Thursday, 30 September 2010

Methodist Encounters with Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI's Historical Visit To LondonImage by Gawain WhiteHawk Photography via FlickrThe following is an extract from the President of Conference's blog.  For more background information, visit a previous post on this blog, 'Methodist President will meet Pope Benedict XVI'.

From there to Edinburgh for the State welcome of the Pope. So important that Methodism in the UK was represented not only by myself - Eunice (this year's Vice President) being involved with very important matters relating to her 'day job'! - but also by the Secretary of the Irish Conference who shook hands with the Pope and received a small medallion. And back for Westminster Abbey and a sense of the grace of God as such a wide variety of Church Leaders processed down that historic aisle. There are always going to be the differences, and the need for much further conversation, but we worshiped God together and prayed together for God's world, remembering that we also work together in so many communities in these lands. Those of you who enjoy being on line will be able to find all the pictures of these events that you want!

This video features the Methodist President Alison Tomlin and Chair of Birmingham District Bill Anderson (wearing a rainbow scarf) in CBN's report on the Pope's visit to the UK.  Unfortunately, I can't embed the video and so follow this link.
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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

'URCumenism' Blog

Blogging for CatsImage by Vicki's Pics via FlickrA warm welcome to another ecumenical blog.  The author of URCumenism is Revd David Tatum, the Secretary for Ecumenical Relations at the United Reformed Church.  I've put a link in the right hand column of this blog, so that you can access it. 

David usually posts after significant meetings.  It is a personal and engaging read and so it is a welcome contribution to blogs about ecumenism. 

I note a couple of recent posts which may be of interest to readers of this blog.
  1. The ecumenical service at Westminster Abbey, led by Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday 17 September 2010.  David has written an account on URCumenism, here.  You will also find a report of the service on the URC website, here.
  2. A few days ago, I posted looking forward to the AGM of the Society for Ecumenical Studies.  David has posted about this meeting, here.
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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Pope's View of Britain

Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury
at Westminster Abbey, Friday 17 September 2010
Copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
Revd Dr Trevor Hoggard was appointed by the British Methodist Conference and the European Methodist Council as their representative to the Holy See, in Rome in 2007.  You can find out more about his ministry from his website.  The following paragraphs record his experience of the Pope's visit to Britain.  I'm hoping Trevor will be able to publish more about his work here in due course.

Like many others last week I found myself drawn in to the television broadcast of the papal visit. Again, like many others, I found myself warming to the unfolding story to a degree I hadn't anticipated. Whilst having seen a good deal of the mounting excitement and trepidation in Catholic friends prior to the visit, I was relieved for their sakes that the visit went better than many had feared - and others had maliciously hoped. But as a Methodist, I had assumed that it was a spectacle for the Catholic faithful and not of huge importance to other Christians. As I watched, I changed my mind. Perhaps the visit had enabled the grassroots of British society to give voice to a faith that is constantly discounted and derided in the modern media by the so-called intelligentsia and television celebrity alike. Christian faith is perhaps proving just as obstinate in the face of modern secularism as it has done when faced with other threatening world views of the past. If so, this is a happy surprise for Christians of any persuasion.

On Wednesday morning I was sitting just a few rows away from Pope Benedict at his weekly audience in Rome when he recounted the highlights of his visit to Britain to a global audience. I was fascinated to see how Benedict appeared to be genuinely enthused by the visit. I think he found reassurance that the old fabric of Christian Europe had not yet been irreparably torn. One also suspected he had a renewed esteem for the Anglican church and a belief that a new and healthier phase in Vatican - British relations might well be dawning. His enthusiasm was infectious. I wonder if other nationalities in the huge crowd felt the same? The real question now is to what extent any of these effects endure long enough to produce real and lasting benefit. Time alone, as they say, can tell us that.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Hope Together Launched in July

More information about Hope Together, from the CTAL Notepad, September issue. 

HOPE Together, a continuation of the vision and values of HOPE 08, was launched at a huge all‐night prayer gathering in London at the end of July. The Festival of Life saw HOPE Leadership Team and Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastors lead nearly 40,000 people in fervent prayer for the unity of God’s people in mission.

