Rev. Leland Grim
A local ecumenical group of 17 priests, a deacon, and lay leaders attended the 36th-annual “Call to Action” national conference in Milwaukee, Wis. on Nov. 6-8.
The theme of the conference was “Everyone at the Table: Rejoicing as People of God.”
About 3,000 people, from almost all the U.S. states, Canada, and some European countries, attended the conference at the Midwest Airlines Convention Center.
When Pope John XXIII addressed the opening of the Second Vatican Council, he warned of “prophets of doom” who only forecast decline when the church opens to change.
But Pope John was convinced that divine providence was leading people into a new way of being church.
Now, almost five decades after Pope John’s historic speech, “Call to Action” continues its work in creating an inclusive and just church.
The conference’s activities concentrated on the places where the Second Vatican Council’s words have yet to be fully embodied, places where members of the Body of Christ still are excluded, and places where members of the church still are suffering from exclusion.
Conference organizers celebrate the council’s words, and are working to create new ways to breathe life into the Body of Christ.
Three days of activity included liturgy and prayer, children and teen programs, just church programs, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), focus sessions, caucuses and receptions, workshops, musical performances and films, and keynote speakers.
Four members of the local group—Fr. Roger Bergkamp, OMI, Rev. Wayne McIntosh (St. John’s Anglican in Fort Frances), and Jackie and Gerry Guimond (Fort Frances)—were asked by conference organizers to read, provide music, and serve the elements at the Eucharistic services.
Charity Sr. Louise Akers was the opening keynote speaker, who stressed the need to model the church of the future.
She told the story of how she was dismissed after 40 years of teaching in the Cincinnati archdiocese for not retracting her support for women’s ordination.
Akers also discussed the Vatican’s secretive investigation of U.S. Catholic women religious.
“Relegated women to lesser roles in the church are affronts to human dignity and grave injustices that should be confronted,” she said.
“My vision is a church as people of God, one that challenges the patriarchal and hierarchal model of the church we experience today.”
Dianne Bergant, professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, discussed the fundamental tension between the Bible’s ethnocentricity and its call for inclusivity.
She used the religious message of the Book of Ruth to address the various forms of marginality in our society today.
Bergant also noted the importance of listening to those on the margin and including them into the church.
Almost 50 exhibitors presented information centered around Gospel themes associated with anti-racism, environmental responsibility, inclusion of members of the gay/lesbian community in the church, inclusion of women as priests and bishops in the church, support for exploited immigrants, and support for the homeless and poor in our society.
The conference was an important way for group members to improve their education and training centered on issues of social justice and community action leading to a world of inclusivity and concord.
It enabled us to rejoice during daily Eucharists in an ecumenical and inclusive community.
Editor’s note: Rev. Leland Grim is deacon of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in International Falls.