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Excerpted from One River, Many Wells by Matthew Fox. Copyright © 2000 by Matthew Fox. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"At the level of experience we are all one and we encounter the One Divinity."

  Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, Part 6

Howard Thurman founded a church called the Church of the Fellowship of All Peoples, together with Rev. Alfred G. Fisk in San Francisco, in 1944 to bring people of all religions, races, and classes together. It was the first church in America that was interracial in its membership and leadership. This church is still vital and alive today.

We have heard in the Introduction from Christian theologians Nicholas of Cusa and Father Bede Griffiths about Deep Ecumenism, but consider also these words from Saint Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth century who wrote:

Every truth without exception--and whoever may utter it--is from the Holy Spirit.
The old pagan virtues were from God.
Revelation has been made to many pagans.

Imagine how different history would read if the European explorers and exploiters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had approached the shores of Turtle Island and Africa and the Pacific islands with this theology instead of proposing that indigenous people have no souls and treating them as such through slavery and conscription and cultural annihilation.

Father Bede Griffiths in our own century also celebrates the commonality of mystical experience among world traditions. In the fourteenth chapter of Genesis we hear of a pagan priest named Melchizedek, who is said to pray to "the most high God, the creator of heaven and earth." The term used, El Elyon, is the Hebrew name for the "most high God." Comments Father Bede: "This is very important: in the beginning of the biblical tradition there was this recognition that God had revealed Himself to the Gentiles, to what were later called ‘pagans.’" Other pagans honored in the Hebrew Scriptures as holy people include the ancient patriarchs such as Abel, Seth, and Enoch and also Noah and Job.

It is clear from these many and various examples that Deep Ecumenism will demand much of us. Religion alone will not do. Shouting that our God is better than your God will not do. Experience is what is shared in Deep Ecumenism.

The Jewish mystical work of the Middle Ages, the Kabbalah, says: "The only genuine proof of this wisdom is experience itself." If our faith has not given us experiences to share, then we ought to spend more time with it or find another. Just as our times call for Deep Ecumenism, so Deep Ecumenism calls for 1) experience and 2) the sharing of experience. 

At the level of experience we are all one and we encounter the One Divinity, however he/she be named. But experience also leads to Deep Ecumenism, for when one encounters the beloved, one wants to share that encounter and one is curious about the encounters others behold. Am I alone in this experience? Have others before me shared such wonders? Will others after me? What about my community—do they, can they, share in the same glory and revelation? Many questions are aroused by love experiences. In subsequent sections of this book we will examine some of these common questions and themes. The first of these has to do with our shared existence, the reality of Creation itself.

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