by Rev. Laura Barclay
Ecumenism Means You, Too by Steve Harmon is a book written for lay Christians to briefly explain the history, importance, and need to revive the ecumenical movement. Harmon uses the lyrics of the Irish rock band U2 as the chapter headings and backdrop for this book on interdenominational work. As one of the most famous rock bands in the world, U2 also embraces Christian symbolism in their music, as well as themes like unity, peace and social justice. Because they grew up in the religiously fragmented country of Ireland during the bloody clashes between Catholics and Protestants, their music prophetically calls for unity among division. In this spirit of common understanding among those who understand U2’s music, Harmon discusses the need to renew the ecumenical movement.
Harmon compares the necessity of the unity of the church to the unity of the Trinity. The three persons of the Trinity are one because they indwell in one another. In turn, God dwells in us and makes us one people in God. Harmon is careful to affirm the distinct nature of denominations, while explaining that these differences are human. Therefore, we must be willing to work together while respecting our different traditions. Harmon notes that young people do not think in denominational terms, attending many different kinds of churches and being reluctant to settle into one tradition. A strong ecumenical movement would affirm their interest in different traditions, while encouraging them to find one nurturing community. While Harmon is speaking to all Christians, his focuses on younger generations who might be the next leaders in the ecumenical movement.
Harmon notes that interdenominational work has stalled in recent years due to the slow nature of the work, a reaction to papal statements about the church, conflict within some denominations, as well as other factors (35). He devotes a chapter to discussing what ordinary Christian can do to revive this movement that was so active earlier in the 20th century, including prayer, being rooted in one denomination while learning about other, learning about church history and the ecumenical movement, and engaging in social justice work with other Christians. At the end, he includes an annotated bibliography for those who may be interested in learning more.
This book would be great for a Sunday School or book club to read and discuss chapter by chapter, and then decide how they want to act. Maybe your church would like to partner with a church from a different tradition for prayer and community work. Maybe you can learn from one another about the origins of your denomination, and in so, grow in appreciation of both your own tradition, and your neighboring church!
If you’d like to learn more and order the book, check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Ecumenism-Means-You-Too-Christians/dp/1606088653