Ecumenism even on the missions
THERE was something almost miraculous about the World Council of
Churches' missionary commission in Mexico City at the end of last year, says Fr. Jorge Mejia, one of the Catholic observers invited by the World Council and appointed to go by the Holy See.
In his report, published in the current issue of the French review informations Catholiques internationales, Fr. Mejia points out that this first plenary assembly of the commission brought together some 20 Churches with the most diverse theologies. ranging from Greek and Russian Orthodoxy to Calvin t sin.
The Catholic observers, once they were there, were taken entirely for granted, and, in sonic curious way, integrated into the proceedings. They were asked to stale their opinions, to join in the discussions. and no one was shocked by their theology or ecclesiology. Some indeed rejoiced at it.
The very fact of the Catholic presence shows how radically times have changed, bearing in mind that rivalries in the mission field have constituted most divi
sive factors irt relations between Catholics and others.
This missionary commission was set up after the New Delhi meeting of 1961 when the World Missionary Council — whence sprang the beginnings of ecumenism among non-Catholics — was fully integrated into the World Council of Churches.
The effect of this was to bring the strength and vigour of the Protestant missionary tradition into the largest ecumenical assembly in the world. And it must be remembered that the Protestant missionary enterprises were already, in many cases, inter-confessional in character.
Last month's meeting faced two crucial facts: that the missionary effort must be a world approach to "six continents" (including Latin America as a separate entity): and that Latin America itself has been undergoing a process of being deChristianised.
Though there is much folklore, superstition and paganism about Catholicism there. the meeting made none of the old cracks about leading Catholic pagans to true Christianity. Paganism has also touched Protestantism in Latin America, of course. But the point is that the whole tenor of the meeting was to tackle a common dramatic situation facing all the Churches, including the Catholic Church.
Some 80 per cent of Latin America's Protestants are not represented at the World Council of Churches assemblies, and there was much rejoicing in Mexico City at the arrival of one Pentecostal delegate from Chile.
A great deal that is blamed on "the Protestants" by Catholics really relates to the activities of what are generically known as "the sects"--such as the Mormons, the Jeho\ ah's Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists, At the start of each day's proceedings during the missionary commission's meetings, there was an hour devoted to prayer and Bible study.
1 he idea was to find an answer in the scriptures to the common problems facing all the Churches —the new dimension created by new technology and the emergence of new nations in the modern world, side by side with developing ecumenism on the religious front.
The delegates then turned their attention to the problems of giving, witness (a) to non-Christian religions 1b) to secular man, (c) to the Christian community itself. and (d) in a way that transcends national and confessional frontiers.
Delegates constantly resisted, though not always successfully. the temptation to look for "practical" solutions, and returned again and again to the Scriptures in a first class programme of "biblical themes" revealing a wealth of interesting theology. The result was, says Fr. Mejia, to turn the whole thing into something like a retreat.
Here are some of the specific questions the delegates tried to answer: What is the providential role, in the divine plan, of the transformation going on in the modern world? It is clearly not of the Devil, and the Redemption is plainly operating by wets/ of this "detour." So what should be the attitude of the Christian to this new "secular efficacy"?
Scripture tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. What comes first. the world or the Church? Fr: Mejia says that what was really going on was a reaching out for a whole new theology of the Church,