The Presbyterian Church in Canada believes in the importance of our ecumenical work and partnerships. Ecumenical work happens in many different contexts, from local ecumenical gatherings to large international organizations. Many Canadian Presbyterians dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to the work of ecumenical bodies in local, national and international settings.
In an attempt to support and foster ongoing ecumenical involvement, the Ecumenical Relations Committee (EIRC) is a standing committee of the General Assembly with certain responsibilities. The following pages are intended to offer an overview of the work, partnerships and issues that are presently facing the PCC Ecumenical Relations Committee.
News and Events
“Together in One Place” was an online ecumenical service for Pentecost, organized by the Canadian Council of Churches. Over 750 people registered to take part in ecumenical friendship and prayer. Prayers, scripture readings and reflections were offered in English and French, and the service was attended by participants from both English-speaking and Francophone regions of Canada. The Moderator, the Rev. Amanda Currie, offered a reflection.
The Canadian Council of Churches Governing Board meeting took place Nov. 27–29, 2019, in Mississauga, Ont. During the meeting, there was worship as well as the sharing of news and updates, and decisions were made that support the CCC mandate to respond to Christ’s call for unity and peace, seek Christ’s truth with affection for diversity, and act in love through prayer, dialogue and witness to the gospel.
The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches will take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2022.
On April 28–30, 2019, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation sponsored the fourth conference called “Our Whole Society: Identity and Common Ground in an Age of Transition,” which aimed to foster a new dialogue about the changing role of religion in Canadian society.
The Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches has released a reflection, Healing Poverty/Guérir la Pauvreté. This document is a resource for all levels of the church and includes reflections on poverty, questions for conversation and suggested actions.
The Christian Interfaith Reference Group of the Canadian Council of Churches is collaborating with the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee to facilitate ways for members of our faith communities to know each other, to foster respect and to create opportunities for dialogue and joint action locally and nationally. Together, we are working on a project to map the diversity of Muslim-Christian communities in Canada.
A Worship Service to Commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
The year 2017 marks a significant moment in our Reformed Tradition. A worship service has been prepared by ecumenical representatives from both The Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Christian Reformed Church of North America. The theme of the worship service is the “Five Solas,” the Reformation’s main emphases of Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone and Glory to God Alone, that are clearly present in the writings of the Reformers. Download the 500 Years of Reformation worship service including children’s messages:
Edmonton’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness
Homelessness has always been an issue in the Edmonton community. Homeless counts since 1999, conducted every two years, showed the numbers were steadily rising. Something had to be done. Edmonton’s 10-year plan to end homelessness was adopted in January 2009. City Council struck Edmonton’s Committee to End Homelessness and set an ambitious goal: ending chronic homelessness in 10 years.
Faith leaders of Edmonton decided to really get involved. A group was formed, called the Capital Region Interfaith Initiative on Homelessness and Affordable Housing. Read more.
Caring for Creation in Kingston, ON
I was new to the city in the autumn of 2013, and appreciated being embraced by a Lutheran colleague who had arrived just a year prior. Together, we felt called to explore a faith-based social justice witness. A group of individuals from various churches concerned about relating faith to environmental issues began to meet. The feeling is that there are individuals within faith communities who are deeply concerned about addressing climate change issues, but such a concern is often isolated within the faith communities that are often struggling with demanding internal issues.
The intention was to create an opportunity for like-minded individuals from within various faith communities to gather for mutual encouragement and corporate witness. The extension from an ecumenical to interfaith dynamic seemed natural. In the end, we agreed on a name “Action Partnership; Many Faiths, One Creation” and a first-year plan. We are scheduling public opportunities for individuals to hear about various faith perspectives on Care For Creation, once a month for the first year, each time in the home of the faith community presenting. From this pilgrimage around the city, we pray we will grow a community of interest and discern a way forward.
—The Rev. Andrew Johnston, Kingston, ON
The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches will take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2022.
The World Council of Churches (WCC), at its 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, in 2014, under the theme of “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” approved two major documents: Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes and The Church Towards a Common Vision . Both of these documents are being studied throughout our denomination.
The Right Rev. Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church in Canada serves on the WCC Executive Committee. The WCC website provides information on its work and special events.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches is comprised of 100 million Christians from over 230 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches in more than 105 countries.
The WCRC General Council was held in Leipzig, Germany, from June 29–July 7, 2017. More information about the General Council can be found on the WCRC website .
