"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, August 21, 2015

No Turning Back

I recently completed a chapter for an exciting collection being put together under the editorship of the Orthodox scholar and Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Throne, John Chryssavgis, who has corralled an impressive group of scholars both Catholic and Orthodox to write essays in advance of next year's great and holy synod of global Orthodoxy. If all goes well, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press will have this in print early in 2016. I can't wait to see it.

The book will, of course, give the usual suspects fresh reason to start hyperventilating about how the Ecumenical Patriarchate has once again swallowed the poison of the "pan-heresy of ecumenism" by "cozying up" to the "papists," but with such fanatics there is little one can do apart from re-stating that if Catholics and Orthodox really behaved as they fear we do, then we would have stitched up some sort of sordid unity scheme years ago and not remain divided today. One must equally remind them that unity is not an option: the Lord gives no wiggle room here, and sitting back denouncing one another on Facebook is as equally unhelpful as is the demand that unity be attained solely by one side simply "returning" to the other.

This forthcoming collection is, to my mind, an example of something the late Canadian scholar Margaret O'Gara referred to as The Ecumenical Gift Exchange. O'Gara is perhaps best known for her landmark book on the controverted First Vatican Council, Triumph in Defeat: Infallibility, Vatican I, and the French Minority Bishops. That book remains important, and I drew on it in my chapter which dealt in part with the political conditions in Europe (especially from the twin crises of Gallicanism and the French Revolution) behind Vatican I, a council which, as I said, was conceived, convoked, and conducted in an atmosphere of enormous anxiety.

O'Gara died too young of cancer in 2012, but a recent collection of her works under Michael Vertin's editorship has come out to honour her memory: No Turning Back: The Future of Ecumenism (Michael Glazier, 2014), 280pp.

About this book we are told:

Jesus' prayer on behalf of his of followers is "that all may be one. As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us" (John 17:21). No Turning Back illustrates significant developments in ecumenism during the thirty-plus years of ecumenical theologian Margaret O'Gara's own engagement in ecumenical dialogue.

This collection of selected papers from the final fifteen years of O'Gara's work before her untimely death in 2012 aims to illustrate the broad lines of ecumenism for general readers to share concrete details of recent ecumenical developments with specialist readers to encourage both groups of readers in their commitment to the pursuit of full communion among the Christian churches. An invaluable resource for academic and ecclesial specialists in ecumenism, teachers and students of theology and religious studies, Christian ministers, and all educated Christian adults who take seriously Jesus' prayer "that all may be one."

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