We are so excited when we hear stories of churches working together to serve, work alongside, and witness to their communities. Sometimes those congregations have very different traditions and ways of worshipping. God delights when his people demonstrate true unity of purpose as they share His life changing message with others.

HOPE 08 had tremendous impact and saw 1,500 areas living out Jesus’ mission in word and action in their own neighbourhoods. 85% saw a definite change in their community and many towns and villages (70%) realised such a momentous change that they have continued HOPE projects.

HOPE Together has a big vision; to build on this activity and see the entire breadth of the UK Church involved in united mission – the whole Church mobilised to reach the whole nation.

It’s not up to us to tell you how to do mission because no-one knows your area’s needs like you do. What works for a village may not suit a city. HOPE Together will encourage local church to gradually build mission activity and outward focus each year for the next four years, leading to a massive all‐out year of mission in 2014!

Joint praise celebrations, fun days, gardening projects, street evangelism, give‐aways, healing teams, acts of kindness, street clean‐ups, and sports ministries – there are so many innovative ways to share the Gospel.

Roy Crowne, Executive Director of HOPE Together, said: “Just imagine people in each village, town and city in the UK working together and setting the Gospel loose in word and deed. Imagine life turned upside down and despair turned inside out. HOPE exists to make this dream possible by equipping the Church for joined up mission.”

We long to see long lasting spiritual change in the lives of individuals and whole communities transformed. An Easter resource will be released later this year that will inspire churches to use Easter as a greater outreach opportunity in 2011.

In 2012 the focus for Hope, alongside the Olympics will be the time of Harvest and 2013 will focus on Advent and Christmas and preparation for 2014, another full year of HOPE initiatives. Resources will be available for churches to use.

Sign up as a church or an individual at for information, inspiration and resources. 

HOPE Together ‐ do more, together, in word and action.
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Friday, 24 September 2010

A Foretaste of the Banquet of the Kingdom

Ökumenischer Kirchentag 2010 - München - St. M...Image by digital cat  via FlickrAnother report from this year's Ecumenical Kirchentag, copied from the Church of England, Council for Christian Unity's European Bulletin – No 65, September 2010.  Two other reports have been featured on this blog here and here.  This third report is by Tony Dickinson.

“In a main square in Munich there was a foretaste of the Banquet with a thousand tables and ten places on each set with water, apples, oil and bread. At a podium at one end of the square choirs from Orthodox congregations of Munich sang the praises of God in Russian, Greek, Romanian and German, and Orthodox clergy celebrated evening prayer with age-old chants and clouds of incense. Those at the tables shared their bread with those waiting on the margins of the square. A wonderful parable of the Kingdom.

Wonderful, too, was the number and range of people who visited the Diocese of Oxford stand in the Agora, the huge market-place where over a thousand organisations set up their stall to entice and enlighten passers-by.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Kirchentag forest, Bishop Colin Fletcher joined the sociologist Grace Davie and Catherine Pepinster of “TheTablet” at the first ever wholly English-language event to explore what Christians in Germany might learn from British experience of being “Church” in a secular society, while Bishop Alan was busy combining his daily blog from Munich with the occasional comment piece for the online section of a national newspaper.

Large crowds flocked to the discussion between the veteran theologians Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann (standing in at the last minute for his fellow-veteran Eberhard Jüngel), to Chancellor Merkel’s lecture on “Social Cohesion” (where the “house full” signs went up half an hour before the scheduled start).

Talks by Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’ Egidio Community, and Laurence Freeman of the World Community for Christian Meditation attracted those for whom contemplation and action are the two sides of the Christian coin. There was also much to ponder for those who are concerned about inter-faith relations. A woman rabbi from Jerusalem commended the way in which Christians had taken the lead on all to do with interfaith discussions and warned those of other faiths not to take this for granted. A Bible study on Matthew 25:31-45 in the form of a dialogue between the British Muslim scholar Ataullah Siddiqui and the newly appointed General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit, brought out the commonalities between the two faiths and emphasised the need to develop respectful and hospitable theologies. Dr Siddiqui, in his very sensitive handling of the text, noted that the key division was between those who serve Christ without knowing him and those who know Christ without serving him.

