Long before becoming director of Interreligious and Ecumenical Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly, Dr. Dianna Wright was a practicing ecumenist.
“I grew up in a family that was Presbyterian and Baptist and Methodist,” Wright told Fred Tangeman, the host of GA Live and a reporter in the OGA, in a Saturday broadcast that was recorded on Friday. “Being ecumenical has been a part of my journey.”
Ask any Presbyterian who they are, and even if they’ve been a member of a PC(USA) congregation for 25 years, “they will say, ‘Oh, I was a Baptist.’ They bring that with them,” Wright said. “Our churches exist in ecumenical communities,” especially the ones that enjoy joint practices including pulpit exchanges and shared Vacation Bible School programs, Wright said. “You can’t find a Presbyterian church that’s Presbyterian all the time.”
“We all came out of some other tradition,” Wright said, “before we became the tradition that we are now.”
Chapter 5 of the Book of Order guides Presbyterians in their ecumenical and interfaith relations, as well as common action and dialogue they can engage in with secular organizations.
“We believe that we don’t do this work alone,” Wright said. “We have an ecumenical stance that we have produced and even a Bible study [God’s Unity … Our Journey] that helps people understand what it means to be in community with other Christians.”
“It’s not just Presbyterians that God loves,” Wright said. “God loves us all.”
“it’s important that we do our work with other communities — those who believe about who God is, and those who don’t,” Wright said.
Asked by Tangeman what’s been surprising about the 225th General Assembly, Wright expressed amazement and joy that the word “ecumenical” kept popping up in a variety of committees and discussions, including gun violence, financial resources and environmental justice. “It’s happening everywhere,” Wright said. “I’m excited about finding out how ecumenical and interreligious engagement is already happening in the life of our church.”
When Presbyterians share their stories about how that engagement was mutually beneficial, it can remove or reduce the fear that some may have about having those experiences, Wright said. “We need to get rid of that fear element of being with the other or listening to the other,” Wright said. “It’s already happening.”
Wright expressed appreciation for the Ecumenical Advisory Delegates who attended the GA225 in-person committee meetings, which concluded Saturday. One, Mamisoa Rakotomalala from FJKM, the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, “was able to give witness to our church about climate change” through service on the Environmental Justice Committee. A delegate from Rwanda “talked to us about violence. They are resources to us in the conversations we are having,” Wright said.
“What’s beautiful about the Presbyterian system,” Tangeman said, “is it has the sense that that’s the world.”
Once General Assembly duties are complete, Wright plans to wind down employing a three-part strategy: drinking chocolate mint tea, knitting and working in the garden. “All those things are important as we care for ourselves,” Wright said. Tangeman said he’d give one or more a try.
GA Live resumes at 10 a.m. Eastern Time Tuesday and will continue through Saturday, July 9, the final day of the 225th General Assembly. View the broadcast here.