The following, by Roger Paul, is taken with permission from a recent edition of the Church of England Council for Christian Unity's (CCU) Bulletin:
Back in March, CCU in collaboration with Churches Together in England, held a consultation at Aylesford Priory entitled ‘Mission Shaped and Ecumenical’. Twenty people from the mission and from the ecumenical networks were invited to take part. We were helped in our reflections by the Right Revd Graham Cray, leader of the Fresh Expressions team, and the Revd Canon Professor Loveday Alexander, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Sheffield University. The aim of the consultation was to begin a conversation between these two groups, in the conviction that Unity and Mission are inextricable linked. A discussion document will be ready in time for the autumn – and I hope to provide a link to it from this blog.
Here is a flavour of some the themes discussed:
The call for light touch ecumenism arises out of the tension between informal and flexible local collaboration and formal ecumenical structures and agreements. There is undoubtedly a widespread frustration with formal ecumenical structures and the perception that Local Ecumenical Partnerships kill off mission. Despite this, there has been an increasing level of informal ecumenical collaboration in establishing fresh expressions. There is a real need to listen to these frustrations.
Ecumenical mission brings together different perspectives of mission which demands deep listening. How far do different confessions and communions share a common mission? How can different charisms in mission collaborate rather than compete? Can different mission strategies complement each other?’
(from my opening remarks).
‘The aim of the consultation was to select people from different perspectives, in the conviction that mission and unity are inseparable, and that there is need for reconciliation between the two perspectives. The unity of the trinity is at the heart of the Gospel and Christian disciples are drawn into that unity in the life of the Trinity. To refuse to acknowledge one another is to ignore what God has already done in calling us to discipleship.
God is a missionary God, always going ahead of us. Calvin wrote of the world as the theatre of God’s glory, and there is a sense in which the intent of God is to draw all that is into his blessing. The Church is a foretaste of that, so unity and mission are complementary activities rooted in the actions of our missionary God.’
(from David Cornick's (General Secretary of CTE) opening remarks.)