Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Methodist Church in Scotland Ecumenical Relations Report 2010

This is the first of five extracts from the Methodist Church's Ecumenical Relations Report for Scotland.  The author is Dr Bill Reid, who is responsible for ecumenical relations in the Scotland District.  More information about Scotland's ecumenical relations can be found on the Methodist Church website.

2010 has been a year of significant anniversaries for the Churches in Scotland.  As well as being the 450 anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland, the year has also included the 100 anniversary of the 1910 Mission Conference held in Edinburgh (credited with initiating the Ecumenical Movement) and the 50 anniversary of Scottish Churches House.  These three anniversaries highlight both great progress made in ecumenical relationships but also the inherent challenges we all still face in serving Christ together in today's Scotland.

The Reformation in Scotland
Much of the commemorations to mark the 450 years since the Reformation were understandably led by the Church of Scotland engaging in key services, conferences and other events with the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church and civic society.  These events were well managed and at times moving but seemed to make little impact on our wider society.  It is worth noting that for some of us it appeared the other denominations in Scotland were marginalised in many of these events.  Also with such a close focus on what took place in Scotland 450 years ago  the opportunity to see "Reformation" as an ongoing process across the nations rather than an event was largely lost.  That said the reaffirmation of Baptismal vows shared between the leaders of the three denominations illustrated how much progress has been made in their relationship in recent years.

1910 Mission Conference

On the world stage Edinburgh 2010, a conference entitled "Witnessing to Christ Today", was initiated by the World Council of Churches to celebrate the "Great Mission Conference of 1910".  Whereas the Conference of 1910 was largely attended by white male reformed church ministers and missionaries, Edinburgh 2010 was far more inclusive bringing delegates from all over the world to Edinburgh.  Initially planned for over 1000 delegates the final number was nearer 200 (largely through planning and financial constraints).  It was very pleasing to see people of many races (women and men) and from a broad spectrum of theologies including catholic, orthodox and evangelicals.  The main focus was on an academic conference which somewhat disappointingly did not engage with the wider church let alone society in general.  That said much of the Conference was transmitted on the internet.  The highlight for many was the closing worship when over a thousand shared in a joyous almost 3 hour events in the Church of Scotland General Assembly Hall on 6 June.  If the energy that was generated that afternoon could be replicated across Scotland our churches would not be struggling for membership.

Scottish Churches' House

Closer to home for the Methodist Church in Scotland is Scottish Churches' House (SCH), in Dunblane, where we currently have our offices.  SCH dates back beyond 1950 when a large number of then relatively young Christians worked together to establish and refurbish the House out of various properties that came together from various sources.  SCH became the main focus for ecumenical action in Scotland and has been loyally supported over the years.  The founding of the House was celebrated on 17 July with several of those involved at its outset still supporting the House at what was a joyous occasion.  Sadly, although a major refurbishment has recently been completed and SCH still attracted its loyal supporters the user base had continued to age and decline to such a point that the new Charity being set up to run the House judged that its current operation is no longer viable.  As a result of ongoing financial loss the trustees of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) have decided to cease its current operation on 16 July 2010 but rather than sell the SCH properties immediately has invited tenders to rent the House from ACTS and run it a way compatible with the ACTS objectives.  So while the future of SCH is uncertain we should pray that a fresh vision for it emerges over the next few months.  We should also hold in our prayers at this difficult time the staff and supporters of the House who have contributed so much to its success and continued witness over more than 50 years.
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