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Project 1: Receptive Ecumenism and Catholic Learning: Exploring a way for contemporary ecumenism

Shortly after arriving in Durham in 2003, Paul Murray began developing the idea of receptive ecumenism as a way of reinvigorating progress towards church unity in a period widely described as an ‘ecumenical winter’. This initial, exploratory project set out the basic principles in 2004-5 as one element of his long-term theological project, Catholicism Transfigured, reflecting a ‘committed pluralism’ influenced especially by the American pragmatist philosopher Nicholas Rescher.

The proposed approach of Receptive Ecumenism was to apply an ethic of receptivity in the context of ecumenical dialogue, shifting the focus from critical questioning of the ‘other’ to critical questioning of one’s own particular community in the light of the ‘other’. The project set out some fundamental principles for Receptive Ecumenism, and established the agenda for further development and testing of the core principles. From the beginning an affinity with the kind of ‘spiritual ecumenism’ proposed by Rowan Williams and Walter Kasper was noted, but transposed to the institutional level with a particular focus on areas of potential ecclesial learning for Catholicism.

A colloquium of 150 church- and university-based theologians from eight denominations and eleven countries was convened in 2006, responding to an invitation to discuss Murray’s proposal for a ‘process of ecclesial learning or receptive ecumenism’. This First International Conference on Receptive Ecumenism opened the door to further development, testing, and implementation of the proposed approach. The project also inspired other parties to organise further publications and conferences on Receptive Ecumenism, including Mater Dei Institute in Dublin (May 2007) and the Society for Ecumenical Studies in London (November 2007).


Key outputs

Murray, Paul D., ‘On Valuing Truth in Practice: Rome’s Postmodern Challenge’, International Journal of Systematic Theology, 8 (2006), 163-83.

Murray, Paul D., ‘Receptive Ecumenism and Catholic Learning: Establishing the Agenda’, International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church, 7 (2007), 279-301.

Murray, Paul D., ‘Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning: Receiving Gifts for our Needs’, Louvain Studies, 33 (2008), 30-45.

Murray, Paul D. (ed), Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).