Tuesday, 30 November 2010

BBC 1 Nativity This Christmas

Churches Together in England carries a review of the upcoming BBC 1 series 'The Nativity'. It's serialised over the four days up to Christmas Eve (so actually it's in Advent, not Christmas - but never mind that) and the review suggests it's not to be missed.

Tony Jordan (creator of Life on Mars and writer of Eastenders) appears to be the author. He said: ‘I’ve always had a faith. I’m not a God-botherer … But I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I do believe he came here to take away our sins. I absolutely believe that. But there’s loads of little bits around it that bug me. So what I’ve done with the story of the nativity is written a version that I can believe. ‘And I believe that the people who watch it who aren’t already sold, who would ridicule another version with square beards, [will find that] I’ve made it accessible. So they can watch it and see it’s truthful, and say, “You know what! That’s really cool. I never realised it could be like that. I thought it was all beyond me.”

Peter Graystone, the reviewer writes, 'It is not just moving, it is funny (very), believable (totally), sexy (yes!), tense and profoundly full of the grace of God. And the awe of God too'.  Sounds like it might be worth a  try ...

The Nativity has a website provided by the Church and Media network for more information.  Click on one of the pictures and you'll get a menu.

Related articles
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Monday, 29 November 2010

The Way to the Global Christian Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum...Image via Wikipedia
One of the realities many ecumenists encounter, locally through to international, is the separation of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches from the mainstream ecumenical movement.  This has been addressed internationally through the Global Christian Forum in recent years. 

I've found a blog post, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Global Christian Forum, which summarises the origins of this split and the story of how the Global Christian Forum was founded.

Here's a an excerpt from the account of how the split was formed:

One con­cern Evan­gel­i­cals and Pen­te­costals have often had is the loss of the mis­sion­ary spirit among ecumenically-minded Christians—a ter­ri­ble irony, con­sid­er­ing that ecu­menism was born at the Edin­burgh Mis­sion­ary Con­fer­ence in 1910. The Inter­na­tional Mis­sion­ary Coun­cil that was formed as a result of the Edin­burgh con­fer­ence even­tu­ally joined the World Coun­cil of Churches in 1961; many Evan­gel­i­cals left in protest. 1974 saw the for­ma­tion of the Lau­sanne Com­mit­tee for World Evan­ge­liza­tion, fol­low­ing a Con­gress in the same place and year, at the ini­tia­tive of the Amer­i­can evan­ge­list Billy Gra­ham. There 2500 Evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers from 150 coun­tries recom­mit­ted them­selves to world evan­ge­liza­tion in sign­ing the Lau­sanne Covenant. Clearly enough, they weren’t impressed by the WCC’s abil­ity to keep up the mis­sion­ary task of the church.

The post goes on to describe how the Global Christian Forum was founded and designed to compensate 'for their “under­rep­re­sen­ta­tion” else­where, as well as to demon­strate the will­ing­ness of “ecu­meni­cal vet­er­ans” to be in the minority'.
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Friday, 26 November 2010

Ecumenical Basics (2) - Contents

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday I filled in the background of the ecumenical collaboration behind the Methodist resource 'Ecumenical Basics'.  Today, I intend to summarise its current contents.

There are 35 notes and this might seem a little daunting.  The idea is that each page is no more than one side of A4.  This means they can be copied and circulated for training events, etc.

The first 21 notes owe most to 'Bishops Behaving Ecumenically' and are a basic introduction to ecumenical work for District Chairs.  Where I have made changes it is to widen the scope of the work so that anyone involved with District ecumenical work might learn from it.  There is a mixture of material about general principles of ecumenism and suggestions about how to organise ecumenical work.  The value of this material is that its first author is someone with significant experience, sharing tips about how he organises his work.  Here are a couple of paragraphs from the section 'Taking Time to Learn':

What we seek is a maturity of relationship with ecumenical colleagues, so that communication is open and real not tentative and partial. Trust needs time to grow and a key step is to take the learning process seriously.

We expect to learn the tools of our trade in a whole host of areas. We therefore properly give time to learning the language and procedures of ecumenical working. It is difficult enough learning how our own Church operates, so work which zigzags across a number of Churches, requiring joint attention and decision-making, is bound to be complex, and at times tedious.

This section goes on to suggest two types of learning that need to take place:
  • The basics about ecumenical structures and procedures
  • Learning how Partner Churches work
The remainder of the notes cover more specific material about how to set up ecumenical structures, eg
  • Local Ecumenical Partnerships
  • Churches Together Groups
  • Appointing Clergy
  • Sharing Church Buildings
  • Relationship with the United Reformed Church
  • the Anglican Methodist Covenant and the Ecumenical Canons
  • Joint Confirmations
I try to review these notes once a year or when there are obvious changes.  It's due for a review.  If there is information you would like me to add, please let me know via a comment below.
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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Ecumenical Basics (1) - Introduction

History of the Methodist Church, faceted glass...Image via Wikipedia
This post is the first in a series, highlighting some of the resources for ecumenical officers and others active in local ecumenism, available on the Methodist Church website (and possibly other sites  too).
I'm starting with the largest document, Ecumenical basics: Courtesies and practicalities - Introductory notes for district chairs and those working alongside them.  Today, I offer an account of its origins.

