Last week the Roman Catholic Church celebrated ecumenism and Christian unity. I listened to a number of Catholics reflect on this vital theme on Catholic radio as I drove to speak last Sunday, January 25th. I then read a number of things on the Vatican Website as well. I reflected on how unlikely, or humanly impossible, this all would have been before Vatican II. There can never be too much emphasis placed upon how fundamentally Vatican II changed this whole context. In many ways it is now up to Protestants to respond in the right way. And that response is improving with every passing year.
One priest I heard last Sunday noted that we are in the same family. He served a small parish in Kentucky, in and among a predominantly Southern Baptist context for decades. He observed that you can't be the family of God and remain isolated from one another. But how can this happen, given our real and serious differences that still remain? He said: 1. We can worship together. (Much of what we do can be done except for the Mass he correctly observed.) 2. We can find and form deep relationships. This has proven to be the very best way that I have found that I can be a part of the whole family of God. I cannot change the big picture but I can make a small contribution to the family in small and faithful ways. I have many deep relationships with Catholics who love Christ as much or more than I do. This includes both priests and laity.
Ecumenism, said this same priest, is nothing more than "learning to connect the dots." What can I do, or not do, to advance Christian unity? The longer I am working at connecting the dots the more I am learning that surprises me. We have come a long way since my childhood in the 1950s. We still have a way to go but at least we are not trying to be the family and understand that we cannot afford the old animosity that once gripped almost all of us.