In 1944, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, with nine other churches that believed the faithful way to witness to Jesus Christ in Canada was to do so in relationship with one another, formed the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). Today, the CCC is made up of 25 denominations representing 85% of Christians in Canada. In November 2014, the 70th anniversary was marked with a four-day Assembly in Mississauga. The celebration included open meetings of its commissions and working groups, panels on the future of ecumenism and our shared relationships with First Nations people, and a public service of worship at which theologian and activist Mary Jo Leddy preached.
Our Understanding of Ecumenism
One author wrote:
The word “ecumenical” is derived from the Greek term, “oikoumene,” which many be translated as “the whole inhabited world.” It is in seeing this world as God’s that we see ourselves as one. It is in seeing all the world’s people as made in God’s image that we are called to protect the welfare of every one.
Another author wrote:
Ecumenism calls us to name what we believe in common and to celebrate that common faith, as well as to name our differences and to work to overcome obstacles to a united witness to Jesus Christ.
The following statement and definition on ecumenism was presented and adopted by the 123rd General Assembly (1997):
The word, oikoumene, (the whole inhabited world) was first used to describe the great councils of the early centuries of the Christian Era which brought together the leaders of the Christian movement from every community in which the new faith had taken root. Their purpose was to seek convergence on the doctrines and creeds by which the gospel could be expressed and proclaimed.
The unity of the church, the whole community of people of all races, tongues and classes, was an essential part of the good news proclaimed by the New Testament writers. Christ prayed that all who believe in Him might be one (Jn. 17:21). The modern ecumenical movement is an effort to reverse the fragmentation of the Christian church which began with the split between Eastern and Western churches in the eleventh century. In the past hundred years, Christians have become increasingly troubled by the scandal of disunity among churches. The Canadian Council of Churches was formed in 1944, with The Presbyterian Church in Canada as one of its charter members. The World Council of Churches, which began several years later, defined the term “ecumenical” to describe “everything that relates to the whole task of the whole church to bring the gospel to the whole world.”
The ecumenical vision seeks to draw together a commitment to the unity and renewal of the church and a commitment to the reconciliation of God’s world. Fundamental to its basis is the conviction that God’s covenant includes “every living creature that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:16) and that it is God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to gather all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on Earth” (Eph. 1:10). The purpose of ecumenism, from its beginning in the ancient Greek speaking church, was to advance the proclamation of the gospel in worship, evangelism and service that all may be one so that the world may believe. The church is called to serve as a credible sign of God’s unifying purpose for the whole world.
From its union in 1875, bringing together the Presbyterian and Church of Scotland denominations of the Maritime Provinces and central Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has actively worked for the unity of Christ’s church. We recognize the common calling in Christ which we share with all Christians and we seek ways of making visible the unity which God has given us. We affirm one church, one faith, one Lord, sharing in worship, witness and service to the world. As part of the church universal, we strive to listen to and learn from one another, to break down the barriers which divide people and to promote justice and peace in the whole human family and the integrity of all creation.
We work toward a church which shares one baptism, celebrates one eucharist and recognizes one ministry. At the same time, we acknowledge that unity is not the same as uniformity and that diversity of polity and practice can be faithfully sustained within Christ’s church.
We confess that the history of evangelical mission of many Christian communities, including our own, has been clouded by cultural imperialism which has distorted Christ’s Word for all humanity and we commit ourselves to witness to the gospel in the spirit of humility and respect for others, recognizing that truth and goodness we encounter in people of other faith traditions than our own are the work of God’s Spirit, the author of all truth. “As beggars telling others where food is to be found, we point to life in Christ” (Living Faith, 9.2.1).
The Difference Between “Ecumenical” and “Interfaith”
We live in a pluralistic society. From our schools, to our workplaces, to our homes, we interact with people of different faiths—and of no faith at all—on a daily basis. But do these relationships fall under the category of “ecumenical”?
Although these terms are sometimes used synonymously, we tend to use the term “ecumenical” to refer to our relationships and our partnerships with other Christian individuals and groups; and we use the term “interfaith” to denote those interactions and relationships with individuals and groups which would not describe themselves as “Christian.”
It is likely that an increasing amount of our focus, in the future, will be on “interfaith” issues as well as on “ecumenical” issues.
United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch Event in Calgary, Alberta
World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual event observed during the first week of February. The Rev. Mark Tremblay from Knox (Calgary) Presbyterian Church was in attendance of the Calgary launch event in February 2017, which saw many guests from different faith groups, as well as Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, speak uplifting words of inclusion.
The United Nations General Assembly points out that mutual understanding and dialogue among different faiths and religions constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace. To enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the General Assembly encourages all States during this week to spread the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.