Journal of Ecumenical Studies - Volume 52, Number 2 (Spring 2017)

Below are preces for most of the articles in this issue; note that the first article from Thomas F. Best is published here in its entirety, serving as an introduction to the special section.

Remembering Our Divided Past: Looking to Our Ecumenical Future
Thomas F. Best

The North American Academy of Ecumenists observed the decisive ecumenical event of 2016 and 2017—the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation—at its meeting September 23–25, 2016, at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (Rev. Dr. Jan Love, Dean) in Atlanta, Georgia.

We are proud to present the presentations from this meeting, held under the theme “‘Commemorating’ the Reformation: Churches Looking Together toward 2017—and Beyond.” Through presentations and conversations, the Academy—perhaps the leading professional association of teachers and practitioners of ecumenism in North America—probed the ecumenical significance of the 500th anniversary of the European reformations. Together we asked: What have Christians learned from our long history of division and newfound ecumenical commitment? How can the churches use this anniversary to recommit themselves to the quest for a form of Christian unity that is viable, visible, and effective in witness and service to the world? In short, how can our divided past inspire us to move into a more united future?

These presentations, all from leaders in their respective fields and reflecting a wide range of confessional and theological perspectives, focus on the complex ecumenical task of both remembering and moving forward.

The Rev. Dr. William Rusch reminded us that the work of “commemorating” is a work in progress. Msgr. John Radano spoke about the lessons learned from 1517 as tools for shaping the future. Dr. Catherine Clifford challenged us to claim our inheritance, whether Catholic or Protestant, as a resource for moving forward together. The Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh, surveying responses to the “commemoration” of the Reformation from many Christian World Communions, reminded us of the significance of the Protestant Reformation for all Christians. Finally, Dr. Patrick Henry suggested that, in order to move into our ecumenical future, Christians must practice “creative remembering”—but also “prudent forgetting.”

A panel of prominent Atlanta-area church leaders and ecumenical practitioners, gathered by Candler Professor Emeritus Dr. Don Saliers, spoke of the passion, promises, and challenges of their work in liturgy, musicianship, outreach, oversight, and ecumenical engagement. The meeting was undergirded by four prayer services under the theme “Re-Catholicizing, Re-Evangelizing, Re-Forming.” These moved from repentance to reconciliation and from reconciliation to renewal for a more ecumenical future.

The 2017 NAAE conference will take place in the Boston, Massachusetts, area, September 22–24, on the theme of worship: What have we learned from over 100 years of Christians’ experiencing and learning from one another’s liturgical life? How does worship express and inspire our ecumenical progress? Can we overcome the limits to common worship, not least at the Lord’s Table? Once again our presenters will be leading experts in their respective fields. Further information is available at

"Commemorating" the Reformation: Churches Looking Together toward 2017—and Beyond
William G. Rusch

This essay takes up the subject of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It addresses the need to determine carefully how to note this event and points out the arbitrary choice of 2017. The essay indicates the danger of viewing this event only in a Lutheran-Roman Catholic context. The year 2017 places the Reformation in a new setting: 100 years of the modern ecumenical movement and fifty years of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. This dialogue has been one of the factors in the production of some significant ecumenical texts, including From Conflict to Communion and Declaration on the Way. The conclusion both stresses the need for reception of ecumenical work and the inadequacy of Declaration on the Way to achieve that goal.

Our Ecumenical Future: Lessons to Be Learned from the Events of 1517
John A. Radano

Speaking of 1517 generically (representing also events that followed after that year), this essay consists of two main parts. Part I, relying on reports from international dialogues between the Catholic Church with Reformation churches, indicates several issues in sixteenth-century conflicts from which lessons can be learned today. Part II, “Shaping Our Ecumenical Future,” emphasizes opportunities of the modern ecumenical movement. Dialogue since Vatican II has enabled Lutherans and Catholics to prepare a project for commemorating 2017 together. Continuing dialogues and harvesting their results can lead to further advances. It concludes with a suggestion for furthering Lutheran-Catholic relations.

Re-Membering for a Common Future: Lutherans and Catholics Commemorate the Reformation, 2017
Catherine E. Clifford

This essay examines the significance of the joint commemoration of the Reformation by Lutherans and Catholics in 2017 as an opportunity for a healing of collective memories. It argues that the common re-reading of history proposed by the Lutheran-Catholic International Commission on Unity in From Conflict to Communion provides a corrective vision with consequences for identity-constituting memory and is key to a common future. The reception text of the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic working group, Declaration on the Way, takes stock of the cumulative effects of fifty years of dialogue, rightly arguing for a move toward a more generous mutual ecclesial recognition.

What Is in It for the Rest of Us? Interconfessional and Global Perspectives on the 2017 Commemoration
Robert K. Welsh

This essay identifies major lessons related to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation from the perspective of the Secretaries of Christian World Communions. Drawing on the invitation to all Christians “to come with us along the way to a deeper communion” (From Conflict to Communion, Lutheran-Catholic Theological Commission, 2013), it highlights several key conversations at annual meetings of the Secretaries. They stressed that this commemoration is not just a Roman Catholic and Lutheran event but also an opportunity for an ecumenical celebration of God’s gift of unity to the whole church.

Creative Remembering—and Prudent Forgetting—on Our Way to Christian Unity
Patrick Henry

The distance from Pope Pius XI’s Mortalium animos in 1928, forbidding Catholic participation in gatherings of non-Catholics, to the Joint Declaration on Justification signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, beggars measurement. The landscape had to change, and it was a whole range of creative rememberings and prudent forgettings that altered the lay of the theological and ecclesial land. We need to be alert to the way memory works; its shape-shifting is influenced by serendipity, art, academic fashion, the counter-intuitive, chronological snobbery (and regret), and research itself. Denominational bones ache, while ecumenical hearts are strangely warmed.

Hospitality in Islam as Based on Cornille’s Conditions for Constructive Interreligious Dialogue
Adis Duderija

This essay employs Catherine Cornille’s conditions for a constructive interreligious dialogue theoretical framework with reference to the Islamic tradition as exemplified by the work of Reza Shah-Kazemi, a contemporary proponent of Islamic mysticism and the Islamic branch of religio perennialis. More specifically, it demonstrates how Cornille’s “commitment,” “interconnection,” and “hospitality” conditions for constructive interreligious dialogue are very present in the Islamic tradition.