Young theologian lives out passion for ecumenism

Every six months or so, Natasha Klukach, 32, hops on a plane to go talk about theology somewhere in the world. The Toronto-based Anglican is delighted to serve on the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) 30-member standing commission on Faith and Order. This group does the theological heavy lifting on ecumenism’s toughest questions: what do Christian churches have in common? Where do they diverge, and why?

Natasha Klukach serves on the World Council of Churches' Faith and Order standing commission.
Natasha Klukach serves on the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order standing commission.

Ms. Klukach is a bit of a prodigy at the WCC, a Geneva-based fellowship of 349 churches. She was only 30 when appointed to the commission, traditionally populated by older, established, often male, theologians. She got the gig after shining as a steward at the 2006 WCC general assembly in Brazil. At that event, churches were challenged to cultivate young theological talent, so when a Faith and Order spot opened up for an Anglican Church of Canada representative, she was a natural fit.

“It’s a huge learning curve,” said Ms. Klukach in a recent interview. “You ask a question and the theologians say they’ve been talking about it for 20 years!” Staff at the Anglican Church of Canada agree, however, that Ms. Klukach is representing the church with brilliance and aplomb.

In her regular life, Ms. Klukach is a fourth-year doctoral student at the University of Toronto. Her studies in Orthodox spirituality have proven useful when interacting with theologian patriarchs (and others) at the WCC. This expertise has also opened doors to other conversations; in February the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed her to sit on the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue.

“I’m passionate about ecumenism. It’s all about relationship,” said Ms. Klukach. She explained that this passion was first sparked after a summer in Taizé, France 10 years ago. In the warmer months, about 6,000 young people from different Christian traditions visit the monastic community each week for worship and fellowship. Ms. Klukach wasn’t doing anything glamorous—she scrubbed a lot of toilets—but she learned a lot while talking to people of different traditions.

“It was a really emotional experience being surrounded by all kinds of people speaking all kinds of languages and all having different cultures and denominational backgrounds,” said Ms. Klukach. “But they all wanted to be together, and all worked at being a community. I realized then that ecumenism is really about people, and about relationship.”

Ms. Klukach’s appointment to the Faith and Order standing commission is a permanent one, so there’s much time to cultivate relationships, and also to experience many national flavours of Christianity. With the WCC she’s already traveled to Brazil, Switzerland, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and most recently to Berekfürdo, Hungary, where the commission discussed their recent publication, The Nature and Mission of the Church with another WCC body, the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Now back in Toronto, Ms. Klukach, a parishioner at St. Martin in the Fields, is sharing her experiences with as many groups as possible, including General Synod, the Diocese of Toronto, and the Canadian Council of Churches. She’s also passionate about making sure the theological work has traction and meaning to Canadian Christians.

“If we don’t reflect on things like this, our churches can become adrift,” said Ms. Klukach. “Theology is so central to who we are as churches. We need to offer some reflection to the churches about who we are and what we’re doing and not get too caught up in the ivory tower part of it.”

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