This resource for district chairs and other district officers draws upon notes prepared by Bishop David Hawtin for bishops and their diocesan staff.   'Bishops Behaving Ecumenically: Courtesies and Practicalities, Gateway Notes for Bishops and those working alongside us' (BBE) was written a few years ago by David Hawtin,  Bishop of Repton 1999 - 2006.

I adapted it to the needs and practices of the Methodist Church. Copies of this original paper can be found on the Anglican Methodist Covenant website.  In preparing the Methodist version, I ensured:
  1. Some material was reproduced from the BBE resource unaltered; material about history, attitudes and ecumenical procedures.
  2. Some material deals with the same topic but from a Methodist perspective and so incorporates Methodist insights and practices. Sometimes it is alongside the original material and sometimes replaces it entirely.
  3. Some are new notes, not present in the original.
Ecumenical Basics was prepared with gratitude to Bishop David Hawtin for his permission to adapt his material. He says he is delighted about this co-operative venture!

Please note these are guidelines only and it is the responsibility of local churches to discuss ecumenical issues with their District Ecumenical Officer or other advisors (legal, financial, property for example) as appropriate.

Rumour has it the Baptist Union of Great Britain are working on  their version.
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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Beyond Boundaries: The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey

There is a page on the Methodist Church website about the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey.  They have their own newsletter, Beyond Boundaries, and the latest edition can be seen if you follow the link.

The newsletter covers a number of accounts of activities at the Institute.  Most notably is the headline account of the 62nd Graduate School, whose theme was 'Seek Peace and Pursue it'.  There is also an interesting article about the women in the Bossey Master Programmes, 2010.

There is a UK organisation, the Friends of Bossey, and this is the account of their plans, extracted from the newsletter:

Members of the UK Bossey Network held their annual meeting in London on October 18, 2010. Since 1998, the network has supported the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey through prayer, publicity, recruitment, and fund raising. They are planning their next visit to Bossey for September 2011 and will bring a group of ordinands from various theological schools in the UK. The goal is to give participants an experience of ecumenical formation and encounter with the global dimension of ecumenism and mission. The visit will provide opportunity for broad sharing and interaction with students of the Graduate School.
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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Poverty of Ambition? Churches and a Politics of Hope

I haven't said very much about the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).  It is an example of ecumenical collaboration, where the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church (URC) and Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) work together (and often with wider groups of churches) to live out the gospel of Christ in Church and Society.  One reason I have given them minimal; coverage is they have their own blog, Praxis, which you can follow in the sidebar of this blog under 'Related Blogs'.

There are a couple of articles in Methodist E-news this month, which I reproduce here.  This will give you some idea of the work of JPIT.  The first is an overview of one area of work:

Over the last month the Methodist Church has reacted publicly to a number of Government proposals.

In collaboration with other denominations and agencies, it has accused the government of failing to take account of the reality of poverty. Although they welcome plans for a simplified benefits system, they raise concerns that the proposed reforms are based on inaccurate assumptions about the poor. To read more click here.

Also on the eve of the comprehensive government spending review the president of Conference, the Revd Alison Tomlin addressed a rally organised by the Trades Union Congress. In her speech she raised concerns that spending cuts will hit the poor hardest.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have voiced concern over Chancellor George Osborne’s inaccurate use of welfare fraud statistics in his spending review speech. He claimed that welfare fraud is responsible for cheating tax payers out of £5 billion a year. But Church leaders said that this exaggerated figure depicts the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves. Discover more by clicking here.

This work will be further developed at a conference 'Poverty of Ambition? Churches and a Politics of Hope' on Saturday 22 January 2011.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church are hosting an exciting free one-day conference on how our churches can engage with contemporary political issues. This will take place from 10.30am to 4.00pm at Carrs Lane Church Centre in Birmingham.

Will Hutton - author and journalist - will be giving the keynote address. The rest of the day will feature workshops on key policy issues for churches, such as poverty, debt, climate change, peace-making and the Big Society - as well as the opportunity to network over refreshments.

The day will appeal to anyone with a passion for social justice and wanting to help our churches to engage with government and the world around us. You are particularly encouraged to attend if you have a formal circuit or district role looking at church and society issues, if you are an enthusiast or campaigner, or if you just want to know more.

Attendance is free, including lunch, but advance registration is vital.  For more information and to register, click here.
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Monday, 22 November 2010

Evangelical Congress takes Reconciliation as Key to its Mission

Greater Cape TownImage via Wikipedia
This month's CTE News carries the following report about the third Lausanne Congress:

The third Congress of the Lausanne Movement met in Cape Town, South Africa. Delegates from 200 countries discussed evangelism [the way the Christian message is announced] in diverse contexts, styles and cultures. The theme of the event was “God in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19).

