Ray Williamson, ordained minister in the Anglican Church, served as the general secretary of the NSW Ecumenical Council from 1986 till 2007. The book was launched in Sydney in April 2014. Ray said at the launch that writing the book “was a good retirement project”.
The book follows on from the two books by Frank Engels about ecumenism in Australia, preceding 1986. It covers the work of each of the State and Territory based Ecumenical Councils, the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), the World Council of Churches and links back to historical contexts.
The book is divided in two parts: the “Koinonia”, the fellowship within the community of faith, describing how the Christian churches have worked together over the 30-year period. The ecumenical imperative is based in the unity of the foundation of the Christian Church and Christ being the unifying factor. The disunity, and at times animosity, between the Christian Churches runs counter to the message of the New Testament. The seventh assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra in 1991 seemed to have generated much goodwill and depth of ecumenical work for many years.
The book also describes the difficulties in maintaining the momentum and the deep seated differences by the leadership of the Christian churches to reach beyond platitudes. The second half of the book is about “Diakonia”, imitating the servant ministry of Christ, describing what the churches have done together in the 30-year period. The chapters cover advocating for a just and sustainable society, reconciliation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, working for global justice and peace, and refugee work.
Pilgrims of Hope is a good read for those interested in the background of the unity and disunity between the Christian churches. It provides a well written and documented, in-depth analysis and is recommended to those who are interested to engage with the ecumenical endeavour and it is also a good walk down memory lane with many photos. For me, it provided a good perspective on what I have been part of for the last 15 years at the NSW Ecumenical Council and the Social Justice Network at the NCCA.
Wies Schuiringa, NSW Regional Meeting
Pilgrims of Hope – An Ecumenical Journey 1980 –2010 by Raymond K. Williamson, published by Mosiac Press, Melbourne, 2014; 366 pages.