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Stalcup lecturer Livingston: 'Ecumenism is our future' (6/19/07)

By Lisa Barnett, DisciplesWorld contributing writer

DALLAS (6/19/07) — “Ecumenism is our future, or our future will not make much sense to us,” said Michael E. Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches and guest lecturer celebrating the ninth Joe A. and Nancy Vaughn Stalcup Lecture on Christian Unity, held on June 10 at Northway Christian Church in Dallas.

Livingston is president of the National Council of Churches USA and is the executive director of the International Council of Community Churches. In his lecture titled “Living the Visible Unity of the Church,” he commented on the present context for ecumenical ministry, noting the world’s rapidly changing religious landscape. The gap between Christianity and Islam is deep, and a “Southern style of Christianity” is increasing throughout the world, he noted.

Pointing out the economic divide throughout the world, Livingston said, “We cannot begin to be serious about ecumenism if we do not see the world as it is and tend to its needs.” He issued the call to act cooperatively across religious and national boundaries saying, “If we are going to solve these global crises, it will be because we solve them together — ecumenically.”

Concerns within the ecumenical movement were also a part of Livingston’s lecture. He commented on the issues of race, episcopacy, and human sexuality that challenge Christian communion. Livingston challenged the ecumenical community to examine what “guards access to the table” asking, “How do fences facilitate our communion? What kind of witness to the world are we if we can’t break bread together?” He suggested giving one another signs every now and then that we see one another.

Livingston addressed the need for a “muscular ecumenism” for the 21st century, one that has ecumenical and interfaith dimensions to it. He spoke of the need for an ecumenism that “speaks around the conference table and acts in the world.”

A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Livingston was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has served as a pastor, educator, and church administrator. He noted in his address that he has spent countless hours in the “God-blessed endeavors of ecumenical work.”

The biennial lectureship was co-sponsored by the Council on Christian Unity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity at Brite Divinity School. The Stalcup Lecture also included participation of many others in the ecumenical movement, including Churches Uniting in Christ, the Interfaith Council of Thanks-Giving Foundation in Dallas, the Texas Conference of Churches, and the National and World Councils of Churches.

“The Stalcup Lecture on Christian Unity is a gift to the church universal with the vision of unity,” said Eilene Theilig, director of lay and continuing education at Brite. “Its emphasis is on bringing people of different faiths together to learn about ecumenism, to be challenged to live our unity in the body of Christ, and to celebrate our common calling.”

The 30th series of the Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity has already been planned. The series will begin Sept. 8 with the first W.A. Welsh Seminar to be held at East Dallas Christian Church. Robert Welsh, president of the Council on Christian Unity, will be the guest speaker.

For more information about the Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity, call the director at (817) 257-7582 or email” e.theilig@tcu.edu. Information is also available on the Brite Divinity School website.