The closing service, despite the rain which made numbers smaller than they might have been, was a great success. An extended meditation on Luke 1:46-55, it used traditional and modern hymns, Taizé chants and sign language to expound the meaning of Mary’s song of praise, book-ending the celebration with the first and last movement of J.S. Bach’s great setting of the Magnificat. Four short, but powerful, reflections by representatives of the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Methodist traditions punctuated the liturgy, which concluded with a final message from the two Presidents. Reflecting on the events of the week their repeated message was that the Churches in Germany “need a new departure” on the ecumenical journey.”
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Thursday, 23 September 2010

2012 Olympics: More Than Gold

London 2012 Olympic Games - Athletics DesignImage via WikipediaThe 2012 Olympics offer some important opportunities for mission.  The Churches have been working together on this theme for some time.  Here are some details lifted from CTE News

More Than Gold is an initiative to enable the UK churches to engage with the 2012 Olympic Games. It aims to help thousands of churches to taste the excitement of reaching their community in fresh and ongoing ways in Jesus' name by:

  • Helping people catch the vision for the impact that can be made and the role they can play
  • Making connections between the many agencies and thousands of churches that can make it happen
  • Coordinating the production of the resources and action needed
Nationwide Tour

Churches are invited to one of the nationwide briefing events taking place during October and November 2010. These 90 minute briefings give your church the opportunity to:
  • Hear how churches responded at past Games - from Atlanta to Beijing - through outreach, hospitality and service
  • Learn of the tested programmes and resources for all ages, to be available through More Than Gold
  • Identify the best way for your church to be involved - and dream a little of what could be done
To find a venue and book a place visit Nationwide Vision Tour link.
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Breathe: A Christian network for Simpler Living

Breathe is another example of an unofficial ecumenical organisation, of a small group of enthusiasts sharing information and ideas.  Community Mission describes Breathe, thus:

Breathe, a Christian network for simpler living, has a regularly updated blog with information on how to fight the battle against over-consumption. It has recently launched Conspiracy of Freedom, a website with three new videos that can be used as part of a church service or with a home group to spark discussion on these issues. The videos ask questions about how it is possible to live contentedly, give generously and resist greed. Jeremy Williams, one of the Breathe founders, is leading a workshop at the Community Mission Conference on 1 October in London.

Here is what they say about themselves:

Breathe is…

A Christian network for simpler living. We connect people who want to live a less consumerist, more generous, more sustainable life. Subscribe for free monthly updates at

We aim to be non-judgemental, realistic and simple to be part of. We want to APPRECIATE life more fully; REFUSE the consumer dream; CONNECT with others; and CHOOSE a more generous lifestyle.

Breathe represents orthodox Christians of all kinds. It is run by five friends.
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

WCC Stewards' Programme

Non-violence - the Knotted Gun - United NationsImage by Al_HikesAZ via FlickrIf you are aged between 18 and 30 and interested in the following, you need to apply now!  This article is copied from the Church of England, Council for Christian Unity's European Bulletin – No 65, September 2010.

Young Christians from around the world are invited to apply to the World Council of Churches (WCC) stewards programme for one of two hands-on learning experiences at major ecumenical meetings in 2011, the WCC Central Committee meeting, 8-24 February, and the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, 12-26 May. Applicants must be between the age of 18-30 years.

During the meetings stewards will work in the areas of worship, conference room, documentation, press office, sound, and other administrative and support tasks.

The WCC Central Committee meets every 18 months in Geneva, Switzerland to monitor and set directions to the Council's work. The meeting brings together about 150 church representatives, advisers and observers from WCC member churches and associated organizations worldwide. Twenty stewards will help to make this event happen.

The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) will gather some 1000 participants from all over the world in Kingston, Jamaica. The IEPC will be a “Harvest festival” celebrating the achievements of the Decade To Overcome Violence which began in 2001. Participants of many different backgrounds will witness to the peace of God as both gift and responsibility of the entire human family. The IEPC stewards programme will have 45 participants, with one third of them coming from Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Before the meetings, stewards follow an ecumenical learning programme which exposes them to the key issues of the ecumenical movement worldwide. The last phase of the stewards programme, following the meeting, focuses on designing ecumenical projects which stewards will implement back home.

