There are only two representatives of the Episcopal Church, USA -- chosen from Episcopal leaders across the country -- who will serve on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches.
And one of them is from Lawrence.
The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt., was recently appointed to serve a four-year term on the influential body.
The commission is the most confessionally diverse theological dialogue in the United States, with participants from historical Protestant, Oriental Orthodox, Byzantine Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, African American, Pentecostal, Holiness, Evangelical and Peace churches.
Bishop Christopher Epting, chief ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, USA, asked Jensen to join the commission about three weeks ago.
"I was surprised and greatly honored. This is the think tank for the whole ecumenical movement of the National Council of Churches. It produces the papers and documents leading to greater unity between Christian churches," said Jensen, 32.
"It's a great honor for Trinity Episcopal Church, Lawrence and the (Episcopal) Diocese of Kansas."
The commission typically studies important issues such as: Is salvation a moment in time or a process? Once a person is saved, what then? By what authority do churches address public policy issues, and preach the Gospel to people not already part of the church? What is the role of the papacy in promoting unity among Christians?
The National Council of Churches, founded in 1950, is the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. Its 36 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox member denominations include more than 50 million people in 140,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.
Jensen, who celebrated his first anniversary as Trinity Episcopal's rector Sept. 1, explained how he believed he came to be appointed to serve on the commission.
This summer, Jensen took a class on ecumenism at Nashotah House, a theological seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin.
The class was taught by the Rev. J. Robert Wright, a leading ecumenist in the Episcopal Church. Wright recommended Jensen for the appointment.
The other Episcopal Church representative who will serve on the commission is the Rev. O.C. Edwards, Jr., former president and dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., Jensen said.
The commission's members will meet two times each year for the next four years in locations around the country.
"I'm sure they will ask me to contribute to scholarship and research on a particular subject of Christian unity," Jensen said.
He left Lawrence Wednesday for Berkeley, Calif., to meet with the commission's other members. Jensen is expected to return today.
"Bishop coadjutor-elect Dean Wolfe is very excited for this honor to Lawrence and the diocese," Jensen said.
Wolfe, a Lawrence resident, will officially become bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas Jan. 1.
Ecumenism, the process of building unity among Christian churches, is important "because Christ calls us in his prayer 'that they all may be one,'" Jensen said.
"It's a goal for all those in the National Council of Churches."