Friday, 27 May 2011

Ecumenical Bits and Pieces

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, LiverpoolImage via Wikipedia
I'm taking a break next week and hope to start up again on Monday 6 June.  In the meantime, here are a few odds and ends for your consideration.

I realised today I hadn't posted about the withdrawal of the invitation to hold a Methodist ordination service at Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool.  This was on the front page of the Methodist Recorder last week  and so has already had plenty of coverage.  I have, however, found a blog post from Mark Rowland who is to be ordained at the service.  The post includes the statements made by Archbishop Patrick Kelly and the District Chair, Revd Jim Booth.

Some time ago Methodist Ecumenical News went onto Twitter and you can find the recent tweets in the sidebar.  I use this mainly to publicise these posts.  Occasionally however, I add links to interesting posts, so it's worth keeping an eye on the sidebar.  If you highlight any interesting ecumenical posts in the comments, I can Tweet them if I agree they are relevant.  I'm planning to start a Facebook page soon.

The results of the United States dialogue between Moravians and Episcopalians is the document Finding Our Delight in the Lord.

Finally, a link to a Vatican Radio interview of Anglican Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand and Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, who are leading the 10 day inaugural session of ARCIC III, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which is due to conclude today.
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Thursday, 26 May 2011

10 Years Since the Charta Oecumenica

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk in Nový Knín, CzechiaImage via Wikipedia
Another article from the May edition of CTE News:

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Charta Oecumenica signed in Strasbourg on 22 April 2001 by the then presidents of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and Metropolitan Jérémie Caligiorgis respectively, at the end of a European ecumenical meeting and a long path of dialogue involving all the European churches.

The Charta Oecumenica has no dogmatic-magisterial character, nor is it legally binding under church law (cf. Introduction to the Charta Oecumenica). Its realisation is left to the free reception by Christians in Europe. Nevertheless, CCEE and CEC recognise in this document a step and an important aid for the Churches to achieve together that call to unity which is at the same time an obligation for all Christians and a gift of God to be requested incessantly. The Charta Oecumenica is a continual process of construction which, in one way or another, has already marked the ecumenical journey of various church communities in Europe as testified by the numerous translations (more than thirty: from Arabic to Castilian, from Greek to Esperanto) and the scores of churches, communities, church associations and movements which have signed the document.

The penetration of the Charta Oecumenica into the European church and social institutional fabric is such that it is now also quoted in documents by lay institutions as testified by the frequent recourse to it on the part of PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) in its 25 March 2011 report on The religious dimension of intercultural dialogue (cf. doc 12553 nn. 93, 94 ff.) In order to celebrate this anniversary together, CCEE and CEC decided to collaborate in organising an ecumenical seminar on 9 May at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) organised by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies in collaboration with the Christian Churches in Switzerland Community of work. Participants at the meeting included the two General Secretaries of CCEE and CEC, Fr Duarte da Cunha (CCEE) and Revd Prof. Viorel Ionita (CEC), and speakers included the Bishop of Nanterre (France), Mgr Gérard Daucourt, and Pastor Daniel de Roche, President of the Synodal Council of the Canton of Fribourg, in a round table discussion on accomplishments and challenges for ecclesial communion in Europe.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

More International Collaboration in Theological Education

Once again I'm having problems with Blogger.  Yesterday I was inexplicably locked out and today I am unable to acess the usual pictures and links.  I hope to resume normal service soon!

Here is another article form the May edition of CTE News. 

Participants at a recent consultation on theological education at the Queens Foundation, Birmingham, have called for comprehensive Christian leadership development of both lay and ordained men and women in the church. Theological education is an organic part of Christian mission and thus presents a common challenge to all churches, according to the group of 25 representatives from international and local institutions involved in theological education, mission and scholarship agencies and regional ecumenical organizations. 

The consultation, held from 6 to 9 April, was hosted jointly by the World Council of Churches (WCC), through its Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) programme, and for the Queens Foundation for Theological Education. The group issued a call to churches stating that there is an increasing need for theologically well-trained pastors, catechists and church leaders in many newly emerging churches within Evangelical, Charismatic or Pentecostal communities as well as historical churches from Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant backgrounds. The participants also recommended a reconsideration of the relationships between religion and development, theology and socio-political transformation, theological education and development agencies.

