Before an open fireplace we sat. A convivial evening meal had been eaten and now with friendly logs crackling in the great hearth we chatted amiably with one another as we waited for the discussion to begin.
The mood was relaxed. Pipes were being lit, laughter filled the room, friendly introductions were being made. The young man in the clerical collar next to me put out his hand and said with a smile, “Bob Shaughnessy is my name.” I responded with my own.
Ten young priests of the Roman Catholic Church were meeting with ten young Protestant ministers to talk about mutual concerns of the Christian faith. The young man who had introduced himself to me was a priest of the church of Rome.
It seemed a long way from Luther in Germany, and Calvin in Switzerland, and the Pilgrims at Plymouth. And it is a long way. The movement toward Christian unity is a reality. Romans and Protestants are beginning to talk to each other again. Minds that long have been closed are beginning to be open again. Hearts that long were hard are beginning to be warm again.
A new hope is sweeping the world: that the church of Christ may be One. Within the ranks of Protestantism the drive toward church unity has reached colossal proportions.
And while the great denominations are moving toward unity, the church of Christ in a thousand different places is discovering a renewal of its life. We are living in a period of great ferment.
As a free churchman of the Congregational tradition, and from an unashamedly independent point of view, I would like to ask out loud where free churchmanship stands in relation to this ecumenical movement. What part will my heritage play in the change that is coming? What do Christians of the Pilgrim tradition have to give to this new ...1
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