Fairfield University hosts International Receptive Ecumenism Conference


"Receptive Ecumenism basically means 'listening to each other,' and that is what we plan to do." - Paul F. Lakeland, Ph.D., the Founding Director of Fairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies.

Image: Paul LakelandFairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies will host an international conference concerning bringing together people of different Christian traditions from five continents, from June 9 to 12, 2014. Receptive Ecumenism aims to develop among many different Christian denominational perspectives. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and the Orthodox all will be well represented, among other traditions.

The third such gathering in the past eight years - and the first in the United States - the conference is entitled, "Receptive Ecumenism in International Perspective: Contextual Ecclesial Learning." It is an invited conference.

Expected to attend are more than 100 distinguished religious leaders, activists, and academics - the most international participation to date. In addition to Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., attendees will include Rev. Dr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator S.J., Provincial of the East African Jesuit Province; Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Presiding Bishop, the Episcopal Church; Most Rev. David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See; and Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary. There will also be representatives from the Vatican, the South Australian Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Harvard University, and Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

Paul F. Lakeland, Ph.D., the Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies and Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield, is organizing the event jointly with Paul D. Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology at Durham University in the United Kingdom where he is also Director of the Centre of Catholic Studies. Dr. Lakeland said a goal of the conference is to build on the two previous conferences. "This conference will press the issue of Receptive Ecumenism in the more complex contexts of global Christian reality and in relation to some of the sharpest issues providing causes of tension and division within and between the traditions," said Dr. Lakeland, an award-winning author who is among the plenary speakers.

"We will be learning from a much more international community that will include people from the global south, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, among other parts of the world," Dr. Lakeland added. "We're pushing the idea for Receptive Ecumenism further than at the other two conferences. Previously, those attending mainly came from Europe, North America and Australia, but this one will be more international."

According to Durham University's website, the essential principle behind Receptive Ecumenism is that the primary ecumenical responsibility is to ask not "What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?" but "What do we need to learn from them?" The assumption is that if all were asking this question seriously and acting upon it then all would be moving in ways that would both deepen our authentic respective identities and draw us into more intimate relationship, according to Professor Murray.

For more background, the book, "Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning" (Oxford University Press, 2008), encapsulates the many ideas brought forth in the initial conference.

This conference, taking place on the Fairfield campus, is sponsored by generous grants from The Raskob Foundation, Fairfield University, the Episcopal Church and an anonymous donor. Additional assistance is provided by the Anglican Communion Office, the Bible Society UK, the Commission for Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, and the Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame.

Image: Paul F. Lakeland, Ph.D., Director of Fairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies and the Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 2, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 250