The call, which is titled Agenda 21 for Common Collaboration in Theological Education – Findings of the Birmingham process, said theological education is not confined to issues related to the inner maintenance of churches but addresses the whole range of issues relevant for the socio-political context in which churches are operating. “Thus theological education contributes to social transformation, leadership capacity building and poverty reduction,” the message said.

The message called on development agencies to review funding policies that have sidelined the work of the churches and their institutions for theological education. It recommended a "more explicit cooperation between development agencies and theological education". The so-called “Birmingham process in theological education”, of which this consultation was a part, is open to additional participants from interested agencies, churches and networks. The process will be continued, as the consultation appointed a continuation group, according to Revd Dr Dietrich Werner, programme executive for the Ecumenical Theological Education work of the WCC.

The continuation group will look into appropriate next steps for providing appropriate international tools for networking and common platforms, particularly in the area of theological scholarship, e-learning, digital theological library resources and other issues of quality in theological education. Reports of the conference will soon be made available online.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

2nd Global Gathering Takes Shape

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey, buil...Image via Wikipedia
More news about the next meeting of the Global Christian Forum can be found in trhe May edition of CTE News

At an important meeting in Istanbul, Turkey the Global Christian Forum (GCF) committee put into place final plans for the Second Global gathering to take place from the 4 – 7 of October, at Manado on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The central theme of the gathering is: Life Together in Jesus Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit. Some three hundred church leaders and representatives, comprising a 50-50 split between what could be conveniently called ‘Evangelical’ and ‘Traditional’ churches, have been invited. The makeup of the conference follows a set of principles used to ensure balance in representing the variety of world Christianity.

Two plenary sessions will work directly under the main theme, and out of it, a third plenary will intentionally, be Listening to What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches. As well as discussing changing trends, participants will listen to the experiences of the churches from across the world and will seek discern the further vision for the Global Christian Forum.

The invitations include representation from Christian World Communions, Ecumenical organizations, Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic organizations, Orthodox Patriarchates, the Catholic Church, Regional Councils, Conferences, Alliances or Associations, and Churches, covering all geographic areas and all traditions, mega churches and migrant churches. Participants will include both women and men, both young people and more experienced leaders.
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Monday, 23 May 2011

A Ladder to the Stars

Something a bit lighter than usual.  This song, new to me, opened and closed the final Eucharist at last week's consultation for County and National Ecumenical Officers.  We don't get a lot of ecumenical music (except hymns).  This might qualify.

The performers are Fisherman's Friend and the song is 'No Hopers, Jokers and Rogues.'

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Friday, 20 May 2011

The Purposes of the Intermediate Body

Canon EOS 60D full reviewImage by Marco Crupi Visual Artist via Flickr
Some time ago I posted about Churches Together in England's review of Intermediate Bodies.  At this week's consultation for Ecumenical Officers, we received an update on the review and made some further contributions to it.  I'll report on its findings once the review is published but today I thought some readers might like to consider this exercise from the consultation, yesterday morning.

The ecumenical officers were asked to rank the following 10 purposes for Intermediate Bodies in order of importance.  Most important should be number 1 through to the least important at number 10.  We were asked to do this twice, once for Intermediate Bodies in general and once for our own Intermediate Body.  It is likely to get too confusing if you attempt both as a comment, so the challenge is to do your own ranking for the purpose of Intermediate Bodies in general.  Feel free to add any comments.  I'll pass any comments and rankings to CTE.

These are in alphabetical order and I've added a letter to help you do the ranking.
  • A.  Acting as a channel of communication between the churches.
  • B.  Acting as an agency for the churches in relating to local government (county, metropolitan) and other statutory bodies.
  • C.  Acting as the instrument through which churches at intermediate level are accepted as ecumenical partners
  • D.  Acting as the sponsoring body for Local Ecumenical Partnerships
  • E.  Being a sign and symbol of our unity in Christ
  • F.  Enabling accountability to one another
  • G.  Facilitating Church Leaders' meetings
  • H.  Providing a forum for strategic planning of church life and mission
  • I.  Supporting local ecumenical endeavour and Churches Together groupings
  • J.  Other - please specify
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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Latest News from the Christian Coalition for Urban Mission

O brave new (deal) BurngreaveImage by polandeze via Flickr
I first blogged about the Christian Coalition for Urban Mission in November.  They have a membership scheme now and the following is from their flyer:  They haven't so far put the flyer online and so I suggest if you are interested in joining, you email CCUM and politely suggest they get a move on!

