Posted by esbvm on 30th September 2009
The triennial forum of Churches Together in England, of which ESBVM is a body in association, took place at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick from September 7th – 9th 2009, taking the theme Changing World: Changing Church? The moderator of the forum was Bishop Declan Lang, Catholic Diocese of Clifton, and the deputy moderator was Val Potter, County Ecumenical Officer of Dorset. Nearly three hundred delegates were present at the forum from the thirty one churches that are members of the CTE.
Like any big ecumenical gathering of this kind being in the company of Christians with a common purpose and hearing about positive stories of churches working together gave one encouragement to continue with the ecumenical effort. At the same time, one heard and shared constructive criticism of how the structures and instruments needed to change to be fit for purpose in the altered circumstances of both contemporary society and the churches. This particularly applies to the intermediate or county bodies.
The idea of thirty or forty years ago of achieving ecclesial institutional unity within a generation or so has now receded, the emphasis is now on churches working together on practical initiatives addressing the needs of society often in partnership with secular or statutory agencies. Additionally, the exchange of gifts that the different Christian traditions can offer to each other to enrich the spiritual lives of all Christians has become a greater priority. This is referred to as receptive ecumenism. There still remains the challenge of engaging the great majority of faithful across all the mainstream churches in the ecumenical dimension of Christian life. A more positive development is the increasing participation of the black-majority churches in the ecumenical structures. However, Christian communities of an evangelical complexion, often vibrant in themselves, remain, with some exceptions, outside the ecumenical structures.
There was also a feeling that the church leadership should also have a higher profile by being seen responding and addressing together issues raised by society as well as local clerical leadership across the board, as opposed to enthusiastic and committed individuals, encouraging their congregations to engage in ecumenical activity. Last, but not least, is the issue of funding of the ecumenical instruments and endeavours particularly in the current economic climate. The level of financial support will surely be at least one measure of the ecumenical commitment of all the churches engaged in this movement.
N.B. Access to the full text of David Cornick’s and Timothy Radcliffe’s address, the audio files of the biblical study by the archbishops and the four stories are available through the link:
Inter-Church Relations Secretary