I was in Boston for three days last weekend working in a number of exciting missional-ecumenical contexts. Boston is best known, in terms of its Christian leadership, for the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. I pray for Cardinal O’Malley, a leader who represents Pope Francis and his vision as well as any American leader in the Catholic Church. Let me explain some of what I mean by sharing about my recent experience in Boston.
On Sunday evening (November 16) I met with twelve ecumenical leaders from the city. Included among those at the table were some wonderful folks such as the leader of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the newly appointed dean of the Orthodox Cathedral, the evangelical catalyst for overseeing the joint efforts of ten seminaries in the greater Boston area, a lay leader in the office of ecumenism for Cardinal O’Malley and various religious leaders, both clergy and non-clergy. We were Catholic, Orthodox, charismatic, evangelical, mainline Protestant. We were Asian, white, black and hispanic. We were male and female, young and old. It was quite a group and the energy in the dialogue was rich and Spirit-directed. The prayers moved some of us very deeply and we wept with joy. Friendships were strengthened and made. It was all around a delightful evening meal hosted by two dear Focolare friends that I met in June in New York at the Luminosa Award ceremony. All of these lovely guests are active in mission for unity in Boston. My host for three days was my long-time friend Dr. Mark Yoon and my new friend, Scott Brill. (I also met Scott in June at the Luminosa ceremony.) Scott is an ecumenical leader in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the co-founder of the new Institute for Christian Unity. The Institute sponsored our first Boston Unity Factor Forum on Saturday, November 15.
You should also check out Unite Boston on Facebook, a movement that is doing some great work in the city. The leader, an energetic and visionary young woman, shared in this same dinner. She has a heart for unity like few I’ve met in the U.S. I look forward to forging new friendships through Unite Boston as she gets to know me better. She is now reading Your Church Is Too Small since I gave her my only copy I took along on this trip.
In addition please check out Emmanuel Gospel Center. I will write a longer blog on the EGC mission next week. The story of this evangelical witness in an urban context is truly one of the greatest stories of missional-ecumenism I’ve personally encountered in America. EGC hosted our ACT3 Unity Factor Forum last Saturday, November 15. Mark Yoon is the chairman of the EGC board and also serves as the evangelical chaplain at Boston University. Mark and I met a decade ago in Chicago after his daughter studied at Wheaton College Graduate School. I thank God that Grace Yoon insisted that I meet her dad. We did meet and became close friends for life.
What God is doing in Boston is truly amazing. One older leader called the Boston story a “quiet revival.” I am inclined to agree based upon my small three-day sample. Here, in greater Boston, the Spirit has been moving for decades. This work is not about politics or ideology but rather about unity, grace and reaching the unchurched with the good news of Jesus. This work is neither sectarian nor overtly linked to any one church expression. One of the greatest visible supporters in this movement of the Spirit is Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Cardinal O’Malley was interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes while we were enjoying our Sunday evening meal. You can see the program online. I will watch the entire program in the next day or so. CBS called the interview with Cardinal O’Malley one which revealed his “careful candor.” I love that. Journalists are missing this “candor” because they do not understand it well but many Christians have missed it as well, including some bishops! The second clip is so fascinating if you want to get perspective on how such an interview is actually done.
Pope Francis has called Cardinal O’Malley the leader that he trusts and looks to for leadership in America. I can understand why this is true when I see and hear this man of God speak of the joy of the gospel. Pray for Boston and all Christian believers in this great city.
On Sunday morning, November 16, I preached at a young church on the campus of Boston University. (I will write more about this soon.) This evangelical church, which is less than five years old, draws well over 300 young adults and is growing and reaching the unchurched every single week. (The average age of the congregation that I preached to in the morning was about 23!) Please do not tell me that young adults will not respond to the gospel when it is presented with joy, in the power of the Spirit, and in a context that understands and relates to their story.
The Cardinal O’Malley interview is worth reading about here:
Cardinal O’Malley: ‘If I were founding a Church, I’d love to have women priests’.
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David Springer liked this on Facebook.
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Bill Worthy liked this on Facebook.
One can dream. And priests that can get married. That would be great too.
Sean Sully Sullivan liked this on Facebook.
Ugh…while this is progress (I guess)…only about 2000 years behind… I guess something is better than nothing…press on
Sean, married men can be ordained in the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox. The Western Church codified the long practice of reserving ordination to unmarried men a millennium ago (during the papacy of Gregory VII, A.D. 1073-85) but it has deep, deep roots going back to the patristic era. There is scant evidence of any tradition with apostolic and patristic roots that allows for unmarried ordained men to re/marry.
An important and related question is whether married men who are ordained may continue to have unrestricted sexual relations with their wives, or whether they are bound to continence – either partial or perpetual. In the Eastern Churches today, married clergy are obligated to refrain from sexual relations for about 24 hours prior to celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy. In the Oriental Churches, this also applies to married laity with respect to their receiving Holy Communion. In the West, the rule is pretty cut and dry: if a married man is ordained, then he is bound to perpetual continence from sexual relations. We have something of a muddled situation in the present age of the Western Church, where men ordained to the permanent diaconate are basically not instructed as to this obligation. Dr. Ed Peters has researched this topic extensively; here’s a recent blog post, and on his main site you can find links to a number of scholarly treatments of the question:
I wish that Cardinal O’Malley’s words were a bit less wishy-washy, but he makes an important point that the Catholic Herald’s headline obscures somewhat:
“If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests… But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
That’s right, Christ gave us something different: the Church has no authority to ordain women and it will not do so, ever; and as Pope John Paul II taught in 1994, “this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”.
The situation with Bishop Finn does deserve close review, though I think sloppy reporting has for some time now contributed to misperceptions as to what exactly transpired. For example, the priest at the center of the scandal, a Fr. Rattigan, was never charged with physically abusing a child and there was no evidence that he did so. Rather, he was found to have repeatedly taken lewd photographs of young children (“up the skirt” kinds of photos) and of having child pornography on his personal computer. That’s awful stuff, to be sure, but Bp. Finn is too often painted with the same brush as those bishops who covered up for priests they knew to have physically (sexually) abused children or adolescents. My understanding is that Finn actually had / has a strong track record of dealing with abuse allegations from the time he was installed as bishop of Kansas City. In the Rattigan case, there seems to have been some serious administrative missteps in handling the accusations, not involving Finn alone, but the buck does stop with him. I have not seen anyone make a strong case there was an attempt to cover it up. I hope that whatever transpires with the Holy See’s review, that there will be some transparency if / when he is removed as bishop so that the public can truly be informed as to the exact nature of his failures and why they deserved such grave canonical redress.
Wonderful to hear of your trip and of what is happening in Boston in so many contexts. Perhaps the secularism of the dominant culture there is causing Christians to realize how much they really share.
Michael Bradley thanks for the information! I didn’t know that about the eastern churches. Very informative!
@JohnA1949 Yet he goes on to say, “But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
Denise Murphy Plichta liked this on Facebook.
EGC & the Institute for Christian Unity get a shoutout on John Armstrong’s blog! http://t.co/iSJnFVmvUK @uniteboston10