Rev. Dr. Karen Petersen Finch Photo courtesy Karen Petersen Finch

Ecumenism can thrive in laity’s hands: prof

  • January 19, 2024

Rev. Karen Petersen Finch is aiming to empower Christians to become knowledgeable and confident communicators of faith through a series of ecumenical lectures in Saskatchewan on Jan. 24 and 25.

Finch, professor of pastoral leadership at The Presbyterian College in Montréal and U.S. Presbyterian Church representative in the Reformed-Catholic Dialogue, is the latest keynote speaker in the De Margerie Series for Christian Reconciliation and Unity.

The namesake of this series of lectures and workshops, now in its 12th year, is Fr. Bernard de Margerie, a retired priest of the Diocese of Saskatoon dedicated to promoting Christian unity. The De Margerie Series has become an important collaboration between the Regina and Saskatoon dioceses.

On. Jan 24, Finch will deliver “Re-imagining Lay People as Stewards of Doctrine” at Campion College’s Riffel Auditorium in Regina. She will be joined by Dr. Gertrude Rompré, director of mission and ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon. The next day, at St. Thomas More College, Finch will present “Doctrine as the Fuel of Renewal.” Her interviewer will be Dr. Brett Salkeld, theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina. Both presentations begin at 7 p.m. local time and can be viewed  at

Finch, who will draw from her book Grassroots Ecumenism: The Way of Local Christian Reunion, has cultivated local ecumenical dialogues throughout her career and these experiences have instilled in her an important conviction.

“I have a strong belief that lay people are excellent theologians when equipped to be, and they are highly capable of representing their tradition in a doctrinal dialogue,” said Finch. “My book tells the story of a dialogue between a Presbyterian and a Catholic church in the inland northwest of the United States. After the story, (the book) gives the equipment so that other church communities can have a similar encounter.”

Finch’s methodology is inspired by Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984), a Canadian Jesuit theologian and philosopher celebrated in Catholic circles for his 1972 book Method in Theology, which was seminal in providing approaches to guide and control the ever-changing process of mediation between culture and religion.

Finch’s dissertation at Gonzaga University was a recommendation of Lonergan’s theological method. She later became a Fellow of the Lonergan Institute at Boston College.

Teasing her doctrine as the fuel of renewal presentation as “where it gets real fun,” Finch said her talk will shatter a lot of misconceptions. 

“Most people think if we focus on the doctrine of our churches we will not come together,” said Finch. “In fact, I have had the opposite experience. If we are true to what our churches believe, and if we present it fairly and accurately without watering down differences, in my experience that is when mysterious and beautiful Holy Spirit-guided things begin to happen in the group dialogue.”

In a Catholic context, Finch said many of the important Vatican II documents affirm that the “lay apostolate can and must do dialogue,” and in the Presbyterian tradition there is a lot “said about how an educated laity are really the people who move the Church forward.”

Last summer, Finch embarked on a dialogue with St. Luke Church in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que. She guided attendees through her book and achieved promising results.

“It was remarkable to see these Catholic lay people just come alive. They could have talked theology until midnight. They could have gone on, and on, and on. There was so much passion, precision and wisdom. They want to begin a multi-lateral dialogue in their setting with two Anglican, a Reformed and a Lutheran church.”

On Jan. 26, at Holy Spirit Church in Saskatoon, and on Jan. 27 at Christ the King Church in Regina, Finch will run similar interactive in-person-only dialogue workshops 

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