Being a steward means hard work, but it is also a unique ecumenical experience of togetherness with young people from different churches, countries and cultures.

Applicants are invited to send in the application form:
  • by 30 September 2010 for the Central Committee
  • by 30 November 2010 for the IEPC
To download application form visit:

For more information about the Decade to Overcome Violence visit:
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Monday, 20 September 2010

Closer Working: Consultation Resolution

Saltaire United Reformed ChurchImage via WikipediaI posted a series about the Closer Working Consultation during August.  There are eight earlier posts, starting with an account of the consultation, which you might like to visit if you have not seen this material before.  I promised to publish the consultation resolution as soon as the wording had been agreed.

This resolution is intended for local churches.  If you are a member of one of the churches mentioned, please leave a comment about whether or not you support the resolution, your reasons and ideas about how it might be rolled out.

The resolution will go to the first ever joint meeting of the Methodist Council and United Reformed Mission Council during October.  It will be one of several optional papers for group work.  Groups will be able to make recommendations to the final session.  The resolution will also be discussed at several other meetings over the next few months.

The Uniting Churches in Britain

The United Reformed/Methodist consultation “Closer Working” meeting at Woodbrooke Hall Birmingham in April 2010, affirms both the valuable ecumenical work taking place across Britain and the urgent mission imperative to more effectively empower this work. We call upon our two churches to work with the Church of England, the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales, to create a higher profile for a movement towards visible unity that brings into being “Uniting Churches in Britain”, The consultation therefore invites the appropriate bodies of our two churches (both “centrally” and locally) and any other interested churches to make the following affirmation:

We recognise that the Anglican/Methodist Covenant, the growing shared work between the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church and agreements between our two churches in Scotland and Wales mean that the three churches, Anglican, Methodist and United Reformed are on a journey together with a goal of full visible unity. We invite others who share this goal to join us on this journey. To aid the recognition of this journey together in the mission work we undertake, we commit ourselves to work together to become more visibly “Uniting Churches in Britain”.
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Friday, 17 September 2010

Churches Together In England Enabling Group, September 2010

Westminster Hall in 1808 (from Wikipedia Commons)
Today Churches Together in England's Enabling Group meets for one of its twice yearly meetings.  Enabling Group's role is to reflect upon the progress of ecumenical relationships in England.  It is 'a key level of governance because it is where all the churches, which are members of the organisation, are able to be represented.  (It) also includes representatives of the Intermediate Bodies, representatives of the Bodies in Association and of the Forum.'  (See CTE's websites for definitions of these terms.)  Some time will be set aside for the review of governance, which has been taking place during the last year.

The meeting will take place in London.  Originally, Enabling Group was to meet in Leeds but the Pope's visit led to a change of plan.  So, the meeting will be interrupted so that its members can attend the service in Westminster Abbey.  The Pope will be delivering an address in Westminster Hall at the House of Commons, which will be relayed to the service in Westminster Abbey.  This will take a big chunk of time out of the Enabling Group meeting, as the service will take in excess of two hours.

The rest of the Enabling Group meeting will comprise of CTE Annual General Meeting and election of Directors.  Enabling Group will hear reports from the Directors and General Secretary.  The group will also consider two applications for membership of CTE.

Some of the issues likely to come up include:
  1. A document is to be published soon about a conversation initiated earlier this year between ecumenists and exponents of 'Fresh Expressions'.
  2. Observations about changes happening in Intermediate Bodies and the implications of local changes happening 'under the radar' for Intermediate Bodies in general. 
  3. The Right to Warmth Campaign
So, this meeting will be somewhat truncated.  I'll report on any significant decisions later.  Leave a comment if there is anything you would particularly like to read about.
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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Church Leaders Welcome the Pope's Visit

Pope Benedict XVI (from Wikipedia Commons)
This press release was issued by Churches Together in England yesterday.  The following is reproduced from the September edition of CTE News.  It is possible to subscribe to CTE News from the CTE website.

Archbishops Rowan Williams and Vincent Nichols and Commissioner Betty Matear of the Salvation Army, the Presidents of Churches Together in England, to-day welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, and expressed the hope that it would be a source of encouragement to all England’s churches .

