We are an "ecumenical" order? What is that?
Rt. Rev. Chev. James B. Magness, SCTJ
Grand Chaplain

Excellencies, Fellow Knights and Dames:

At times we cast around names, titles, and descriptors in a way which suggests that we actually understand them – when the majority of us really don’t understand. In the Smart Book (Manual) of our order, the third component of the Templar mission is thusly described: “To defend in an ecumenical spirit (author’s emphasis) the common faith of all and to affect a union of Christianity, to fight intolerance and to help in the recovery of the spirit of chivalry.”(1) But what, pray tell, is the “ecumenical spirit?”

First things first, let me define “ecumenical.” Generally, “ecumenical” is understood to be the act of bringing people and groups together for the purpose of sharing the common elements of our faith. In the case of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ), this implies that we will do all we can to unite our Knights and Dames under the banner of Jesus Christ and to accordingly act as Christ-followers.

Though it is clear that during first century New Testament times there was a visible and intentional unity between all Christians, the more modern iteration of our ecumenical efforts harken back to the early days of the 20th Century in Scotland at the “Edinburgh Conference of 1910” where contemporary Christian sharing was discussed and seriously contemplated.(2) In large part the ecumenical spirit we experience and embrace today is a direct reflection of conferences and deliberations that have been held during the last century. At these gatherings our Christian predecessors diligently worked to set forth a manner of relations between people of different faith communities. By and large we refer to that work as the “ecumenical movement.”

Living out our lives with a Knights Templar affiliation within SMOTJ, an appreciation of our Christian foundations is an essential component of our identity. Our Knights and Dames are, in the best sense, ecumenical Christians. As such, our rightful challenge is to bridge the denominational differences which would and could separate us, and find common points of Christian commitment and identity.

From time to time during my relatively modest three-year tenure as the Grand Chaplain, various members of our order have told me that SMOTJ is their “church membership,” and that everything they need for an affiliation with a Christian congregation can be found within SMOTJ. Though somewhat flattering and attractive, by the best and most accepted definitions of the ecclesial category known as “church,” SMOTJ is not a church. Properly, SMOTJ is a faith-based organization (FBO) that is Christian in character and defines its mission in accordance with that identity. Our order is made up of persons who have affiliations with a wide spectrum of Christian faith communities. As such, our pastoral and sacramental needs are met within those Christian faith communities, and, I should add, cannot be met within our order.

There is one final thing that needs to be stated about our ecumenical organization. Because of our character as a FBO and not as a church, it is improper for us to engage in proselytism; seeking to convince others to join the Christian faith community to which we belong. Whether we are on a pilgrimage in Israel/Palestine or attending a Convent and Investiture, we are not seeking to convert others to the particular faith communities with which our members are affiliated. In my opinion, our mission is best expressed and pursued when we seek to respect and appreciate the faith commitments of our members and of those whom we serve.

Bishop Jay

(1) Smart Book Version 6 of September 30, 2019 (© 2019, The Sovereign Military Order of The Temple of Jerusalem, Inc.).
(2) Ecumenical Movement. The movement in the Church towards the visible union of all believers in Christ. Aspirations for unity can be traced from NT times. The modern ecumenical movement may be dated from the *Edinburgh Conference of 1910, though this owed much to earlier developments. It led to the establishment of the International Missionary Council and thence to the creation in 1925 of the Universal Christian Conference on *Life and Work and of the first World Conference on *Faith and Order which met in *Lausanne in 1927. In 1948 these two bodies joined to form the *World Council of Churches (q.v.). The initiative between 1910 and 1927 came mainly from within W. Protestantism. The World Council of Churches, however, from the beginning included some E. *Orthodox and *Oriental Orthodox Churches. In 1961, official RC observers were for the first time permitted to attend the World Council of Churches’ Third Assembly; in 1962, non-RC observers were invited to the Second *Vatican Council, and in 1964, the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism described members of other Churches as ‘separated brethren’ rather than as outside the Church. Various organic unions among Protestant Churches have taken place (see REUNION) and the multilateral discussions conducted under the auspices of the World Council of Churches are paralleled by bilateral dialogues between world-wide organizations of different denominations. Councils of Churches at regional, national, and local levels now normally include both Orthodox and RCs. Since the late 1960s there has been a marked increase in the participation of non-Western Churches and of women. So far the *Pentecostal Churches have taken little part. [The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ed. E.A. Livingstone (Oxford, United Kingdom, Third Edition 2013) Kindle Version]

*Full Communion: The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church in America.
*Ecumenical: All Christian bodies
*Multi-faith: All faith communities to include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.
Not a church with a congregation
FBO: A gathering of many Christian faith communities
NAVY: PROVIDE for our own FACILITATE for others CARE for all


February 2020
Regular publication of SMOTJ GPUSA

In This Issue

  Words from the Grand Prior


  Doc's Corner

  The Church

  The Chuckwagon Dinner


  Security Training

  Member Networking

  Priory News

  GPUSA Calendar

Scholarship Book
CAPT Chev. Keith H. Larson, GCTJ, GMTJ
Chairman, Raymond Davis Foundation

Knights and Dames,

The Scholarship Book for Academic Year 2019-2020 (pictures & Bios of Current students) has recently been posted for members. Take a moment to open the pdf and enjoy seeing how many students have scholarships this period.

Click here for more details!

Non Nobis, Domine, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam ®

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