Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Professor Jeanine Turner, of the Georgetown University Communications Department, have published an article in the latest issue The Ecumenical Review reflecting on the impact of the digital age on ecumenical dialogue.
The authors discuss the challenges posed by digital technology in the specific case of ecumenical dialogue. In the time of COVID-19, many meetings are being held online. While this has provided an opportunity for creating a sense of face-to-face interaction at a time when physical presence is often not possible, nevertheless new technology can present challenges to personal interaction, since technology cannot fully replicate or replace the opportunities for shared communication and understanding provided by personal interaction.
Churches engaged in ecumenical dialogue need to ask how the search for understanding and agreement can succeed in the era of digital interaction. As the paper indicates, ecumenical dialogue goes beyond an exchange of ideas to become a path of personal and community renewal and conversion, an encounter that is not only scholarly but also spiritual and transformative.
The paper concludes that complex conversations, like the interaction required for ecumenical dialogue, still benefit greatly from in-person, face-to-face engagement. Churches and ecumenical bodies will need to identify new ways of achieving the goals of ecumenical dialogue on the path of restoring trust and increasing understanding between divided communities
The paper entitled “Thoughts on Ecumenical Dialogue in the Digital Age” was published in Volume 73.2 (April 2021) of The Ecumenical Review and can be accessed here.