‘As the Presidents of Churches Together in England, we welcome Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom. We rejoice in knowing that many Christians have prayed for him in preparation for his visit, and welcome his ministry amongst us. We look forward to joining Pope Benedict in Westminster Abbey for the celebration of Evening Prayer, which will be a significant stage in his pilgrimage. We pray that through our celebration of Christian faith the Church, led by the kindly light of Christ, may be renewed in its witness to the unity and hope which is Christ’s will for all people.’

Other leaders from Churches Together in England’s member churches added their welcome, from the Quakers to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from the Church of God of Prophecy to the United Reformed Church.

Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain of the Greek Orthodox Church welcomed the visit, which he hopes will be part of the continuing process ‘…of improving relationships between those who confess the name of Christ’. The British Quakers were ‘…glad of this opportunity for him to meet other Christians and people of other faiths.’ Commissioner John Matear, the Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army hoped that the Papal visit would help the churches to ‘…together proclaim the good news of the Kingdom in word and deed’.

The United Reformed Church, rejoicing in the warm relationships their local congregations enjoy with Roman Catholic congregations, said that the lead taken by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in moral and spiritual reflection was of benefit to all. Their General Secretary, the Revd Roberta Rominger, said ‘We pray that the Pope’s visit will energise and inspire the Church for all that lies ahead.’ The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins of the Methodist Church said that Methodists ‘…already enjoy discovering the unity we share in Christ with our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church’ and prayed God’s blessing on the visit. The Revd Jonathan Edwards of the Baptist Union hoped that the visit would lead to a deeper understanding between Christians which ‘…will enable us to be more effective in reaching out with God’s love to all people.’

Bishop Wilton Powell, the National Overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy said that his church extended a ‘cordial welcome to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’ as ‘a servant of the Lord with a message for this generation’, a view echoed by Fr Olu Abiola, the President of the Council of African and Caribbean Churches who welcomes Pope Benedict’s stance as one who ‘…safeguards the integrity of the Christian faith.’

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain gave thanks to God ‘for the commitment and integrity of the Catholic Church in its dialogue with the Lutheran Communion on the global level’ and prayed that Pope Benedict’s visit would enrich the lives and work of all England’s Christian churches, and Mr William Gabb of the Independent Methodist Church hoped that the visit ‘would stimulate many to look afresh at their faith and the person of Jesus.’

The Rt. Revd Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius, diocesan bishop of the Mar Thoma church in England also welcomes the visit, praying that it would strengthen ecumenical relationships and help the churches respond to the great challenges of ‘…poverty, population expansion, climate change, and economic stability’

Representatives of all the member churches of Churches Together in England will be praying with and for Pope Benedict at the service of Evening Prayer in Westminster Abbey on Friday September 17th. They welcome him not simply as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but as a fellow Christian and fellow pilgrim.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Christ's Body in Corinth

From time to time, I will highlight some helpful texts about ecumenism.  The Methodist Church website includes a page about Ecumenical Reading, where you will find more.

Today's book is 'Christ's Body in Corinth' by Yung Suk Kim.  This book highlights a way of understanding ecumenism, quite distinct from the traditional full visible unity.  His assertion that reconciliation between Christians and unity are incompatible is challenging.  I have a review of the book on the Churches Together in England website.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Community Mission

Not all ecumenism involves collaboration between churches.  Christians often get together to provide services or campaign on issues and some are listed on the Methodist Church website

One such group is Community Mission.  I have subscribed to their newsletter for some time.  It arrives in my inbox at the start of each month and is full of useful information about funding, training and events, stories and resources.  If you are involved with local mission, it is worth subscribing

Here is an excerpt from their website that describes their aims:

Community Mission is a partnership started by Tearfund and Livability .

We believe in faith in action and that a commitment to integral mission is at the heart of the gospel. Community mission is the outworking of that commitment.

Both organisations have decades of experience of working alongside people affected by poverty, and pursuing justice in the UK and across the world and both are passionate about the unique role that the local church plays in continuing Jesus’ mission to bring good news to the poor.

We have come together in partnership to help churches and Christian groups grapple with issues of injustice and poverty, and see how they are key to a biblical understanding of mission.