The Lausanne Movement seeks to be a global network of 'reflective practitioners' who share one vision for the work of world evangelisation. The movement began in 1974 when the Revd Dr Billy Graham and the Revd Dr John R.W. Stott convened the International Congress on World Evangelisation in Lausanne, Switzerland with the goal of framing “a biblical declaration on evangelism” and stating “what the relationship is between evangelism and social responsibility”. The Lausanne Covenant adopted by the first congress has been a rallying cry for many Christians, and for some it has come to define what is meant by “evangelical”. A delegation representing the World Council of Churches (WCC) and led by the WCC General Secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has been present at the third congress, in Cape Town, an event the Lausanne movement leadership refers to as its "most diverse gathering ever". Over the decades, the WCC and leaders of the Lausanne movement have engaged in lively dialogue concerning the nature of Christian mission, evangelism and social action. Tveit is the first WCC General Secretary to be invited to address such a congress. In his greeting on behalf of the WCC, Tveit spoke of Christians’ “common vision of the holistic mission of God.” He added, “Let us keep the road open, and the dialogue going, so that we learn from one another how we can participate in God’s mission together with respect to others as one Body of Christ.”

A landmark in Christian history

The year 2010 was chosen for this third Lausanne congress because it marks the 100th anniversary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference, convened in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a climactic event following 19th-century missionary expansion, and has been identified by historians of Christianity as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement. Several 2010 events are being held throughout the world in honour of this centenary, including a June consultation in Edinburgh at which Tveit provided introductory remarks.

Tveit told the congress in Cape Town that reconciliation is what being Christian “is all about." He said" "We are called to be one, to be reconciled, so that the world may believe that God reconciles the world to himself in Christ." In the opening session of the congress, the Revd Dr S. Douglas Birdsall, executive chair of the Lausanne Movement, also emphasised the theme of reconciliation. Birdsall welcomed participants, saying that reconciliation is "our focus, our calling and our passion. It is this reconciling gospel that brings us together." He encouraged delegates to draw close to each other as they were drawing close to God. "This is a working congress with a specific task. Its outcomes, shaped by us all as we look to God, could help to chart the course of world evangelisation for the next decades," he said.

The diversity of the congress in Cape Town was echoed by the Bible study groups in which delegates meet each morning to reflect together on a text from Ephesians. Participants shared their own observations and applied what they read to their own context. Each group was like a microcosm of the global church, providing an opportunity to sit together, learn from one another, show concern for one another, stimulate and build partnerships and also to pray for one another.

Voices for justice and reconciliation

In an interview, the moderator of the WCC Commission of World Mission and Evangelism, Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, said that in a historical context that requires greater unity among Christians, the participation of the WCC in this congress of the Lausanne movement would go a long way toward bridging the gap between evangelicals and the ecumenical movement, "a distinction that we need to overcome". "It is particularly reassuring to listen to the voices for justice and reconciliation," Mor Coorilos said. He added that he prays that the spirit of unity in the congress, which was also demonstrated by a broad constituency and in a tangible manner at the centennial celebrations of the 1910 World Mission Conference earlier this year in Edinburgh, could be sustained for a long time.
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Friday, 19 November 2010

The Legacy of the Pope’s Visit to the UK

In his address at Oscott College on 19th September 2010 Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel.’  (From CTE News, November 2010)
The Pope Benedict XVI in the United Kingdom website has prepared a wealth of material for churches to follow up on the Pope's visit.  They write:

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote and meditated the following words: ‘God has created me to do Him some definite service, He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another, I have my mission… I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons, He has not created me for naught, I shall do good.’

In visiting the UK, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, presented afresh these words to every person and outlined how and what our shared purpose is in the months and years ahead as a community that exists for mission. His words were addressed not only to members of the Catholic Community but to every member of British society.

The headings are as follows, go to the site to see the details:
  • Prayer images and candles for every parish in England and Wales to continue the journey of heart speaks to heart
  • Heart Speaks unto Heart: Short films for reflection and inspiration
  • Accompanying DVD Materials
  • Six Sheets For Reading And Reflection
  • Study the Holy Father’s Speeches In Small Groups - this is particularly useful, go to this page and hunt around for the speech you are seeking.
  • Legacy Newsletter - go to in order to register for their newsletter. 
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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Lent Courses 2011

Titlepage and dedication from a 1612-1613 King...Image via Wikipedia
This is from the November edition of CTE News:

The theme for the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Lent Course is 'the unreconciled'
  • How do we bring about reconciliation?
  • Who is responsible for bringing about world peace?
  • Who should feed the hungry?
  • What happens when attempts at reconciliation fail?
  • How do we cope with failure?
These are some of the questions that are explored in the Lent course for 2011: The Unreconciled.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we journey through Lent reflecting on what God has done for us in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because, in 2011, we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, each resource will also have a special emphasis on how Scripture helps understand the plight of unreconciled people and how it helps us to understand our hope in Jesus Christ.