Are you, your church or your organisation committed to the transformation of urban communities and the people who live in them, through holistic Christian mission?

The Christian Coalition for Urban Mission is a new body, set up as a focal point for such concerns. It brings together agencies, denominational groups and Christians of all traditions working in many different ways, but all with the same goal of following Jesus’ call to his disciples to bring news that gladdens the hearts of poor people and to be salt and light for all.

Those who have worked in urban communities (inner cities, town and city centres, social housing estates and post-industrial areas) know that funding is important, but that long term change requires a change in the hearts of the people in the place. Material poverty and lack of opportunity is damaging, but so is poverty of spirit and lack of hope. Christian mission utilises the best of practice such as debt counselling and community development, community campaigns and youth work, but adds in long-term, relational, incarnational living –encouraging people often left out in the world’s priorities, to be God’s people.

The last decade has shown that this approach is needed whatever the wider political context. It will inevitably be even more important as the true impact of the recession makes itself felt through cuts in funding and staffing to the secular agencies that serve our urban areas.

The Christian Coalition has, by contrast, urban mission as top priority. Generalist agencies and church structures will have other demands upon them, which is why the Coalition’s voice to remind the more powerful of the Gospel priorities is so important.

It aims both to give heart to the local practitioner, and to provide that national focal point, to ensure that as far as we can, urban communities become better places to be, and where a confident Christian presence is yeast within those communities.

Its work is outlined in the leaflet, which also shows who has been part of bringing the new body together. We very much hope that you will want to be part of it too.


The Coalitions’s work is rooted in the Biblical concept of the Kingdom of God, fuelled by passion for the saving grace of Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit, and intent on supporting the living out of the Good News of wholeness, justice and peace for humankind in the urban parts of our nation.

It will:
  • add value to the existing agencies and networks
  • utilise the strengths of the existing support mechanisms
  • be inclusive of all with a heart for holistic/integral mission in urban contexts irrespective of theological perspective, denomination, or type of body
Membership is open to individuals, local churches, agencies and others who are active or supportive of Christian mission in urban areas.
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Enriching Communion

The Eucharist - Read and Understand the Gospel...Image by Michael 1952 via Flickr
The sharing of Communion is still one of the most difficult issues the churches face.  A few years ago a group of people spent a week in Parmour, near Oxford, studying our different takes on communion.  Like, I suspect, many Methodists I find it difficult to 'see what all the fuss is about' or to feel the pain people in other traditions experience.  Of course, I can't change the way I feel but I can listen to what others say and appreciate it is not so easy for some people.

Here are a couple of resources from Churches Together in England, which Methodists might find helpful.

Enriching Communion is a book, written by Bill Snelson, based upon the Parmour experience.  It is a useful summary of the different takes the traditions have and some of the differences in language and understanding that drives divisions over this topic.  I'm sorry I can't find a better link, you will need to scroll down until you find it about halfway down the table.

The other resource is free and is a series of accounts from Anglicans and Roman Catholics about their experiences of sharing communion.  Remember communion can refer to the narrow experience of sharing bread and wine or the wider experience of communion between friends across the traditions.  It's called Spiritual Communion and can be found on the CTE website.

For a Methodist take on Communion, nothing beats His Presence Makes the Feast in my view.
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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mission at the Sharp End: Focus on the North West

Front of Blackburn CathedralImage via Wikipedia
Starting today County and National Ecumenical Officers will be meeting for their annual 48 hour consultation.  This consultation is organised by Churches Together in England, through their Field Officers and the planning is through a regional group of County Officers.

This year's consultation is called Mission at the Sharp End and it focuses on the North West.  The consultation will be based in the North West and through various workshops and presentations will examine how thew churches collaborate over mission.  Here is a brief outline of the various projects and where possible links to more information.  All of these sites are worth a visit.

