NEW YORK CITY

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC), has renewed the ecumenical body’s call for an agreement between Eastern (Orthodox) and Western churches to agree on a mutual date for the celebration of Easter.

This year marks the second consecutive year that the Eastern and Western calendars have matched up so that Easter falls on the same day on both. Last year, Kinnamon noted, the NCC issued a call for Eastern and Western churches to “recommit themselves to the promise of celebrating our Feast of Feasts together in perpetuity.”

The mission of the ecumenical movement, Kinnamon said, “is to foster theological unity among the churches.” Agreement on a common date for Easter would be “a step toward that goal,” he said.

The full text of Kinnamon’s letter, dated April 11, 2011:

One month ago we began our Lenten journey.  I pray the blessings of the season – through fasting and prayer, through reflection and repentance – are accompanying you on this journey.

As you know, this will be the second year in a row that churches of the east and west will be celebrating Easter together.  In anticipation of last year’s confluence of holy days, the National Council of Churches issued a call for churches to recommit themselves to the promise of celebrating our Feast of Feasts together in perpetuity.  We based this call on the report of the Aleppo Conference (1997), which put forth an ecumenically agreed upon process by which to heal this fracture. 

Our call was accompanied by a reflection by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC’s Associate General Secretary for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, who rightly named this fracture a scandal, because it diminishes the glory of the Gospel of the risen Christ that we proclaim, and who asked if the glorious message of the resurrection doesn’t require us to make the effort to heal this rift.  In anticipation of this year’s joint celebration, during the first week of Lent the NCC reissued this call.  

The mission of the ecumenical movement is to foster theological unity among the churches.  A step toward that goal would indeed be the joint celebration of the singular event that brings us together as Christians.  I write to you today to ask you what we may do together to bring the churches closer to fulfilling this promise.  

My prayer for each of you this season is that you discover afresh the joy that comes with celebrating Easter.  My prayer for all Christians is that our joy may one day be magnified through a common Paschal celebration year after year.