 lecture at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon are available to watch on YouTube.

Each presentation was followed by a Question and Answer period.





Bishop Bruce Myers chats after his Saskatoon presentation at STM College

Dr. Carl Still, president of STM College, discusses ecumenism with Rev. Dr. Iain Luke, Principal of the College of Emmanuel & St. Chad, part of the Saskatoon Theological Union