Chapter 8 Christian Unity- Ecumenism

Heavenly Father may they be one, even as we are one.

When I came to Hong Kong in 1960, I lived on Cheung Chau Island for two years to study Cantonese. I was there preparing to be a Missionary in China to bring the Good News of Salvation. But here facing me were many other churches. If Christian missionaries are not united how can we preach fully the Kingdom of God. We are followers of Christ Jesus, who taught us to love each other as He loves us. We are to be united in the peace and joy of the Kingdom of God. A lack of unity among Christians is a scandal.

To express this in a hymn we often sing, I would quote one to show what I really had in my heart:

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is his new creation by water and the word:

From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride;

With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth,

Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,

And to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.

Wandering around Cheung Chau, and speaking to people on the ferry, I met people from various churches. I determine to work for the unity of all Christians. Though I had read about this issue for years in Ireland, I felt that the need was even more critical in a Chinese context.

I soon found out that in Chinese being “Catholic “ was not being “Christian”! That is intolerable. This has come about during the last few hundred years of the Catholic Church presence in China. In the nineteenth century, other Christian missionaries came from America and Germany. They translated the Bible into Chinese from the Greek and Hebrew texts. The Catholics three hundred years before translated from the Latin texts. The results were differences that produced different proper names of people that are different, besides other interpretations. Thus these Chinese people who received the Christian Faith in the nineteenth century called themselves “Christian”, while those who were in the Church communities from the seventeenth century were “Catholic”! I then wanted to reconcile those differences!

I set about meeting students from the Bible Alliance Seminary and their teachers in Cheung Chau, together with ministers in other churches. It was almost impossible to find common ground. I would take for granted the Apostle’s Creed as a common basis, but these people did not know what I was talking about! They had the Bible as their basis, while I was centered on Church teaching and worship. However, there was one person with whom I became a good friend. He was an American teaching New Testament Greek at that Seminary. He had been born in China of missionary parents. When he left Cheung Chau, we kept in contact for many years when he returned to Wheaton, Ohio. I later made many more friends with others pastors and ministers like him.

When I returned to Hong Kong as a priest in 1967, I was soon invited to preach in other Christian churches. St. John’s Cathedral welcomed me many times, and I became a friend of Anglican Bishop Gilbert Baker. I was well known in the Hong Kong Christian Council and with its activities. In 1974, I became Chairman of the Clergy and Ministers Group. Finally in 1976, Fr. John Tong rang me to ask me to take over from him as Chairman of the Catholic Diocese Ecumenical Commission. I am still a member, but I stepped down as Chairman after 18 years. We still meet every month to talk about contacts with other Christian ministers and leaders, and what we could do to promote Christian Unity.

We see four levels of activities for Christian Unity. First is encouraging people to live together in respect and friendship, which could be called social harmony. This involves meeting Christians and having meals and social activities together. Church Weddings and Funerals are points of contact.

The second level is engaging together as Christians in many social concerns, in serving the aged, educational work, welfare of workers, even the democratic movement.

The third level is that of spirituality and prayer. It is almost impossible to share the Bible together as the Catholic and Christian translations of the Scriptures in Chinese have many variations. With English translations of the Bible, there are not so many obstacles to sharing. There are many English translations in use, which seem acceptable to most Christians.

It is heartening now to see so many other Christians use Catholic Retreat Houses. Here is an opportunity to meet on a spiritual level. However most Christian groups in the many Catholic Retreat Houses keep to themselves and do their own thing! They look up to Catholics as having deeper spiritual experience and more spiritual guidance. This can make bridges for us to cross and enter into fellowship, and hopefully melt our estrangement.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January ( 18-25) is an annual reminder to pray and work together for Christian Unity. The Hong Kong Christian Council has been active promoting this in the past fifty years. Praying together for Christian Unity can dissolve the barriers between us. We must learn to trust each other. All our hope must be in the Lord whom we all serve.

The fourth level is what is called theological dialogue, that is meeting and expressing to each other our understanding of Christian Faith. This is more the field of scholars and experts. It is also crucial as it involves those who teach and form Christian leaders and teachers. A recent example of theological dialogue is the Catholic and Lutheran statements on Justification. Here there was deep reflection on biblical teaching, and a respect for each other’s traditions. Dialogue is to develop mutual understanding and reconciliation.

I could recall my own background as ideal for ecumenical meetings. I was baptised at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem in 1934. The reason for this step was that my father was English, so it was the done thing.

