The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) pays tribute to Bishop Michael E Putney, an outstanding ecumenist, who ended his journey with cancer in the early hours of 28 March 2014. Diagnosed with cancer in December 2012 Bishop Putney was the sixth President of the NCCA.
Last week Michael Putney acknowledged that his ecumenical journey began as a 16 year old when he entered Pius XII Seminary, Banyo. As a student he participated in an oratory competition where he spoke on the life and message of Paul Couturier who is the father of the modern form or the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Michael won the competition but he says more significantly he found ecumenism as a deep spiritual commitment for his life.
“Bishop Michael Putney has been an ecumenical giant who has championed the importance of dialogue between churches both in Australia and internationally. His contribution as the Co-chair of the International Roman Catholic – World Methodist dialogue has been greatly valued for many years .Equally significant is his four years as President of the NCCA where he upheld the importance that the ecumenical space is the place where the real agenda of the churches was able to be discussed together” said Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary.
Bishop Putney was highly respected for his wise contributions to the work of Christian unity, as the news of his death is realised tributes flow from his ecumenical colleagues around the globe..
Curlewis concluded “This week marked the thirteenth anniversary for him as the Bishop of Townsville and last week on 20th March Bishop Michael launched his book “My Ecumenical Journey”. The timing is extraordinary that the last week of his life is marked with these two significant events as if to neatly close his journey.”
Bishop Michael E Putney will long be remembered for his contribution to his own church, the people of Townsville, the Australian churches and the wider ecumenical movement. His witness has inspired many to imagine in new ways what a healthy reconciled Church could look like.