This year we will also be providing resources for Holy Week. The full course will be available as a download soon.

To read more about the Lent course, please download the introduction:

The theme of the Lent Course from York Courses is Rich Inheritance: Jesus’ Legacy of Love. It is written by Bishop Stephen Cottrell and Inderjit Bhogal provides the thoughtful closing reflections. Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Paula Gooder and Jim Wallis also feature on the course CD from York Courses. Each of the 5 sessions offers a good selection of stimulating questions aimed at engaging every group member. It is suitable for the ‘Year of the Bible’.

The Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton and the Anglican dioceses of Guildford and Chichester are also working together on their own course.
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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rural Presence

This is a recent Methodist Church press release:

Serving the churches that serve rural communities

What are the challenges facing the rural church? What does it mean to be a disciple in a rural community?

Rural Presence is the new interactive website for Christians engaged in rural mission. It provides a forum for all Christians to share good news stories and information about the church in rural communities. The aim is to encourage and inspire mission and discipleship in rural churches.

By sharing the wealth of ideas and practical approaches from churches around Britain it is hoped that an effective Christian presence can be promoted and sustained in the countryside.

“This site offers an opportunity to share in all that is good and exciting about the rural church,” said Revd Graham Jones, National Rural Officer for the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. “Whether it’s setting up community cinemas or hosting local post offices, the opportunities for rural churches to serve their communities are endless. We want to resource, enthuse and inspire Christians to think differently about their ministry in the countryside.”

As well as being a forum for debate and story-sharing Rural Presence offers resources for rural mission, including Presence - the indispensable workbook for all churches engaging in mission in rural communities (available to download for free).

What has worked in your rural community? What creative initiatives are you exploring? To share your stories and join in the debate go to
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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Christian Enquiry Agency

Christianity is the name of the website recently re-launched by the Christian Enquiry Agency, as a public facing website for anyone interested in the Christian faith. It is designed for all ages of enquirer and traditions of the Church and provides a host of information and an opportunity for people new to Christianity to enquire.

The Christian Enquiry Agency (CEA) provides information for people who want to find out about the Christian faith and its founder Jesus Christ. The information is reliable, objective and given confidentially.  It does not just offer a version of Christianity adhered to by one particular group of Christians (‘denomination’ or ‘tradition’). Instead it attempts to explain and explore what Christians of all kinds believe.

CEA tries to respond to all enquirers by giving them what they ask for, and only what they ask for. It takes steps to ensure that no one is given information unsolicited. It does not seek to take the place of local churches.  It is an agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and a registered charity (number 297393). 

The purpose of the Christian Enquiry Agency is to inform people about Jesus Christ and Christianity. It is their hope that men and women will take steps of faith toward a commitment to Jesus Christ as a result of what they discover. It is their prayer that having an active faith will improve their lives.
Most people who want to make use of the service that the Agency offers reach them through their website. It comes close to the top of any online search that uses the word Christianity. They also respond to requests that come by post or telephone, and all these details can be found on the website. People discover the Agency because it is linked to a large number of church websites, and its details appear in newspapers, booklets and exhibitions in cathedrals.
CEA tries to respond to all enquirers by giving them what they ask for, and only what they ask for. Typically, people might ask to be sent a gospel or other information about Christianity. They might request CEA's hundreds of supporters to pray about a particular issue, ask a question about Christianity, or seek help to find a reputable local church where they can explore issues of faith with others. CEA are also able to put them in touch with another Christian who can start an email conversation to share experience of following Jesus (these people have been trained and steps taken to ensure that they are trustworthy).
The Christian Enquiry Agency hosts this site as a service for all churches, it would be great if a link was put on every church and Christian agency website.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ecumenical Vision Statement

Eye of Providence (icon)Image via Wikipedia
About a year ago, a new model constitution was launched for single congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs).  This was as a response to the need for churches with an annual turnover in excess of £100 000 to register with the Charity Commission.  The churches also took the opportunity to reduce the complexity of the system for approval of LEPs.  Details of this new arrangement can be found on the Churches Together in England (CTE) website.

This new arrangement is a much simpler, less time consuming approach because there is now a standard set of model governing documents and very little work needs to be done to adapt them to local circumstances.  This seems to be have been a reasonably popular move.

Whereas in the past, LEPs would invest many hours of work into their constitutions, the suggestion is they now focus their effort onto an Ecumenical Vision Statement (EVS).  CTE has recently published a leaflet on its website to assist churches planning an EVS.

