That would be an ecumenical matter part 3

So I was sat there at ‘Reception into Full Connexion’ in 2001 (A peculiarly Methodist thing that precedes the Ordination Service later that day….having sat through one in a large overheated hall that seemed to go on for several days and plumb new depths of wordiness and boredom, I am tempted to say ‘never again’). One of the many speakers from another – unnamed- denomination referred to ‘The difficulties of the ecumenical pilgrimage.’

On one level I could agree with him: any meeting with two or more organisations will produce at least 7 different opinions and 11 different non negotiables.

But then, even at my relatively naïve and inexperienced level, something he said just didn’t ring true for me. Perhaps harshly I thought- and have thought even more so in the ensuing years: It is only difficult because of people like you- who are risk averse and regard good leadership as keeping everyone happy. I have also come to realise the feeling of security of having long meetings in closed rooms that achieve almost nothing.

‘Pilgrimage’ is a journey; it may have slow points, but it does involve movement. The word should never be used- as it often seems to be used in these formal settings- to mean ‘staying in the same place’ or as a way of sanctifying intransigence/doing nothing. Sometimes there is a kind of ‘theological sophistry’; using ‘holy’ words to cover things rather than ‘saying it like it is’. How about sometimes saying ‘We talked, but couldn’t agree. This is not a good situation to be in’?

Because, the ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’ has its moments locally, but if it is focussed around mission is generally not as difficult as the speaker suggested. It is when it is focussed around doing very little or having open ended conversations nationally that become painful in their slowness and difficulty. After many many years of talking for major denominations to not have even recognised each other’s ministry or sacraments is tragic….and most times I am in a big meeting hearing lengthy reports about, well nothing, the only saving grace is that I can catch up with cricket/football scores on a smartphone….

That would be an ecumenical matter part 2

It was further back than the last post. The ‘Churches Agency for Safeguarding’ had just been established (the body that validates disclosures that are necessary for safeguarding; you at the back-stay awake…). There was a press release that said something like ‘This is an exciting example of ecumenical cooperation’.

If I had been eating cornflakes I would have spat them out….lets see; Christ saying in John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they may all be one’ and the dream of church ‘Where enemies become friends, where bitterness ends’ (ok I cribbed that from ‘Faithless’: ‘God is a DJ’) and the big hope that all may come together and find common cause…………. and we have got to the stage where filling out the same forms to respond to law becomes ‘exciting’ (and some denominations still have their own mechanisms anyway, ‘cos we wouldn’t want to pollute doctrine by …erm… filling in forms together would we?).

Either I missed something about the meaning of ‘exciting’ or I have simply lived on this planet for too long….


That would be an ecumenical matter part 1

I remember reading a year or two back about an Anglican Bishop  who had been to a Roman Catholic service where the RC Bishop was presiding. In a statement to the press he reflected on how moving it was that he and the other Anglican observers had come up first to the altar rail and received a blessing first. That was before the other congregation members who were Roman Catholics took Mass.

I got to thinking if I had been invited to a gathering at someone else’s house and when it came to eat, I was invited into the dining room to watch everyone else to eat whilst the host welcomed me, said how glad he was and then said ‘sorry- you can watch but you can’t eat. But we are really grateful that you are here!’ I wouldn’t feel ‘deeply moved’. I would most likely feel insulted, unwelcomed and of no value.

Every organisation has some kind of doublespeak, but I find it tragic coming from we who are supposed to have something to say to a broken world.