JOHN T. FORD OF CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY SHARES HIS ECUMENICAL VISION
Link to Text of John T. Ford's Address
Link to Photo and Bio of John T. Ford
November 16, 2000, ATLANTA, Ga. -- In an address that emphasized the personal, heart-felt dimensions of the movement for Christian unity, the Rev. John T. Ford, C.S.C., Professor of Theology and Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., offered the image of a "family reunion" as "a possible model for expanding the relationship of the Roman Catholic Church and the National Council of Churches."
A renowned Catholic theologian, Ford has, for 20 years, been a member of the NCC's Faith and Order Commission, a body that focuses on the theological underpinnings of the ecumenical movement. "Faith and Order here in the United States provides a venue where Christians can meet and share their faithboth their commonalities and their differences," he said. Where else can one participate in a theological conversation that includes Quakers and Orthodox, Pentecostals and mainline Protestants, Evangelicals and Roman Catholics?"
"Faith and Order has been like a family reunion where long-lost cousins finally meet," he said in his address to the National Council of Churches annual General Assembly, meeting here Nov. 14-17.
Ford drew appreciative chuckles from General Assembly members when he found an ecumenical lesson in the variety of foods served at the family reunions of his childhood. "To be perfectly honest there were foods that I deliberately avoided," he said, citing in particular his Uncle Ed's "pig's knuckles and sauerkraut."
"In every ecumenical gathering there is the equivalent of pig's knuckles and sauerkraut," he said, "beliefs and practices that are treasured by one community of Christians, but politely avoided, sometimes even deliberately rejected, by other Christians." In such matters, Christians need to "act with caution, reverence and respect," he said.
Outlining areas both of agreement and disagreement on doctrinal and ethical topics, Ford suggested that "an immediate approach" to a closer relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the NCC "would be more like family relationshipsin various degrees of closeness and cooperation." Citing cooperative work with NCC member communions ranging from Faith and Order projects, to environmental efforts and translation of the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Ford posed the question: "At the beginning of the 21st century, one might well ask can these areas of contact be expanded?"
"To me," he concluded, "the image of family reunion suggests that American churches should act together in all possible matters except where conscience or conviction requires them to act separately."
NCC News Service/2000 General
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