One of the strengths of this leaflet, Together Instead of Separately, is that it places LEPs in context as one possible response to an EVS.  In other words, the advice is to write your EVS early in a relationship and then use it to assist with planning your next step.  Below I've reproduced the subheadings from the leaflet:

  1. In the light of the prayer of Christ ‘may they all be one… that the world may believe that you sent me…’ (John 17.21) and the injunction to ‘spare no effort to make fast with bonds of peace the unity which the Spirit gives’ (Ephesians 4:3) what do we now have a vision to do together instead of separately?
  2. How does this venture relate to the local community beyond the Church and the Church beyond the local community?
  3. What is the added value of this ecumenical commitment to the whole Church offering the whole Gospel to the whole Earth?
  4. What is the next step in acting on this vision?
a)  Should we seek to form a Local Ecumenical Partnership?
b)  Should we make a Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment?
c)  A time-limited project for the next x years?

d)  Light-touch…

Related articles
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Friday, 12 November 2010

All Things in Common

Today, a brief visit to the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) website, for details of 2011's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18 - 25 January 2011.  The theme is 'All Things on Common' and materials can be found here on the CTBI website.

There is a pamphlet and this can be ordered from the webpage or downloaded.  A small donation is requested for downloads.

Here are some excerpts form the flyer for the week and the website, which explain the theme:

This year an ecumenical group in Jerusalem were the originators of the material. Amidst all the turmoil, danger, injustice and fragility of the Middle East, the Churches in Jerusalem challenge the whole Church to remain faithful to the vocation to be one, and to recommit ourselves to pray for the unity of the church that world might believe.

The Christians of Jerusalem and indeed much of the Middle East are living under tremendous pressure and we are all too aware of the difficulties they experience both in terms of the political and religious situation and their dwindling numbers. However they are also communities of faith that worship, pray and study together, who work for the good of their society and pray for unity of the Church and the coming of the Kingdom of God. In 2011 they invite the world-wide Church to pray with them for the unity of the Church and justice and peace in the Holy Land and through the world.

The material was developed by the International Committee for the Week of Prayer composed of members of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and adapted into its present form by writers from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on behalf of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

The Britain and Ireland Writers Group are pleased to commend the worship materials for 2011 and have written some additional material to complement the liturgies from the churches of Jerusalem.

The aims of the week are:
  • To pray as Christ prayed “That they may be one”.
  • To pray for the unity of all Christian people as we share in Christ’s ministry The Week of Prayer offers opportunities to meet and pray with fellow-Christians of different denominations in your locality. Often new local initiatives emerge out of such meeting and praying together.
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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Vatican II Conference

The opening of the Second Session of the Secon...Image via Wikipedia
The opening of the second session
of the Second Vatican Council
David Carter has kindly written the following report for this blog:

On 3-5 November I attended, by kind invitation of Professor Joseph Fameree, a conference held at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium on the style of the Second Vatican Council. The issues raised at the conference were of importance not just to Roman Catholics but, ecumenically, to all their ecumenical partners, including, of course, Methodism.

It is well known that the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the ground-breaking Decree on Ecumenism, allowed the Catholic Church to play a much fuller role within the Ecumenical Movement. In particular, the Decree called for mutual dialogue and learning, allowing Catholics to place a properly appreciative value on the heritage of the other churches, both Orthodox and Protestant and to learn from them.

Like any other documents, the decrees of the Council have been subject to varying interpretations. Catholics have disagreed amongst themselves as to how to see the significance of the Council. Some have stressed the elements of continuity with the pre-Vatican II Church and earlier Councils. Others have argued that the Council represented a more radical break with the past, particularly in the way in which it called on Roman Catholics to engage with the rest of Christendom, the other major faiths and the modern world. Particular decrees addressed these three constituencies and, in particular, the Decree Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) addressed the way in which the Church must approach the modern world, both learning from secular developments yet also examining them in the light of gospel and kingdom values.

A prominent American Catholic scholar, John O’Malley, has argued for the importance of the style of the Council documents in interpreting them. He argues that their positive and encouraging tone contrasted with that of many earlier councils which were far more concerned with condemning errors. He argues that whereas in earlier Catholic theology the stress had been on the hierarchy of the Church (pope and bishops) and on teaching authority, now the stress was on the significance of the whole people of God, including a positive role for the laity and on dialogue with the rest of the world.

It was essentially to evaluate this concept of style that the three catholic universities of Quebec (Universite Laval), Paris (the Institut Catholique) and Louvain organised a research programme and conference, papers being given by members of all three faculties. Particular attention was given to the question of the extent to which the spirit of the Council, not just the details within the particular decrees, has been received. Of course in an imperfect world and in a pilgrim Church still finding its providential way, one cannot find perfection, but there was a deep concern amongst many of the members of the conference that the positive spirit of the Council was not always being honoured in contemporary Catholic practice.

