December 2017 / January 2018 - Vol. 95

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In Praise of Ecumenical Courtesy

Let us ask the Lord to lead us in wisdom and give us grace for expressing ecumenical courtesy in our own circles 
by Dave Hughes

Ecumenical courtesy is one of the pillars of ecumenical life in the Sword of the Spirit. It is a comparatively simple idea – one that contains profound wisdom. It is one of the things that makes our life as an ecumenical community of communities work, and I believe is an idea whose time has come for broader distribution.

Last year I was speaking at a leadership meeting of a different stream of the Christian world. I spoke on the practical aspects of our ecumenical life in the Sword of the Spirit, especially the notion of ecumenical courtesy. Many of the participants found the concept to be something like the ‘missing link’ in their own work for ecumenism.

In brief, ecumenical courtesy is the idea that we extend simple courtesy to those from different Christian traditions in our words and actions – that we think intentionally in ecumenical settings about how we say things and how we do things. Ecumenical courtesy is essentially like other forms of human courtesy. If I had someone from China in my home, I would choose my words and actions to take account of their culture and background and avoid language and concepts they would not understand or might find offensive. It is rooted in respect for others and a conscious intention not to let superficial matters cause offense or create exclusion. While a relatively simple concept, it serves as both an enabler and a protection for ecumenical common life. It is both a lubricant and a hedge.

Much more could be said about how we apply this principal but for now I’d simply like to ask us to pray.
  • First, let us examine our own hearts and ask the Lord to lead us in wisdom and give us grace for expressing ecumenical courtesy in our own circles. It’s not always easy to know what to do and we often make mistakes, but we can always do our best. May God give us grace.
  • Please pray for a broader renewal and appreciation for this pillar of our life in the Sword of the Spirit. Pray especially for leaders and speakers that they have wisdom as they lead and teach in ecumenical settings.
  • Finally, pray for opportunities to share our experience in this area. May God use the Sword of the Spirit by opening doors where we can freely give the wisdom we have so freely received.
> See previous articles in Living Bulwark by Dave Hughes

Dave Hughes is the president of the North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit.

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