  1. Chaplaincy for ex-offenders and the reduction of offending.  This will include a speaker from Cumbria Reducing Offending Partnership Trust.
  2. There will be a speaker from Churches Together in Cumbria about the practicalities of inter-faith work.
  3. A showcase of Salford's Media City and an exploration of how intermediate bodies can use the media.
  4. Yesterday I posted the Methodist Church's press release about one aspect of Keith Ineson's work in agricultural chaplaincy.  He will be speaking generally about agricultural chaplaincy in Cheshire.
  5. Situated right in the heart of Liverpool docklands, Liverpool Seafarers' Centre extends the hand of friendship to thousands of seafarers every year. It is a charity operating a frontline service to provide practical and emotional support for seafarers, the often invisible workforce on whom we all depend to ship 95% of UK trade. The Centre first opened its doors in 1956 but more recently it has become a joint work of the Anglican Mission to Seafarers and the Roman Catholic Apostleship of the Sea.
  6. More than ten years ago Churches Together in Cumbria set up a Social Responsibility Officer post accountable to its Social Responsibility Forum. The consultation will highlight some of the initiatives that have resulted at county level, share a variety of examples of projects in Carlisle, including the city centre retail chaplaincy, and encourage participants to explore projects and potentials in their local situations.
  7. The consultation will also hear from the new Dialogue Development Officer at Blackburn Cathedral.  This new post has been featured in the media, eg by the BBC and Ekklesia.
All of these initiatives are worth covering in more detail and I may be able to do that in the future.  One of the aims of this blog is to share news of ecumenical activities all over the country, leave a comment if you are aware of any you would like to see featured.
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Monday, 16 May 2011

Agricultural helpline extends support to gay farmers

TractorImage by Alejandro Espinosa via Flickr
The following is from a press release issued by the Methodist Church early last week:

A chaplain running a dedicated helpline for gay farmers has received a steady number of calls from men struggling to cope with their sexuality.

Keith Ineson, who is himself gay, extended the remit of his chaplaincy after handling more than one case of a farmer suffering from depression and isolation because he felt unable to come out. Keith advertised his helpline in his local area and set up a website to help farmers in similar situations. Within the first six months, the helpline received 52 calls in response to the extended service of care.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Keith whose helpline is funded by local Christian and secular groups in Cheshire. “Nearly all the farmers are over 50. Some are single, though not all. In all cases they felt they were imprisoned and believed they were the only gay farmer around. In many instances the farmers were so worried about the response they might receive that they texted or emailed the helpline anonymously. Rural communities are not like cosmopolitan, urban areas; there is the assumption that gay farmers don’t exist.”

The Arthur Rank Centre (ARC), a registered charity serving churches and the rural community, has backed the helpline. The Revd Graham Jones, national rural officer for the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church at the Arthur Rank Centre, said: “Farming is for many people an exciting and fulfilling industry in which to be involved. It is not without its pressures, however, and many farmers are subject to stresses and strains in their professional and personal lives.”

The helpline was launched 14 months ago and the number of calls in response to the extended support has led to a need for volunteers. Christians with rural knowledge and an understanding of gay issues are invited to get in touch with Keith if they have an interest in becoming involved with supporting the chaplaincy.

Graham added: “Because of this commitment to rural and farming communities the Arthur Rank Centre is pleased to support the work of Keith Ineson and the helpline he has established for gay farmers. Keith is a good and longstanding friend of the ARC and his work as agricultural chaplain in Cheshire is enormously effective and very highly regarded. In setting up the helpline Keith has helped to liberate many who have felt imprisoned for years by their situation; feeling that they were the only gay farmer around and anxious about the response they might receive.”

Robert Ford, the Cheshire county chairman of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “You could be in the middle of a crowded room and still feel lonely and isolated if you’re depressed. Although I don’t believe that farming or homosexuality within the industry are the root causes of depression, it’s still very reassuring to know that Keith Ineson’s helpline is available for those farmers who find themselves facing difficult times and the NFU wholeheartedly supports it.”
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Friday, 13 May 2011

Making Connections: Exploring Contemporary Diaconal Ministry

Painting of a Russian Orthodox deacon leading ...Image via Wikipedia
The following press release has recently crossed my desk:

A major international, ecumenical conference, Making Connections, on diaconal ministry in the contemporary church is being held at St. John’s College in Durham on 8th and 9th September this year.