There was constant stress on the pastoral nature of the Council. A particularly interesting paper was given by a younger priest, Fr. Dominique Barnerias, who spoke about his own parish in suburban Paris where lay people are now very heavily involved in mission, community service and pastoral support. He stressed that his layfolk saw the church as their affair not the sole responsibility of the priest in charge.

Considerable stress was placed on the style of the language of the documents, a style that moved, in contrast with the past, from commandment to invitation, from law to ideal, from threat to persuasion, from monologue to conversation, from exclusion to inclusion. In discussing the Council’s teaching on the call of all to holiness, great emphasis was placed on ‘the joyful pursuit of holiness’, a stress that certainly resonates with the hymns of Charles Wesley on the same subject. Several speakers related this style to what they saw as the very style of Jesus himself in his hospitality and openness to all others.

I was myself a student during the years of Vatican II (1962-5) and I remember how learning about the decrees from Catholic fellow students transformed my understanding of the Roman Catholic Church and made me realise how much we could learn from it. The current international Roman Catholic-Methodist dialogue, due to issue another report in 2011, is a direct result of the inspiration and call of the Council of its invitation to what were then called the separated brethren ‘to search together into the divine mysteries’. Some, both of the excitement and of the good practice then developed, has since evaporated. They need to be recovered and shared for the benefit of the whole Church and its unity. I am grateful to my French Catholic sisters and brothers for reminding us of this.
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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Jim Wallis Tours England

Jim Wallis, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executiv...Image via Wikipedia
Hope Together have circulated details of Jim Wallis' 'Justice Now' UK tour.

Jim Wallis; American Evangelist, Best-seller and International Commentator on Religion and Ethics, is coming to the UK. He founded ‘Sojourners’ – a Christian organisation campaigning for peace and justice, and is also a spiritual adviser to Barack Obama.

Jim is hosting a week-long tour intended to spur Christians on to a new justice revival – calling us to empower both individuals and communities. There are four evening sessions being held at venues across the country. Roy Crowne (of Hope Together) says he is ‘thrilled and excited about this partnership’ – ‘Jim is passionate about words and action, so by standing with him we are continuing to place the Church at the centre. This could provide the step of change we need for even more Church involvement in the community.’

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained from We Got Tickets online (search for 'Jim Wallis Tour').  The details are as follows:
  • NOTTINGHAM: Trent Vineyard, Wed 24th Nov, 2010, 7.30pm
  • BIRMINGHAM: Cathedral, Thu 25th Nov, 2010, 7.30pm
  • WIMBLEDON: St Michael's Church, Fri 26th Nov, 2010, 7.30pm
  • CHALFONT ST PETER: Gold Hill Baptist Church, Sat 27th Nov, 2010, 8.00pm
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Methodist URC Liaison Committee, November 2010

Image by Monissa via Flickr

Rural Advisers address everything rural,
including chaplaincy at agricultural shows

The Methodist URC Liaison Committee meets three times per year to oversee the practicalities of the ecumenical collaboration between the two churches.

The meeting today has a heavy agenda, following a period of considerable activity. The Joint Resolution in the summer of 2006, adopted by Methodist Conference and the URC General Assembly, has led to two major events this year, the 'Closer Working' consultation in April and the first ever joint meeting between Methodist Council and URC Mission Council in October.

The agenda for the meeting reflects the need to take stock of the outcomes from these events (mostly recorded in this blog) and also addresses some other issues from the ongoing life of the two churches:

  1. The future of the joint Rural Adviser post
  2. Recognition of each other's ministries can still be problematic. The group will consider issues around the role of Methodist Superintendent Ministers (especially where they are in a circuit where there is a Methodist URC Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) but not the minister themselves) and the status of URC Ministers who are recognised as Associate Ministers by the Methodist Church.
  3. There are a number of issues around United Areas. The primary concern is progress with the model constitution for united areas. This is being written to conform with the need for most united areas to register with the Charity Commission. It will be the first time there is a model constitution for these areas, which have hitherto written their own. The hope is the new model will save considerable time in preparation of such constitutions.
  4. There is to be a URC Marketing Campaign and the committee will have a preliminary discussion about what this might mean for LEPs.
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Monday, 8 November 2010

Christian Coalition for Urban Mission

Sheffield Peace Gardens in summer, UK. 
From CCUM website

 At the meeting of the Churches Together in England's Enabling Group in September 2010, the Christian Coalition for Urban Mission (CCUM) was accepted as a CTE Co-ordinating Group.  This addition has not yet found its way onto CTE's website but the link will tell you what a co-ordinating group is!  Erica Dunmow, who is part-time co-ordinator at present, has kindly contributed the following:

The Methodist Church jointly funded (with the Evangelical Coalition for Urban Mission) an Urban Mission Development Advisor from 2004-2010. The initial work was to look at mission on a holistic, integrated model in disadvantaged urban communities across the whole UK, across all Christian traditions. Then it identified different sources of support and training that are relevant in such contexts, piloted various gap-filling initiatives, and grew the range of agencies and denominations actively working together. By summer 2010, a new Christian Coalition for Urban Mission had been set up with 11 bodies active on its Steering Group (6 agencies and 5 denominational bodies, including the Methodist Church), and a further 18 (including two Black-led denominations) endorsing the process.

