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Evansville, Indiana
October 30, 1987     The Message
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October 30, 1987

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,: Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, October 30, 1987 1 Faith Todav NATIONAL CATHOUC NEWS SERVICE 13t2 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., WasNngton, D.C. 20005. with gnt asance from The C@hohc Church EXTEN@ION Soow 35 East Waake 0., CNcago, Illinois 6060 A]I contents t 1987 by NC News Service.  By David Gibson NC New8 Service n a corner near Main Street in towns all across America, three churches face each other across the in- tersection. One may be Lutheran, another Assemblies of God, the third Episcopalian. At an intersection a block away stands a Roman Catholic church. Across the street and half a block further down is a Presbyterian or a United Methodist church. At one time as Christians entered these churches on Sunday morning they also disappeared from each other. What each community did behind closed doors was largely unknown to the others. Misun- derstandings were frequent, at times coupled with a sense of suspicion. Anyone who grew up in these towns understood exactly what Bishop Philip Cousin of the African Methodist Episcopal Church meant in September when he addressed Pope John Paul II in Columbia, S.C., saying, "The variety of church life (in America) almost ex- ceeds imagination." They understood, tOO, what Pope John Paul II meant in South Carolina when he told 26 leaders of Christian denominations that "it is no small achievement of the ecumenical movement that after centuries of mistrust, we humbly | Behind church doors At one time as Christians entered their churches on Sunday morning, they also disappeared from one another, writes David Gibson. "Misunderstandings were frequent, at times coupled with a sense of suspicion," he says. Differences still exist today. But, the ecumenical movement has enabled Chris- tians also to see "how much they resemble each other when they pray, when they serve the human family, when they baptize their members." and sincerely recognize in each other's communities the presence and fruitfulness of Christ's gifts at work." CC2 Think of any situation involving human beings where there is a con- flict or a sense of being different from each other. How often does a conflict define the relationship of friends, family members or neighbors? The sense of being dif- ferent can easily overshadow other bonds among people. So it isn't surprising that separated Christians for so long focused mainly on what made them different from each other. In fact, differences remain a problem among Christians, as Pope John Paul said in Columbia: "We are not yet in agreement as to how each of our churches and ecclesial com- munities relates to the fullness of life and mission which flow from God's redemptive act." What the ecumenical movement means for Christians, however, is that now they not only see what divides them, they also see what unites them. They see how much they resemble each other when A they pray, when they serve the human family, when they baptize their members. "Surely it is a sign of the action of the Holy Spirit in the people of God," the pope said, for the ecumenical movement reveals a "yearning for deeper insights into our Christian identity." In a major address to an ecumenical group in Columbia, Pope John Paul pointed toward the concern Christians share for good family life. And Bishop Cousin observed that contemporary American life poses a common challenge for its Christian members "to respond with integrity" to the questions raised as relationships between women and men change in society, as developments are ex- perienced in the role of church and state in family life, or in the rela- tionship "between the poor and those who establish structures" which perpetuate or ameliorate poverty conditions. Christians share an interest in the Bible and in spirituality, said the pope and Bishop Cousin. And in Columbia they were able to "stand side by side to confess Jesus Christ," to use the pope's words. The emphasis on what unites Christians makes an impact in peoples lives -- in marriages, in friendships. In a society where religion once was "never to be mentioned" in polite conversation, this emphasis means that society's members more and more can begin to discuss, their deepest values. The emphasis also means that Christians can collaborate to ad- dress social issues of special con- cern. But do they collaborate only for the sake of expediency? It is well recognized that when Christians band together their im- pact on society increases. But as Pope John Paul said in Columbia, the real reason Christians col- laborate is "for the sake of Christ, who urges us to be one in him and in the Father, so that the world may believe." (Gibson is editor of Faith 7bday.) f Li!i !l   li     . ,