The conference will explore the remarkable re-emergence and growth of diaconal ministries across many church denominations, and their implications for the Church and its relationship with wider society.

Speakers include Dr Paula Gooder, Dr John N Collins, Revd Dr Maurice Staton, Revd Canon Kathryn Fitzsimons, Revd Canon Prof Paul Avis, Dr Andrew Orton and Deacon Eunice Attwood. Participants will be able to choose from a wide range of presentations and interactive workshops. They will consider themes such as the diverse range of Biblical, historical and denominational understandings of diaconal ministry; the relationships between different ministries; and what can be learnt from contemporary diaconal practice.

The conference will also include a presentation and discussion of emerging findings from a major two-year research project exploring ‘Good Practice in Diaconal Ministry in the Methodist Church of Great Britain’. The research is being led by Andrew Orton, based at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, and has been funded by the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The participatory methods used in the project included working alongside deacons in the Methodist Diaconal Order to critically explore their understandings of diaconal ministry.

The conference is already attracting significant interest amongst deacons, church leaders, academics, those involved in training deacons, lay workers, church members and those with whom deacons work. Participation is welcome by anyone who is interested in critically exploring the renewed interest in this ministry and its potential contribution to the wider church and society.

The conference has been jointly sponsored by the Methodist Church, Wesley Study Centre, Durham and the Methodist Diaconal Order, which means it will be available at a subsidised cost of £29 per participant including lunch and refreshments. (Any accommodation or evening meals required will be extra). More details and booking forms are available from: Wesley Study Centre, 3 South Bailey, Durham DH1 3RJ Tel: 0191 334 3850, Email or from the Wesley Study Centre website.
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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Group for Local Unity, May 2011

Meetings are sometimes held around conference ...Image via Wikipedia
The Group for Local Unity (GLU) is a co-ordinating group of Churches Together in England and it meets today. 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 (the last meeting was in March 2010) and here are some items from today's agenda. As always a request for more information about specific items will encourage me to post more about it.
  1. GLU will be considering the role of Staffing Consultative Groups in LEPs.  These groups are normally set up during periods of transition from one minister to another.  Representatives of the partner churches meet with local members and members of the Sponsoring Body.  The purpose of the group is to ensure all the various interest groups are in contact and helped to make the right decision about appointment of a new minister according to the LEP's constitution and the regulations of the parent churches.
  2. There will be a paper about how the United Reformed Church calculates contributions towards the cost of ministers and how this works in LEPs. 
  3. There is an issue around pensions for Baptists ministers.  Because of the way the Baptist Union is structured, minister's pensions are paid by the local church.  There are issues around what happens when a baptist minister leaves and is replaced by a minister of another tradition.
  4. Clarification of the Salvation Army's Territorial position on LEPs.  This item was held over from the last meeting.
  5. A report from a working group about the sharing of buildings.  This covers not only Sharing Agreements but other ways of sharing buildings.  The paper argues the need for a simplified resource detailing ways of sharing buildings and addressing some of the anxieties about hosts and guests.
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Marriage and Ecumenism

By Gerard Stolk en route

(I'm having technical problems occasionally, apologies about the quality of photo, lack of links, etc.)  Here are details of another conference from the April edition of CTE News:

The 13th Annual Nottingham Ecumenical Commission Conference, in conjunction with the Marriage and Family Life Commission, will be on Marriage and Ecumenism: Seeking fidelity in a messy world.

It will be on June 10th – 12th 2011 at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire, led by Karen Kilby, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Nottingham University, and Tom O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology, Nottingham University

The cost is £140 and booking should be made to Monica Purdue 114 Cross Street, Arnold, Nottingham NG5 7BY  0115 993 9235.

Karen Kilby is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. She has written two books on Karl Rahner, and just completed a critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar. She has also worked on a variety of themes in theology, including the doctrine of the Trinity, the problem of evil and the limits of our knowledge of God. She currently serves as the President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain. Karen is married and has three children.

Thomas O'Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology in the University of Nottingham and an expert on the early church. His latest book is on the Didache and sub-titled: “A window on the earliest Christians”. He has taught around the world and has given much thought and energy to finding ways to teach Catholic communities - and those who minister in them - to appreciate the liturgy. He has written a series of five books to provide resources to those who preside, and books for those who read the Scriptures, and other short booklets, with CTS, for those who hear the Scriptures at the Eucharist. He is currently developing new resources, with the University of Nottingham, on YouTube.