The Project's work was evaluated as part of the Connexion's Urban Mission Review in summer 2009, and the Review Group's Report was accepted at Methodist Conference in 2010. This recommended the setting up of a broad-based 'hub', on an ecumenical basis, with continued active Methodist engagement, including funding.

The Steering Group of the Christian Coalition for Urban Mission is working to establish that resource. It has been invited by Churches Together in England to convene a Coordinating Group (again of agencies and denominations) for Urban Mission. The key purposes of the Coalition are:

To facilitate communication, cooperation, collaboration and best practice among organisations involved in urban mission with the aim of enabling these organisations to be more effective in supporting holistic/integral urban mission by:
  1. enabling Coalition members to provide more effective support and training to practitioners
  2. promoting shared learning between agencies, denominations and individuals around common themes and areas of difference including good practice and values and broader understandings of urban mission
  3. strengthening Coalition members’ ability to strengthen the confidence and capability of lay people to engage in holistic/integral urban mission alongside, or in the absence of, paid leadership, and including the process of engaging in the ‘public square’ with those of other faiths or none.
  4. encouraging large denominations and agencies to value and utilise resources in independent specialist agencies and the smaller denominations, especially proactive engagement with black and minority ethnic led churches
  5. enabling Coalition members to exercise a more prophetic challenge into the national denominations and agencies (and maybe into national government) to prioritise the allocation of resources to this area of mission
Loraine Mellor, Chair of Nottingham and Derby District, is the key Methodist contact on the Steering Group.

The Project is also supported by the Methodist Church by its maintenance of the website. This will become an increasingly rich source of information, and already has useful directories of networks, organisations and sources of training and other resources useful for local urban mission.
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Friday, 5 November 2010

Churches' Legislation Advisory Service

It is worth being aware of the work of the Churches' Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS).  The notes below are from their website.  Or if you visit this page on the Churches Together in England website, you will find an accessible list of CLAS's monthly circulars with the latest at the top.

The Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS) began life in 1941 as the Churches Main Committee. It is a Judaeo-Christian ecumenical body bringing together the interests of Christian Churches and the Jewish community in their dealings with Government in all its aspects (other than education).

Its primary role is as a vehicle for conveying to the Government the views of the churches on legislation and other matters which directly affect them and likewise as a channel through which the Government can consult the churches as a whole on such matters. "Government" includes local as well as central Government; Government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the EU Commission in Brussels, as well as Westminster/Whitehall; and the CLAS also acts for the churches in their dealings with the major organisations (banks, water and electricity companies, etc) whose activities affect them.

From time to time CLAS itself has sponsored legislation on matters of particular interest to it. A secondary, but no less important, function is to provide information on the impact on the churches of legislation and proposals for legislation, and, as appropriate, to act on behalf of churches and ministers of religion in seeking to cure anomalies and bring about a regime that is as fair as possible.

The subjects covered by CLAS range from taxation, heritage grants and charity law to marriage law, immigration rules, planning and building regulations and water charges, with much else besides. Circulars are issued free of charge, giving information and advice, to the denominational and other bodies which are members of CLAS and there are also booklets for sale.
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Thursday, 4 November 2010

New CTE President Appointed

CTE Presidents in 2009: Archbishop Vincent Nicholls,
Archbishop Rowan Williams,
Bishop Nathan Hovhanissian (now retired)
and Commissioner Betty Matear 
A new President has been appointed to Churches Together in England.  First, adapted from the CTE website:

There are four Presidents of Churches Together in England:
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Archbishop of Westminster
  • The Free Churches Moderator
  • The Fourth President nominated by the other churches in England – including Orthodox, Black Majority, Lutheran and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
The current Presidents are: Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Rowan Williams and Commissioner Elizabeth Matear. The position for the fourth President is currently vacant.

The Presidents meet regularly to discuss matters of concern to the Churches in England. Their meetings are facilitated by the General Secretary of CTE.  In June 2002 the then Presidents signed a Personal Covenant in the presence of HM The Queen, at Windsor. This has subsequently been signed by new Presidents.

The Free Churches Moderator is elected by the Free Churches Group and represents all its members, including the Methodist Church.  This is from a news item on the FCG website.

At its Annual General Meeting held on 28th September the Free Churches Group elected its Moderator for the period 2011 - 2015.

He is Revd Michael Heaney, who serves as the General Secretary of the Congregational Federation.

A service of Induction is to be held in the Spring of 2011. Michael will succeed Commissioner Betty Matear in the role of Moderator, serving also as a President of Churches Together in England, alongside Archbishops Rowan Williams and Vincent Nichols.
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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Working Together in Mission 2011 - 2014

Churches' Together in England's (CTE) Group for Evangelisation has produced the first two of a series of resource papers in preparation for the series of initiatives mentioned in their recent statement.  These papers can be found on the CTE website.

