Recently I was appointed to this position by Bishop George. Many may ask what this is.
Ecumenism refers to efforts by Christians of different church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings. Ecumenism was a term used during Vatican II and it referred to efforts to which we are all called to work towards the visible and organic unity of different Christian churches in some form. This is a position which I have held in the past in other independent Catholic jurisdictions, and so I come to this position with some experience. I believe my experience will enable me to connect up with my counterparts from other jurisdictions, since I already have a relationship with them.
The ANCC has an important role in living out the goals of Vatican II and being a witness to the larger Christian community that goes beyond the Independent Sacramental Movement.
What is the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM)? There are hundreds of independent Catholic jurisdictions in this country. Part of my job is to be aware of them and filter their communications to the ANCC, one of the top 5 largest independent Catholic jurisdictions. Some of these communications are requests for dialogue and collaboration, and hopefully in time we can work together on projects. Each ISM jurisdiction has its own special charism and identity. Unfortunately, some have more clergy then laity, and some are not open and inclusive.
I also hope to highlight our presence among the mainline Christian traditions through participation in a variety of activities, both local and national.
My mission is:
- To stimulate an exchange of ideas, experiences and evaluations among Christian ecumenical and interreligious officers based on the doctrinal principles of the Second Vatican Council.
- To promote programs which further the work of Christian unity and interreligious cooperation through direct activity at all levels, local, regional and national.
- To cooperate with the other Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers of other denominations, and other ecumenical and interreligious agencies.
- To engage in the life and spiritual activity among the baptized through the communion that exists with other Christians on the basis of the sacramental bond of Baptism, sharing in prayer, and other spiritual activities, including in particular cases sacramental sharing.
- To engage in ecumenical dialogue and common witness, demonstrating the different forms and norms for cooperation between Christians with a view to dialogue and common witness in the world.
For example, I recently was able to list all of our parishes on the website of the International Council of Community Churches, which also makes us a member of the National Council of Churches. This visibility allows us to begin to engage in the dialogue mentioned above. I encourage all to participate in local parish activities and citywide activities to engage this dialogue.
On November 11-13, 2016 I attended the national meeting of Call to Action in Albuquerque, NM. I would guess that there were over 1,000 in attendance. Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM was the keynote speaker. This is an established organization which has been working in the field of justice. “Call to Action educates, inspires and activates Catholics to act for justice and build inclusive communities through a lens of anti-racism and anti-oppression principles.” I was able to connect up with many old friends, including Rev. Mary Rammerman from independent Catholic church Spiritus Christi in Rochester, NY and Linda Pinto of CORPUS, a ministerial community that affirms inclusivity in clergy and renewal in the Church.
It was great connecting with old friends and sharing with them our mission and identity. Many had never heard of us and this was a great opportunity to get the word out. I look forward to reaching out to more Christian traditions in the coming years!
By Fr. Jim Lehman, FCM
Holy Family ANCC (Las Cruces, NM)