Franciscan ecumenism

franciscanChris Dyczek OFM

Mindful that these months mark the 500th anniversary of Luther's protest, the author considers recent Franciscan contributions to ecumenical dialogue. Chris Dyczek OFM runs a distance learning programme in Franciscan Spirituality.

There is a long history of constructive interaction in Britain between Catholic Franciscan writers and the other Christian bodies. Already in the seventeenth century, Christopher Davenport published a conciliatory reflection on how the Anglican Thirty Nine Articles could be a starting point for beneficial dialogue. By the late nineteenth century, Anglican projects for communal religious life were taking shape that focused on St Francis of Assisi. In 1927, this led to a formal initiative, the Society of St Francis, explicitly adopting some of the language and community outlook which Catholic Friars Minor and Capuchins had already brought back into existence in the country. But some of the most imaginative writing from a Franciscan perspective has come from both Anglicans and Catholics since the 1960s. Members of other churches, the Methodists and Lutherans for example, have also discovered the attractiveness of the movement that St Francis set on its varied course to include modern expressions of faith. We can concentrate on some articulations of this charism in the later twentieth century. One Catholic friar, John Baptist Walker, in Christianity - an End to Magic, spoke of Christian revelation bringing not comfort but a challenge to probe life's depths of meaning. He pointed out that the Holy Spirit should not be regarded 'as possessing the biblical author[s] like a divine hypnosis.'1 A few years later, the former Anglican friar Emmanuel Sullivan, in Baptized into Hope, referred to the sincere contemporary search for new forms of community, adding that members of religious communities 'will have to be ruthlessly honest with themselves.' Religion as a purely functional routine will no longer impress or convince inquirers. Community should be able to 'break the polarity' of progressives and conservatives which can render Church conversations empty of love.

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