The partnership is committed to:

  • promoting integrated theology
  • providing practical guidance and support
  • sharing real stories that inspire and envision

Monday, 13 September 2010


Biblefresh is a new initiative from a number of churches and Christian organisations, including the Methodist Church of Great Britain.  It's worth visiting their website for more information.  Below is an excerpt, about their purpose. 

Why does the Church need another new initiative? Surely Christians know and understand the Bible? These questions might easily be asked by many in the Church today. So why are we launching this new initiative?

In early 2006 some research was conducted by the Evangelical Alliance which revealed that low levels of biblical knowledge and understanding was becoming a significant and worrying issue in the Church.

Anecdotally, we had received evidence from some of the Bible colleges and theological institutions that new students were increasingly bible illiterate. More time needed to be spent giving students a basic grounding before they could tackle other subjects.

In March 2007 the Evangelical Alliance Council meeting approved the concept of a ‘biblicising the church’ campaign. Following this, various consultations were held with some of our current partner organisations and the outline of the Biblefresh initiative was formed.

Bible Society along with the Evangelical Alliance commissioned some research to explore levels of biblical literacy in the UK Church. 1731 church leaders and 1929 church attendees were surveyed. The findings underlined the anecdotal evidence: that the church as well as our culture has very low levels of biblical understanding and it is not only church members that struggle to read the Bible but church leaders also. In short, many are not familiar with the Bible; find it difficult to engage with it regularly and there is a real need for training and encouragement in how to do this. For the detailed summary report of the ‘Taking the Pulse’ survey, you can access it here.

It was decided that the Biblefresh initiative, as it was styled, would be focussed on the year 2011, which was also the 400th anniversary since the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. We would ask churches to join the movement by agreeing to increase their church’s level of biblical engagement in four ways: reading, training, translation and experience. Centrally we would encourage our partner organisations to respond to the need by providing access to relevant reading, audio, video, and training resources.

By asking churches to re-focus on the Bible for the year, we hoped that the fruit in the UK Church would be an increased hunger and desire for the Word of God which would result in more lives saved and transformed. That we would become ‘with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord… transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ (2 Cor. 3.18 NKJV)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Towards Unity in Mission

The following is news of a consultation to take place during October, based upon the Edinburgh 2010 conference, earlier this year.  The consultation is in two parts and the part that is open to the public is now fully booked.  However, there are still a few spaces left for ecumenical officers.  If you are interested, details of how to enrol are below. 

Ecumenical Officers’ Consultation 2010, 11th to 13th October 2010 and incorporating a Public Conference, from lunch on 11th to lunch on 12th October

Edinburgh 1910-2010
Towards Unity in Mission
This Conference marks the centenary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, often understood as the beginning of the modern Ecumenical Movement.  It was a singular moment in the history and theology of mission and world Christianity.

The Ecumenical Officers of the five Churches will continue the consultation from tea on 12th to lunch on 13th October, to reflect on the themes of the conference in relation to our work.


 The Revd Dr Jeremy Morris:  Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and a church historian who has written widely about twentieth century church history

Dr Kirsteen Kim:  Associate Senior Lecturer at Leeds Trinity University College, and a missiologist who has published a number of works about mission and world Christianity

Fr James Hanvey SJ:  Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Heythrop College, London, and a systematic theologian with particular interests in the Trinity and ecclesiology

The Revd Dr Stephen Finamore (Principal of Bristol Baptist College) will give two Bible readings, one during the public conference and one during the Ecumenical Officers' meeting and join in as an interlocutor throughout.

The total cost of the Consultation is £127

If you are an ecumenical officer and would like to attend, there are still a few places.  Contact Elspeth Coke, Council for Christian Unity, Church House, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3NZ.  Email:  Telephone 020 7898 1473

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Society for Ecumenical Studies

I had not heard of the Society for Ecumenical Studies until I recently received an email informing me of their AGM.  It looks as if their website has a number of interesting papers on it.

However, their site is out of date and it seems they are considering their future.  I hope they'll keep going as, perhaps with a membership drive, they might continue to support ecumenical conversations based upon their work.  If you would like to see the Society continue and can't make the AGM, it might be worth letting therm know you are interested. 

