Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MY REACTIONS TO "Ecumenism Means You, Too" by Steven R. Harmon

I could call this a "book review", but it is not.  I hated doing book reviews.  This short blog is my personal reaction to the recent book "Ecumenism Means You, Too" by Steven R. Harmon.  It is a short book and easy to read.  For me, some of it was quite inspiring.

I suspect that a person's attitude towards authority and dogma will influence his reaction to this book.  I have read several discussions regarding Christian unity and divisions recently.   Some have contended that there are so many differences between Christians that the designation "Christian" should be abandoned.  Others have argued that their interpretation of Christianity is "right" and therefore all the others are "wrong".  In the face of these discussions, it is hard to imagine an ecumenical perspective on Christianity.  Nevertheless, I do.  And with a blog title "An Ecumenical Christian Perspective", how could I ignore this little gem of a book.

The author does not present a naive view of ecumenism.  He knows the challenges.  However, in spite of that, the book has a positive and inspiring tone.  There are three very good things about this book.

First, it acts as a very good source for information about Christian ecumenism.  This part of the book is good for students and those who want to know more about the topic and want to become involved with ecumenism.

Second,  the chapter on the theology of ecumenism was inspiring and scripturally based.  As the author is from a Baptist tradition, it is not suprising that he would emphasize the scriptural basis of ecumenism.

Third, the author does not stop with theology or scripture.  He offers ten practical things that any Christian can do for the unity of the Church.  One of my favorite suggestions is "....learn all you can about the "Great Tradition" to which all denominational traditions are heirs."  Another of my favorites is ".....join other Christians in serving as advocates for social justice and environmental responsibility."  This gives you a flavor.  I heartly recommend you read the book to get a full meal.

Speaking of a full meal, I have another practical suggestion for maintaining and enhancing the unity of the Christian church.  I learned in seminary that in the early tradition of the church there was the practice of a "love feast".  There may be some Christians that still practice that tradition. I am not sure.  In a very simple way, many Church suppers are just that.  But I have never been a part of a practice that was explicitly called a "love feast". 

I think Christians should start a renewed tradition of a love feast.  My guidance for it would be. 

1.  No priest, bishop, pope, deacon, pastor, minister or any other "official" person within any church may officiate at the love feast.

2.  The full meal will be prepared and served only by lay people.

3.  No one can be excluded ----- not based upon church membership, belief, lack of belief, social status, race, ability to pay, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.  There can be no reason to exclude anyone except those who are violent.  The only basis of inclusion is that a person wants to participate and they are willing to be peaceful.

4.  Everyone who is able will pay toward the meal and toward the meal of those who may not be able to pay.

5.  The only formal part of the meal will be a prayer of gratitude for the meal and for everyone who particpates.