My mother came from a Greek family, so they were supposed to be Greek Orthodox, but she and her siblings went to Catholic schools in Cairo. She always practised as a Roman Catholic, as did most of her brothers and sisters. I was always at Sunday Mass with my mother until the age of fourteen. When I was at the American Community School in Beirut, 1945-1948, I joined my school mates in their Christian services and activities for nearly four years. It was while I was with them that I put the following of Jesus Christ as my priority. When in Dublin after March 1949, I soon joined the Legion of Mary and lived a very catholic and apostolic life as a student. In fact, I can relate very naturally to Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Anglican traditions, but with difficulty with the Orthodox traditions.

Living at 56 Waterloo Road is an ideal ecumenical position. Next door at 54 Waterloo Road is Ward Memorial Methodist Church, whose church bell rings exactly when our 9am Sunday Mass begins. I have had warm relations with the pastors there for many decades. Then at 52 Waterloo Road, there is the Truth Lutheran Church. I have also been in personal contact with their pastors there for more than 35 years. Finally there is the Chinese YMCA, with whom I have been friends for decades. At the Salisbury Road YMCA, I have not only been in contact with them but even served on their board of directors for many years in the 1970s. The YMCA is essentially an ecumenical body, which accepts and recognizes Catholics as fellow Christians, and endeavours to work together for youth and community development.

It is significant that in Wah Yan College, Kowloon, there has been a Christian Fellowship since the Billy Graham Crusade in 1975. It is a students’ group directed by a teacher advisor

Whatever the past, it is necessary for us to witness to Christ and His salvation by being an organic visible united Church.

As part of my morning devotions, I pray daily for Christian Unity:

  1. That all English speakers turn completely to Christ

  2. That Evangelicals in North American come to unity in Christ with us

  3. That Europe turn to Christ, lapsed Catholic come to full faith, and Eastern churches come to the fullness of unity

  4. For Muslims and Jews who believe in the One True God, to be with us

  5. And finally for all those of other religious and no faith, can find their way to Christ.

God’s plan is to bring the whole of creation in heaven and on earth into unity in Christ. Through Him, with Him and in Him all honour and glory is to be given to God, through and with the fellowship of all Christians.

I can look back to Holy Thursday in Holy Week in 1955 as the point in time when I really became keen on working for Christian Unity. At the Last Supper, Our Lord prayed that all who believed in Him should be one, even as He is one with the Father, so we are to be one in Christ. Since then I started reading materials on initiatives and issues in promoting Christian Unity. The situation in Cheung Chau then brought things into focus, and ever since I have tried my best to promote Christian Unity.

As for the wider “ecumenism”, it is also used to describe meeting other religions, to work for justice and peace. There is a common ethic uniting us which helps.

It was only after a retreat with the Better World Movement with Fr Ricardo Lombardi in 1978, that I dared launch out into meeting other religions. The dialogue that the Better World Movement promoted among Catholics, and even with all other Christians, was extended to other religions who share many human values. But here, I notice that other Christians are not so “advanced” and do not like to have any contacts or dialogue with “pagans” and other “false teachings”. Our Catholic dialogue with other Religions leads some evangelical Christians to be convinced that they cannot trust us to be real Christians, and so avoid contacts and prayer with us. But God is Father of all, and we are all to live as brothers and sisters in peace and mutual respect and service.

第八章 基督徒合一 - 合一運動





教會唯一的根基,是主耶穌基督; 聖水聖言所造成,是主的新創作。

主從上天來求她,為主聖潔新婦; 捨身流血求得她,建立萬年基礎。

雖從萬邦選出來,信徒卻成一體; 教會救恩的憑證,一主一信一洗。

同尊唯一的聖名,同餐唯一天糧; 同懷唯一的希望,同蒙恩愛久長。



在一九六七年我返回香港時,我已經是一名神父,很快便被其他基督教會邀請我去講道,聖約翰教堂多次邀請我,我成為聖公會Gilbert Baker主教的朋友,我在基督教協進會及其主辦的活動中都廣為人知,在一九七四年,我成為教士與牧師團體的主席(Clergy and Ministers Group(,後來,湯漢神父打電話來,邀請我接替他成為香港教區基督徒合一委員會主席,我當了十八年主席之後卸任,現在仍是一個會員,我們仍然每月聚會,談論有關與其他基督教士和領袖的聯繫,及我們應如何推動基督徒合一。





1. 講英語的人都全部皈依基督

2. 北美洲的福音派與我們為基督而合一

3. 歐洲轉向基督,冷淡的天主教徒轉為完全的信念,及東教教會走向完全合一

4. 伊斯蘭教徒和猶太人相信一個真神的來和我們一起

5. 最後,其他信仰或沒有信仰的人,能找到通到基督的道路。


Through Him, with Him and in Him all honour and gory is to be given to God, through and with the fellowship of all Christians.