Other speakers at the conference will be Melanie and Richard Finch of The Association of Interchurch Families and Fr David Gill who will speak about marriage from an Orthodox perspective.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Churches Refugee Network Annual Conference

RefugeesImage by gianlucacostantini via Flickr
Notice of a conference from the April edition of CTE News:

Spring is here, and so is the Churches Refugee Network with its Annual Conference. The theme is Refugee Protection: Policies by number or a creative welcome? and it is on Saturday 4 June from 11 am to 5 pm. CRN is a network of churches throughout Britain involved with or concerned about the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. The Conference offers an opportunity to share work and to acquaint newcomers with the realities of asylum seekers' and refugees' lives in Britain.

We have changed venue, and you will now find us at the West End church of St. James Piccadilly, just off Piccadilly Circus, nicely central for all mainline stations. This year, Human Rights, its historical roots in theology and philosophy, and its current politics and practices will be the focus of our attentions. Our leading speakers have both ample theoretical and practical experience of the practice of Human Rights in refugee work.

There will be workshops on current asylum practices to share your experiences and questions, and meet new faces working in the field. And you can enjoy photo exhibitions by two refugee collectives plus a dance display by the Kosovo Dance Group Sphreza. As ever at CRN conferences, there will be a fine lunch, prepared and served by volunteers from Migrant Voice, the refugee newspaper. With a lively programme of speakers and events, we hope we'll see you there.

Cost: £15; concessions £10; free to refugees and asylum-seekers. To book your place, please contact Wendy Cooper, Church and Society, United Reformed Church, 86 Tavistock Place, London, W1CH 9RT;  020 7916 8632; Fax: 020 7916 2021.
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Monday, 9 May 2011

Rural Evangelism Network Website

ChapelImage by Glen's Pics via Flickr
News of a new website for the Rural Evangelism Network.  Here is some information from the website.

The Rural Evangelism Network exists to encourage good practice in evangelising the rural communities of the United Kingdom by mutually sharing understanding and experience between Churches, Mission Agencies, and Resourcing Organisations wherever possible and including conferences, publications, and on the Internet.

The Network was established in 1982 and is unique in that it draws together representatives of the Churches (at national and intermediate levels) and representatives of the evangelistic mission agencies that work with rural churches. It was originally known as the Federation for Rural Evangelism.

The Rural Evangelism Network is a member of the Church Rural Group which is a coordinating group of Churches Together in England. We are also represented on the Churches Group for Evangelisation.

The rural communities of the United Kingdom provide one of the most challenging contexts for mission today. Almost one person in six in the UK lives in a rural community of less than 5,000, with most of these living in villages of 1,000 or fewer.

No two villages are exactly alike, and many of our villages have changed significantly over recent years. To help Christians and churches in the rural areas discover how to share their faith in ways that are appropriate and sustainable the Network draws together the country's key researchers, writers, teachers and practitioners to share their knowledge through conferences, seminars, publications, and here on the new website.

At the heart of the website there is a Knowledge Exchange of information between practitioners in the field.
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Friday, 6 May 2011

Communication Means Participation and Inclusion

The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5...Image via Wikipedia
Methodist Ecumenical News makes a modest contribution to communication in the ecumenical movement.  This article, from the April edition of  CTE News, places this in a European context.

Reconfiguring communication in the ecumenical movement means discovering, seeking and implementing new forms of communication, the General Secretary of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) has told a gathering in Frankfurt, Germany. "As communicators we have become pilgrims in space - and sometimes in cyberspace - who have embarked on a long journey, by no means complete, from the old concept of uni-dimensional, one-way communication to the current multi-dimensional, multi-way approach that emphasizes reciprocity and equality," said the WACC General Secretary, Revd Karin Achtelstetter, in her 31 March address.

