The basic principle of Receptive Ecumenism is that considerable further ecumenical progress is indeed possible but only if each of the traditions, both singly and jointly, makes a clear, programmatic shift from prioritising the question, “What do our various others first need to learn from us?” to asking instead, “What do we need to learn and what can we learn – or receive – with integrity from our others?”

Alternatively stated, the John F. Kennedy style reversal that is in view here (cf. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”) is from asking “How might they become more like us so that divisions might be eased?” to asking “How might we become more like them in diverse particular ways so that any specific difficulties we experience in our own thought and practice might be eased?”

As this suggests, Receptive Ecumenism is about each tradition taking responsibility at every level of its life for its own continued learning and potential further flourishing in the face of the other.

Paul Murray


Healing Gifts for Wounded Hands is a highly-recommended booklet produced by the South Australian Council of Churches.