In the meantime, their annual meeting is to be addressed by David Gamble, the past President of Methodist Conference (pictured), who is always worth hearing and sometimes controversial.  Here are the details:



Speaker: Revd David Gamble

President of the Methodist Conference 2009 – 2010

St Thomas More Room, St Mary’s Catholic Church, Draycott Terrace, Kensington, London SW3 2

Tuesday 21st September 2010 6.15p.m.

Preceded by the Annual General Meeting at 5.30 p.m.

Followed by refreshments.

For catering, please notify attendance to Fr Mark Woodruff, 26 Daysbrook Road, London SW2 3TD, or 07710 024505

All are welcome

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Methodist President will meet Pope Benedict XVI

Here is the text of a press release issued by the Methodist Church yesterday (7 September 2010). 

The President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Alison Tomlin, will meet Pope Benedict XVI during his four day state visit to the UK next week.

She will travel to Edinburgh on Thursday (September 16) for Pope Benedict’s arrival and Official State Greeting by Her Majesty The Queen at Holyrood Palace. On Friday (September 17) she will be presented to Pope Benedict at Westminster Abbey where Church leaders will join the Archbishop of Canterbury in a celebration of Evening Prayer.

Revd Alison Tomlin said: “It’s great for the whole Church that Pope Benedict is coming to the UK. It’s really important that the different parts of the Church talk to each other and I am glad other Church leaders have been invited to meet him.

“Because of my work in spirituality, I meet with a lot of Catholics involved with Ignatian Spirituality, particularly Jesuit priests. The Catholic Church has been more ecumenically engaged in this country than in other countries. It would be good if we could build on that.

“I think it’s important for Methodism that we have been invited to meet The Pope. I do see it as an acknowledgement of the Methodist Church in Britain.”

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Ecumenical Websites: Cytun

The website for Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) has a rather uninspiring home page but it is worth going beyond it because the site itself is well designed.  Clearly the aim is to present an accessible account of Cytun's work and a lot of thought has been put into this approach.  Here is a typical page.  Note how it presents information without too much detail.  On the other hand, click on the map and you'll find loads of useful information about faith groups in Wales.

Movement around the site is not always straightforward however, as access to links are not entirely consistent.  Returning to the home page can be quite an adventure!

I think it is possible to toggle between English and Welsh on every page.  It would be helpful to have a single icon in the same place on each page.

This site has a blog!  It seems to be used primarily as a means to publicise events.  It's not clear who compiles it or what you need to do to get information onto it.  This information could easily be placed in the blog's right hand column.

Overall, this is a site that has been well planned and provides an informative introduction to ecumenism in Wales.  In some places it's a bit difficult to navigate and does not offer much in the way of opportunities for participation.

Star rating:  *** out of *****
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Monday, 6 September 2010

Ecumenical Websites: ACTS

Next up in this series about ecumenical websites is Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).  As you might expect this is a smaller site than those for CTBI or CTE.  Nevertheless, it still struggles with the problem of how to present its activities to the casual reader. 

The home page is lively and packed with information and plenty of links.  It is worth noting this site is based on blogging software.  This can be seen on the two columns on the right hand side of the page.  They are present whatever page you're on.  They contain useful information and links to assist with navigation of the site.

There are a wide range of ACTS' activities in the menus and under each heading we find summaries of meetings.  Here is a sample page.  These pages are an useful aide memoire for those who attend the meetings and perhaps that is their purpose.  However, the casual reader is not likely to find this material comprehensible.  One good point, which seems true of most of the pages I've looked at, is there are plenty of links.  So, those who are prepared to take time and explore may find out more.

There appears to be little opportunity for feedback, although it is possible to contact staff.  There are a few links to other websites, although nothing you would not expect.

Opportunities to share material if you're not on the staff, seem to be limited.  There is an articles page.  It looks as if it might be possible to add your own but there are no instructions, let alone an invitation to write. 

Overall, a good site if you're seeking information.  It's certainly not too difficult to navigate or to explore.  There are however few opportunities to participate or any sense that participation would be welcome.

