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Takeaway Wednesday: Uncomplicating Ecumenism


In today’s post, Communications Associate Michael Carlson writes about his participation at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014 as an insightful formation experience. Don’t miss the reflection questions at the end! 

Ecumenism” can be a complicated word when there are connotations of theologians debating doctrinal minutiae that can seem ironic given the simplicity of Jesus’ teachings and life. This weekend at Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) 2014, I had the privilege of experiencing the true nature of ecumenism: unity of Christian faiths inspired by Scripture to give witness to our love of God through the Beatitudes. It was enriching, informative, and very fun.

During the conference, I often thought of the Biblical jeremiad tradition, the tradition of speaking truth to the injustices of the times and decrying the construction of a spiritually impoverished culture. It sounds really depressing. But it’s not.

Michelangelo’s “Jeremiah” in the Sistine Chapel

In the context of the Christian prophetic tradition, that is, taking the long-view to see how God has worked through our history and continues to advocate for us, speaking the truth of social injustices in a jeremiad is an act of hope. It is just the beginning of the process of faith-inspired work bringing change, comfort, and true justice to our world. Being surrounded by people this weekend who truly hope and believe that their faith-inspired actions can change our world was incredibly inspiring. “Advocacy”, it turns out, is exactly what “Ecumenism” needs.

In a recent post by JustFaith founder Jack Jezreel (buy tickets to see him speak at our Annual Event on April 11!), he spoke of the joys found through voluntary simplicity as it takes away the distractions of attachments to see how powerfully our faith calls us to mission. Jack is being honored at our Annual Event on April 11 because JustFaith promotes faith formation for adults in the same spirit of Franciscan Mission Service: called by Jesus to serve those in need.

Our original design Franciscan t-shirts set the fashion trend at EAD 2014. Buy yours here!

Sometimes the way I view my faith can get tied up with my psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, ethics, or the wanderlust of my imagination. I overthink it. EAD stripped away those attachments and what was left was not complicated: God loves us and wants us to love God by loving ALL people, but especially those most in need.

Both the speakers and participants were very well-informed on the issues, from the scope and consequences of drone warfare, to the roots of conflicts in Africa, to defining irresponsible corporate investments. I learned a lot. More importantly, I learned what ecumenism really is.

Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.  
-Isaiah 1:17

Three Reflection Questions for Takeaway Wednesday:
1. This Lent, how have I served those in need?
2. When have I defended the rights of someone who needed protection?
3. Where do I learn best how to love and serve God?

Michael Carlson serves Franciscan Mission Service as a Domestic Lay Volunteer Communications Associate.

Michael Carlson hails from Illinois. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, he has been a Lasallian Volunteer, high school English teacher, and a Jesuit novice. He served as a Communications Associate at FMS from 2013 to 2014 and is currently a master’s candidate in religion and literature at Yale Divinity School.