Marking ecumenical dates: 11-29-11
November 29, 2011
On my (and my bride's) 15th wedding anniversary today (an ecumenical union of an Episcopalian and a Presbyterian), I want to note two other ecumenical unions that occurred on Nov. 29, though in different years.
And I want to suggest that such unions are to be encouraged, though it's important to recognize the reality that Christianity (as well as Judaism, Islam and other faiths) has been divided almost since the beginning and no doubt will be divided long into the future.
On this date in 1970, the Church of North India was created as a combination of several Protestant denominations. This occurred some 12 years after I left India, where I spent two years of my boyhood, so I can't claim to have had anything to do with CNI's creation.
This Indian church union had been under discussion for more than 40 years. Sometimes churches move really, really slowly.
It was also on this date -- though in 1950 -- that the National Council of Churches was officially formed. Today, the council says on its Web site that its "member faith groups — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation."
Many members of Protestant churches go a long time without hearing a single word about the National Council of Churches, but if you surf around on its Web site, you'll find it engaged in lots of work of various kinds.
I'm not sure why it's so difficult for faith groups to work together in unity. But the record clearly shows that to be the case. So it's probably a good idea to celebrate ecumenical unions when they occur and when they work.
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A CITY ON A HILL OR A NATION DOWN TO EARTH?
When Newt Gingrich, among others, invokes the image of America as a "City on a Hill," what he is calling to mind is something most Americans would shudder at, writes author James Carroll. Yes, and as Ronald Reagan and others sought to turn John Winthrop's 17th Century image into poltical capital, they helped to fuzz up America's historical memory and contribute to America's theological illiteracy. But that's no surprise. Probably most Americans think the term "immaculate conception" refers to the birth of Jesus when, in fact, it's about the birth of Jesus' mother Mary.
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P.S.: For your holiday giving this year, may I immodestly suggest that you give family members and friends one of my two books that you yourself (surely) already have read: They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, co-written with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, and/or A Gifit of Meaning, a collection of my more serious columns from The Kansas City Star. If you prefer to order directly from the University of Missouri Press, call 800-621-2736. Or if you're in the Kansas City area, see me or Rabbi Cukierkorn for the first book. Or buy yourself and your significant other an April Jewish-Christian study trip to Israel, led by me, Rabbi Cukierkorn and Father Gar Demo. For details, click here.