Star rating:  *** our of *****
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Friday, 3 September 2010

Ecumenical Websites: CTE

Churches Together In England uses an advanced website package.  This is a working website and if you're registered as a member of one CTE meeting or several, you have access to pages with minutes and meeting papers.  This has advantages because if you're close to a computer, you can download and print late papers.  The disadvantage is, of course, if you forget to look, you turn up without the papers!  Gone are the days when someone printed the papers and posted them to you; such are the benefits of technology!

However, this software allows for more uses than CTE makes of it, in terms of user interaction.  There is, for example, the possibility of a chat room for those who are registered and logged in.  As far as I can tell it has never been used. 

Members can write and post articles directly onto the site.  They can assign an article to any appropriate page and it will appear there after it has been moderated by CTE staff.  This page features some of the articles submitted to the site.  This facility could perhaps have greater prominence on the home page.

But I suspect most visitors to this site are not members.  What will they find?    I find this website harder to navigate than the CTBI site.  There is a system of menus and submenus, which is difficult to follow and if you don't know where to look can be quite frustrating.  Also, when you are several submenus deep it is rather easy to lose your place and have to start over again. 

There is a wealth of material and it is perhaps best to hunt around and see what you can find.  Good places to start might be Working Together, which offers a long list of issues where churches in England are collaborating and Common Cause, which lists some of the major ecumenical Christian organisations.

It is worth noting, this site is also the site for the work of the Free Churches Group.  They share their offices with CTE and also share the website.

Perhaps the best way to describe this site is eccentric.  There's a lot of interesting material on it, although you might depend upon serendipity to find stuff.  It is a pity CTE doesn't use the potential of the site to encourage conversations. 

Star rating: **** out of *****
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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Alpha and Unity

The Methodist Recorder occasionally carries a supplement, ukfocus, from Holy Trinity Brompton, home of the Alpha Course.  Their August 2010 supplement, in the August 26 edition of the Methodist Recorder, carries the transcript of a talk given by the Vicar, Nicky Gumbel, Why does unity matter so much to Jesus?  It is based on John 17: 20-26.  The following is an extremely brief summary of his four points.
  1. Unity comes from the Holy Spirit.  We're united by the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in us.
  2. Unity is based on love.  "We've seen (love) between churches, with one church helping another, most particularly in the whole area of Global Alpha Training ...".  He tells the story of Training in Malaysia at the invitation of the Roman Catholic Bishop.
  3. Unity should be visible.  There's nothing wrong with invisible unity but "Jesus didn't pray for 'invisible unity', he didn't pray that we might be 'almost united'."  Gumbel's examples of glimpses of visible unity are of large-scale meetings of Christians from a range of traditions.
  4. Unity is linked to mission.  "Jesus prayed that we may be one 'so that the world will believe'.  And as we all know there's nothing more off-putting to the world than disunity." 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Ecumenical Websites: CTBI

This is the first in a series of visits to ecumenical websites.  I hope to explore what they have to offer and encourage those who write for them.  It is strange so little ecumenical activity takes place online.  You would think the opportunities for debate would have been taken up by ecumenists.  In fact, there seems to have been more of this type of activity before the internet; the 1986 InterChurch Process was far more extensive than anything we do today.

And it is the InterChurch Process where we start.  Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) traces its origins to the old British Council of Churches, transformed following the InterChurch Process.  Their FAQs page tells the story and includes their explanation of what they mean by 'ecumenism'.

CTBI produces a lot of resources for churches in Britain and Ireland and the latest ones are featured on their site's home page.  Past publications can be found by following the link to their resources page.

The work of the organisation is developed in three sections of the site.  The News page offers a scrolling list of developments, with the latest at the top.  This complements the items featured on the home page.  Two other pages Themes and Our Work, cover the rest of the CTBI's activities.  I have summarised these on the Methodist Church website.

Their list of member churches and organisations is worth a look.  This has links to their websites and so it is a helpful resource.  Another very useful facility is their links to sites over a wide range of issues and topics.  If you go to this page and click on the down arrow, you will see the extent of their information resource.

This looks like an exciting website although some of the detail can be a bit overwhelming.  There is a lot of information and it is not too difficult to navigate the site to find it.  It is possible to communicate with the CTBI staff via the site, if you hunt around but there is no facility for interaction between users on the site. 

Star rating: *** out of *****