27 April 2022
Cross denominational collaborations are helping Anglican Christians feel less alone in their Christian life and witness, according to a vicar in a rural locality.
St Matthews’ Panton Hill locum Reverend Rob Culhane said sharing services and initiatives made Christians aware there were other active Christians in the district whom they could meet and speak with.
St Matthews’ had a tradition of sharing a Passover meal on Maundy Thursday with Hurstbridge Uniting Church, motivated by their friendship connections, Mr Culhane said.
He said the country setting meant that people in the community co-operated a great deal because of power outages, and a lot of other day to day dependences.
“In country life everyone works together, and denominational differences are pretty secondary,” he said. However, there were benefits of cross-denominational collaboration in other contexts, as well.
Mr Culhane could understand how it would be very effective for remote and regional communities affected by floods, droughts and other setbacks.
He said there were fruitful collaborative projects in the provision of aged care services and with youth groups shared across different parishes in the country as well as smaller churches in the city.
He also cited churches like All Saints’ Clayton, that had collaborations with local churches with large ethnic communities, as an example of how sharing ecumenical activities could help bring a number of nationalities and cultures together.
He also said cross denominational efforts made different understandings of churchmanship possible, and gave people the chance to focus beyond the life of their own congregation.
Centre for Ecumenical Studies director Bishop Philip Huggins said Anglicans were sharing in a large number of ecumenical activities.
Bishop Huggins cited the ecumenical prayer and meditation groups that were organised to pray, according to their traditions, for the outcome of the Cop 26 climate change conference in Glasgow, last year.
He said the idea behind sharing was that people shouldn’t do apart what they could together with integrity, and with doctrinal integrity to their own tradition.
It exemplified capturing and sharing the insights of different ecumenical traditions in the Christian context in a way that enhanced ways of being a disciple of Jesus.
That principle had led to stronger agreements, dialogue and co-operation between Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Bishop Huggins said. It also then led to other denominations cooperating on advocacy for policies around climate change, asylum-seeker and refugees, as well as gambling and other addictions and on combating child abuse.
“All of the churches have had to face the consequences of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. The recommendations from that clearly showed that cooperation was needed and that we could all learn from each other and from best practise. So [churches] applied that by sharing information, so that child abuse predators can’t shift from one denomination to another, and continue the abuse,” Bishop Huggins said.
He said ecumenical cooperation was embedded in the way in which Australia functions.
It could be seen in the enormous cooperation between faith-based welfare agencies such as Anglicare and the Brotherhood of St Laurence around aged care and childcare services.
Ecumenism had also given rise to an intersection between advocacy, services and research, particularly in the area of International Development. He said people shared their research and insights from their services and that then fed into the advocacy efforts.
“There’s terrific cooperation taking place currently between the Pacific Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches in Australia and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They’re working together on matters including climate change and working visas to make sure people don’t get exploited by rogue employment agencies,” Bishop Huggins said.
“There’s a lot more cooperation going on than people might be aware of.”