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Are we Receiving ‘Receptive Ecumenism’?

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‘Receptive Ecumenism’, though initially a movement of ecclesiological renewal within the Roman Catholic Church, holds considerable potential for all churches that are engaged in the ecumenical movement and for their closer unity. This article asks why Receptive Ecumenism is needed, given that the process of reception is inherent in ecumenism. It then examines the tension between rhetoric and reality in much ecumenical and ecclesiological discourse, and goes on to ask whether Receptive Ecumenism is a threat to the time-honoured agenda of the Faith and Order tradition in seeking visible unity through theological dialogue. The article touches on the therapeutic dimension of greater mutual receptivity between churches and ends by arguing that Receptive Ecumenism and traditional theological dialogue are mutually dependent.

1. fn11) Paul D. Murray (ed.), Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
2. fn22) As the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1994), pp. 441-2 (#2037-2040).
3. fn33) Paul Avis, Ecumenical Theology and the Elusiveness of Doctrine (London: SPCK; Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1986). Cf. Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission, The Final Report (London: SPCK/CTS, 1982).
4. fn44) Paul Murray, Reason, Truth and Theology in Pragmatist Perspective (Leuven: Peeters, 2004). Nicholas Rescher, A System of Pragmatic Idealism, 3 vols (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992, 1993, 1994).
5. fn55) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. See also Healy’s ‘Practices and the New Ecclesiology: Misplaced Concreteness?’, International Journal of Systematic Theology, 5 (2003), pp. 287-308.
6. fn66) The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Statement of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue 2006 (London: Anglican Consultative Council, 2006), pp. 97-98. On reception see also Paul Avis, Reshaping Ecumenical Theology: The Church Made Whole? (London and New York, 2008), chapter 5: ‘Towards a Deeper Reception of “Reception”‘.
7. fn77) George Tavard, ‘For a Theology of Dialogue’, One in Christ, 15 (1979), p. 15.
8. fn88) See further Paul Avis, Reshaping Ecumenical Theology, chapter 4: ‘The Hermeneutics of Unity’.
9. fn99) John D. Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness, ed. Paul McPartlan, Foreword by Rowan Williams (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2006), pp. 5-6, italics original.
10. fn1010) Groupe des Dombes, For the Conversion of the Churches, trans. James Grieg (Geneva: WCC, 1993).
11. fn1111) LG 8; UR 22: ‘… the ecclesial communities separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us which flows from baptism, and … have not preserved the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness [Latin: genuinam atque integram substantiam Mysterii eucharistici], especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders’: Austin Flannery, OP, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents (Northport. NY: Costello Publishing Company; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998 [1975]), p. 469.
12. fn1212) For an exploration of the therapeutic paradigm of Christian ministry and mission see Paul Avis, A Church Drawing Near: Spirituality and Mission in a Post-Christian Culture (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2003), chapter 2: ‘For the Healing of the Nations’.
13. fn1313) Walter Kasper, Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue (London and New York: Continuum, 2009).
14. fn1414) See further Paul D. Murray, ‘Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning: Receiving Gifts for Our Needs’, Louvain Studies 33 (2008), pp. 30-45. Id., ‘Expanding Catholicity through Ecumenicity in the Work of Yves Congar: Ressourcement, Receptive Ecumenism and Catholic Reform’, International Journal of Systematic Theology, 13.3 (2011), pp. 272-302. Also Gabriel Flynn and Paul D Murray (eds), Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth Century Catholic Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
15. fn1515) The great twentieth-century Romanian Orthodox theologian Dumitru Staniloae held out a similar vision to that of RE: ‘open sorbornicity’, a spirit of acceptance of every valid theological insight in non-Orthodox traditions, but without capitulating to relativism; see Radu Bordeianu, Dumitru Staniloae: An Ecumenical Ecclesiology (Theological Investigations 13, London and New York: T&T Clark, 2011), pp. 27-29.

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