Mission together: where are you now?

The next three years will see the churches in England presented with a multitude of mission opportunities. A major initiative with the Bible, the Olympic Games, and a three year build up to Hope Together will all come with national publicity and resources.

This paper is the first in a series to help local churches pray and plan ahead. Even small steps can make a big difference and make mission possible, manageable, and hugely beneficial for individuals and local communities. In September 2010, a press release from members of the Churches Group for Evangelisation suggested the following four steps as a framework for what local churches to consider:
  • Research the potential of each initiative
  • Pray and discern a vision
  • Strategically plan together in your own local context
  • Work in close collaboration
… celebrating the various diverse gifts and strengths in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ together.

A local case study in mission and partnership

This is a case study of how one local Churches Together group, in Horwich, Lancashire, has made use of two very different partnerships with wider initiatives and networks to help them in their own local mission, which includes the Eden Bus project, illustrated.

It is offered as an illustration of how churches together groups could form future partnerships with the major networks Biblefresh, More than Gold and Hope Together 2011-2014.
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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Group for Local Unity, November 2010

The Group for Local Unity is a co-ordinating group of Churches Together in England.  It maintains and develops the principles and good practice of ecumenism locally as an essential part of the task of the Member Churches of Churches Together in England.  Its members are appointed by the Member Churches and report to them.  It normally meets three times a year but various working groups also gather between meetings of the full Group.

Today is one of those meetings and here are some items from the agenda.  As always a request for more information about specific items will encourage me to post more about it.
  1. Mission-Shaped and Ecumenical – a  paper by David Cornick, General Secretary of CTE.  It begins:
    'In March 2010 Churches Together in England (CTE) organised a consultation between an equal number of missioners and ecumenists. We were prompted partly by the commonly held perception that local ecumenical structures hinder rather than help pioneering mission, but also by the deeply held belief that mission and unity are inseparably inter-related theological realities in Scripture. This report seeks to draw out the main themes of an animated and rich conversation, and for that reason plays fast and loose with the actual chronology of the consultation.'  I hope to post about this at greater length soon.
  2. How Intermediate Bodies Meet – a paper about how Churches Together in Dorset organises its meetings.
  3. Ordinands and LEPs: do they produce their share?  People who have grown up in a LEP who seek ordination have to decide which Church to seek it from; does that discourage them? In the URC, with its high proportion of LEPs, do they produce a similar proportion of ordinands to those which are not LEPs?
  4. Terms of reference for Staffing Consultative Groups.  This is a requested resource and will explore the implications of Common Tenure for rotating ministry in LEPs
  5. New Publications.  (a)  Leaflet on Ecumenical Vision Statement: Together instead of Separately; (b) Celia Blackden’s Grove Booklet: Friendship and Exchange with People of Other Faiths: A Context for Witness and Dialogue.
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Monday, 1 November 2010

Methodist Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission, November 2010

light.touchImage by federico.ricci via Flickr
How can we be sure a light touch
is the right touch?
I haven't mentioned MAPUM so far and so here is a brief account of what it is.

About two years ago, the Church of England's Council for Christian Unity (CCU) and the Methodist Council agreed to form a successor body to the CCU Local Unity Panel (LUP) and the Methodist Committee for Local Ecumenical Development (CLED) to further the work of Unity in Mission.

The title “Methodist – Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission” (MAPUM) combines the three elements of:
  • working together under the Covenant,
  • sharing insights and attending to issues, and
  • holding the dual imperatives of Unity and Mission with the conviction that neither can be fully addressed in isolation.
MAPUM meets today.  Here are highlights from the agenda.  As always, ask if you would like any items expanded upon.
  1. Joint Implementation Commission: Report of meetings held in May and October
  2. Promotion of the Anglican Methodist CovenantAMC website and other methods.  The link takes you to a previous post, which explains this agenda item and requests information.  Any comments you have are still helpful.
  3. Methodist – Church of England Single Congregation LEPs: Review of possible models of governance.  This is a report of some of the issues that have come up around the new model constitution for Local Ecumenical Partnerships.   I will post about these issues once things are clearer.
  4. Methodist Council – URC Mission Council report of joint meeting.
  5. Local Ecumenism Report - a long paper 'Local Unity in Mission' is in preparation for consideration by the Church of England's House of Bishops.  I will post about this when it becomes available.
  • Update and process
  • Ecumenical Fresh Expressions.  A paper 'Unity in Mission in Fresh Expressions' is to be discussed.  It contrasts 'right touch' with 'light touch' ecumenism.  This will be a topic for a later post.
  • Origin and Developments of LEPs. A new paper covering the history of Local Ecumenical Partnerships.  This too will be a theme for a future post.
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