Hi everyone! I had the opportunity to speak last week at the Boston Theological Institute’s 2016 Orlando E. Costas Consultation on World Mission & Ecumenism.
The title of my presentation and paper was: “Mutual Indwelling: The Perichoretic Nature of the Trinity as a Model for Ecumenical Consciousness and Praxis.”
Yes, this sounds intense, but it’s really not so bad, promise! We have so much to learn from the Trinity.
God within God’s self is radically relational.
In 749, John Damascene began to propose the term “perichoresis” to describe the “cleaving together” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The fellowship of the Godhead is so intimate that the three persons not only embrace each other, but also enter into and dwell within one other in a divine dance.
The Trinitarian life is also our life; as followers of Christ we are called to become an “image of God” and take on God’s way of being. Yet throughout the 2,000 years of its existence, Christianity has splintered time and again, to the point that some estimate more than 33,000 Christian denominations. This disunity is a scandal and a public contradiction of the gospel.
Today, our parishes largely function as isolated autonomous entities, with some city blocks having multiple Christian churches with nearly identical goals yet little to no communication between them. This isolation leads to growing negative views and polarization between different cultural expressions and ideologies present in the Church. This is not who we are called to be, and this is not the way of the Trinity.
My thesis is that the self-giving nature of the Trinity must be reflected in our relations with other Christians. Christian unity is a process by which the church is brought to maturity. In going beyond our own Christian tradition, we find that our negative beliefs about other groups are overgeneralized and untrue. Thus, Christian unity reveals our hidden biases and matures our faith personally and corporately.
What we know about the Trinity must be reflected in our ecumenical praxis. We must go beyond our siloed independent church walls, towards those who are ideologically and culturally different than us. Ecumenical initiatives have traditionally consisted of inter-denominational worship events and high-level dialogue, but have neglected to build the depth of relationship between all Christians demonstrated by Trinitarian communion.
I’m the founding director of an ecumenical movement in Boston called UniteBoston which seeks to nurture these relational connections. We have a website and newsletter as an infrastructure for communication for Christian events happening around Boston.
Each fall, we also coordinate 10 nights of worship gatherings designed to reflect the diversity of Boston’s Christian community and promote ecumenical understanding.
Finally, we coordinate a team of UniteBoston Reps who work with pastors to identify shared missional goals and collaborate on joint service projects. Last October, over 200 Christians throughout Boston – Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical – served together on twelve service projects to tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ.
Iron sharpens iron, and we have found that through rubbing shoulders with other Christians, our perspectives are broadened and our love for one another is deepened. As the being-in-one-another nature of the Trinity emerges within us, we are becoming the Church and Bride of Christ that Jesus prays for, so that the world will see God’s true character and love. Thank you.