‘Receptive Ecumenism is both a way of thinking and a process that enables unity to be built by receiving gifts from others. It challenges us to not think of what others might benefit from receiving from us, but instead invites us to recognise our needs and to put ourselves in the place of being a recipient.’ 
Receptive ecumenism is essentially very simple. Instead of asking what other Church traditions need to learn from us, we ask what our tradition needs to learn from them – what we can receive which is of God.  

If each of our church traditions were to ask this question and act upon it, the hope is that we would draw closer together as family in Christ, while also deepening our own respective identities.  

Receptive ecumenism therefore has the potential to transform how we listen and relate as churches – learning from each other and recognising that we all have gifts to share. 


Book – Enriched by the Other: a spiritual guide to receptive ecumenism 

This insightful guide explores receptive ecumenism – a discipline of mutual listening, learning and understanding that encourages deeper unity between denominations.  

This Grove booklet was written by CTE Trustee Callan Slipper. He was then Ecumenical Facilitator for Churches Together in Hertfordshire, and is now the National Ecumenical Officer for the Church of England and a Trustee of CTE.   

Course – Embracing the Other

Embracing the Other is a resource for groups of Christians to explore how they can share the gifts and strengths of their own church tradition with one another. It is based on the concept of receptive ecumenism. 

Small group materials 

The history of Receptive Ecumenism  

More about Receptive ecumenism

Read more about receptive ecumenism in this excerpt from chapter one of the 2017 Theos report ‘That they all may be one: Insights into Churches Together in England and contemporary ecumenism’. The report was based on 63 qualitative interviews, the majority with representatives of CTE’s national Member Churches…

…It is worth noting at this point the growing popularity of the concept and methods of ‘receptive ecumenism’, particularly but not exclusively among those concerned with the ‘calling’ dimension of ecumenism.  Reception, according to David Nelson and Charles Raith II, is “one of the most significant concepts for understanding the history and theology of modern ecumenism”. The concept goes back to Cardinal Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, while the methodology owes most to Paul Murray, the Professor of Catholic Studies at Durham University.

The essence of receptive ecumenism can be encapsulated in the following questions, which Churches are encouraged to ask themselves: ‘what can we learn from each other as Churches?’ ‘what gifts must we receive from others, recognising that we do not possess everything we need to be faithful, fruitful and fully ourselves?’

Receptive ecumenism, as its advocates stress, is not about diluting or abandoning particular ecclesial identities, but about mutual enrichment, hospitality, listening, and gift exchange: ‘receiving Christ in the other’.

Since 2006 there have been several international conferences on receptive ecumenism. Paul Murray and the Durham Centre for Catholic Studies continue to develop projects to explore the practical outworking of the concept. CTE has also created resources for local use. Our research revealed a general awareness of and, in some cases, a clear commitment to the principles of receptive ecumenism.