Correspondence with Marno Retief

15th June 2004

Text of an E-mail sent by Marno Retief to the editor:

From: Marno Retief

To: Editor

Subject: The logistics of ecumenical dialogue


Dear Ken:

First of all I would like to commend you on your desire to further Christian unity, something which is also very close to my heart. I am a theology student from South Africa, currently doing a Master's degree in Systematic Theology - I selected Ecclesiology as one of my concentrations for the Master's.

I come from a Pentecostal background, but have been involved in both the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church.

I see you have tried to initiate dialogues with the Catholic Church on matters relating to Ecclesiology. As someone studying at a very good Protestant/Reformed academic institution (Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch), and somewhat knowledgeable about the dynamics of ecumenical dialogue, I would just like to briefly explain to you why it is somewhat unrealistic of you to expect the main organizing structure of a given church body - whether Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox - to engage in dialogue with you unofficially or semi-officially as an individual.

Large church and inter-church organizing structures like the Vatican, World Council of Churches (WCC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF), handle a tremendous amount of correspondence every day. I don't think you and I can fully appreciate the enormity of their logistical challenges just with regard to communications alone. If the Vatican, WCC or LWF were to start an unofficial dialogue(s) with individuals, it would be a logistical nightmare. Of course I also think it would have been great if I could just e-mail Cardinal Ratzinger, and receive a reply in a week or two! But that is just not the way that things are done at the official ecumenical level. Neither the Vatican nor the LWF nor the WCC has the capacity to handle individual unofficial dialogues. Any reasonable person will realize why this is so, and I am certain you also realize this. So, that is why there is something like an official dialogue. So if you want to contribute at the official level, I would suggest that you get involved in the ecumenical activities of your own church denomination and then encourage your denomination to establish ties with the Vatican, WCC and/or LWF, etc. (depending on who you would like to dialogue with).

If you are interested in some excellent books on Ecclesiology, I would recommend you begin with a few of the 'classics' in the field: Avery Dulles' 'Models of the Church,' Hans Kung's 'The Church,' and Moltmann's 'The Church in the Power of the Spirit.'

Once again, thank you for your contribution to Christian unity - it is greatly needed.

Yours in Christ,

Marno Retief
(Cape Town, South Africa)

21st June 2004

Text of an E-mail sent by the editor to Marno Retief:

From: Editor

To: Marno Retief

Subject: Re: The logistics of ecumenical dialogue


Dear Marno,

Thank you for your encouraging E-mail. I would like to publish it on EvenAs.org (without your E-mail address). Would you be happy with that?

I think the real problem is that most denominations assume that if they appoint a few theologians to discuss these matters at an international level they are involved in ecumenical dialogue and they can 'tick that box' as done. Rarely is the dialogue connected to the whole life of the Church, and it is actually very difficult for most members to make a contribution because there is simply no structure to connect them with those actually involved.

Clearly, what applies to the bodies you mention also applies to the denominational delegates as well; they simply could not handle the volume of correspondence if they responded to every question or suggestion which came up from ordinary Christians interested in the subject. Let's be honest too, most of the questions or suggestions would be quite inappropriate for handling at that level. The problem is a lack of lower levels for sifting and dealing with enquiries, enabling questions to be resolved at whatever level is appropriate and the occasional genuinely useful point to reach the top.

Certainly, this appears to be true of the Church of England, where I am fairly well involved in the governance process at diocesan level, but still am powerless to get my voice heard on matters which happen higher up.

I take your point about the impossibility of any organisation responding to queries from the public at its top level. However, I am not sure that should apply to press offices or local structures. I think any body, certainly any Church, whose fundamental raison d'etre is to promote a message, should be prepared to discuss that message and its implications with those wishing to scrutinise it further. It strikes me that a failure to provide a means for doing that is really a failure to engage in mission.

The current communications revolution is as far-reaching as the invention of print and throws up new challenges to us all. It is so easy to contact anyone now, but not necessarily easy for them to find the time to respond, and I suppose we all need time to adjust to this new situation.

Thank you again for your encouragement. That was much-needed too.

Yours in Christ,

Ken Petrie.
Editor, EvenAs.org

26th June 2004

Text of an E-mail sent by Marno Retief to the editor:

From: Marno Retief

To: Editor

Subject: Re: The logistics of ecumenical dialogue


Dear Ken:

You are welcome to publish my e-mail on your website, and if you would maybe like to correspond with me about ecumenical matters, I would be more than happy to share some of my insights. I am still a student, and there is still so much I do not know, but the little I know I will gladly share.

Yours in Christ,

Marno Retief


Designed in the UK by
© 2001-2016
K.J. PetrieWebmaster