My journey as an ecumenist and bridge-builder across Christian division is born out of vocational calling and shaped by life experiences. My own formation has been enriched by Mainline, Historic Black Church, Charismatic, Reformed, Pentecostal, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox encounters.
The difference is that the sharp ruptures that tend to mark such encounters for many beloved brothers and sisters are absent for me. Therefore there is less internalized trauma or tension in my life experiences. Each encounter was marked by blessing and a deepening in my relationship with Christ. Therefore my insights into unity are more marked by seeing similarities across the traditions and getting used to how different Christians can be in their rich varieties. To learn to relate well to each tradition, I would imagine it will be a life calling that will stretch into the next life.
While I am the founder of Kingdom Mission Society (a ministry dedicated to ecumenism across denominational division and race/ethnicity) and current Co-Chair of The Initiative, I also lead a multi-faith based consultancy called Strategic Principles LLC (SPLLC). I bring my ecumenical mindset and learnings into leading my consultancy team.
Recently I had a lovely ecumenical adventure that I would love to share with you.
SPLLC helped to facilitate a National Service for Gun Violence on September 5 2021 in Houston, TX.
I worked with Pastor Harvey Clemons of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Shane Claiborne, Rev. Deanna Hollas of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Bishop Mark Beckwith of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, and Rev. Rob Schenck of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute.
There were two days of various kinds of services but the one that felt the most like an encounter is the one I am sharing with you. If you want to watch the sermon click here at start at minute 46:00. Cardinal DiNardo shared that he had never spoken at a Sunday morning Historic Black Church. It was a beautiful and powerful ecumenical moment with over 5,000 people from a variety of backgrounds watching.
While I was glad the service came together and that the Holy Spirit was heavily present in our time together to help bridge understandings, I was surprised to discover that part of what made this service even possible was the standing friendship between Cardinal DiNardo and Pastor Clemons. While neither had done any kind of pulpit exchange they had worked together on common advocacy around the death penalty, and after the election of Pope Francis Pastor Clemons invited the Cardinal to share with their mens ministry about what the experience of the election (as much as the Cardinal could share) was like.
Friendship, trust, creativity, and boldness.
May the Lord bless each of us members of the Initiative with more of each quality.
Alexei Laushkin, November 2021
Alexei Laushkin is the Founder of Kingdom Mission Society, Principal at Strategic Principles LLC, and Co-Chair of The Initiative. He and his family live in Herndon, VA.