Achtelstetter was giving the opening presentation - on "reconfiguring communication in the ecumenical movement" - at a seminar organized by the WACC Europe Region as part of its one-every-three-years general assembly. WACC is a Toronto-headquartered global organization that promotes communication for social change. The Frankfurt seminar - from 31 March to 1 April - has as its theme, "Communication and Reconfiguration in Faith, Media, Society and Economy". The aim of the seminar is to take stock of recent changes in the media, church, societal and economic landscape in Europe, and focus on the implications of these changes for WACC’s principles of communication as well as the communication tasks for churches and Christian organizations and the coverage of religion in the media.

In her address, Achtelstetter noted that the word configuration is often used in astrophysics and she compared the ecumenical movement to the Milky Way. "Despite its diversity and its vastness the elements are held together by a large-scale magnetic field," she stated. "The galaxy is in constant movement and in rotation - doesn't this description remind you of the ecumenical movement?" With this image in mind, she continued, reconfiguring communication in the ecumenical movement suggests "discovering, seeking and implementing new forms of communication with an openness to new shapes and constellations". She said, "If we want to reflect about how to reconfigure communication in the ecumenical movement, then the first thing to do is to identify our communication barriers and then in a second step to dismantle them."

A full account of the talk can be found on the WACC website.
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Thursday, 5 May 2011

News from Test of Faith

Science and Religion are portrayed to be in ha...Image via Wikipedia
Faith and science should be an ecumenical concern.  How do we arrive at consensus about relationships between faith and science?  What are the implications for faith of changes in cosmology?  The following excerpts are from a recent Faraday Institute newsletter.

A new 3.5 year grant has been awarded to The Faraday Institute which will fund new activities associated with the Institute. This includes funding to build on the momentum of the Test of Faith initiative in reaching the Christian community around the world.

The new project will begin this summer, and will focus on the development of stories that speak positively to the relationship between science and Christianity. The results will be shared on the Test of Faith blog, in talks and articles, and eventually in a book. Test of Faith will be promoted alongside this work, and new content will continue to be added to the Test of Faith website, Facebook group and YouTube channel. Test of Faith will also be translated into several languages and promoted in other countries.


Short Article: Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective, by Ted Davis
Book review: Dave Bookless, God doesn't do waste: Redeeming the whole of life (IVP, 2010), by Clare Redfern


Youth for Christ (YFC) UK's Mettle resources for Spring 2011 feature a series of three Hot Potato sessions on science and Christianity that were developed with input from Test of Faith. The Bible notes for young people that accompany the Mettle teaching materials also include a number of science-focused devotions that make use of content from Test of Faith. We have been delighted to be able to help YFC develop quality resources for teenagers in this way.


The Test of Faith website has been updated, with new sections for events and churches. Please pass information about the churches page in particular to any clergy or church leaders that you know.


Ruth Bancewicz, who works for the Faraday Instittute, will be participating in the scientific network at the European Leadership Forum, Hungary, 21st-26th May.

God and the Brain: What neuroscience can teach us about people and God. Pentecost Festival event. Speaker: Revd Dr Alasdair Coles, Neurologist, Cambridge University. Wed 8th June, 7.30pm, The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Oxford Road, London, UK.

Saturday 11th June, Faraday Institute/Test of FAITH stand at the Pentecost Festival Marketplace, Biblefresh Zone, Methodist Central Hall Westminster.

Science and Faith, seminar by Ruth Bancewicz at New Wine, Sunday 24th July.

Contemporary Issues in Science and Christianity, seminar by Ruth Bancewicz at Greenbelt Festival, 26th-29th August.
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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Methodist Council, April 2011

Methodist Council met in April and considered a few issues to do with Methodist URC relations.  (I'm having some technical problems and so I'm afraid this post falls short of my usual standards.  I'll update it later when the problems are resolved.)  Here they are:

United Reformed Church and Methodist Buildings

Council members agreed the terms of reference for a follow-up group on joint work on the use of United Reformed Church and Methodist Buildings and approved in principle 50% funding for a three-year post of Executive Officer to support the group (the other 50% to be met by the URC). This will now be taken to the URC Mission Council for their consideration.

Joint meeting with the United Reformed Mission Council

 The Council agreed to another joint meeting with the United Reformed Mission Council. This will take place in Autumn 2012.

Model Constitution for a Methodist / United Reformed Church United Area Association

The Council appointed a group to scrutinise the document and approve it on the Council’s behalf.  There will be a post about this once it has been approved.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Diverse Implications of World Christianity

Montage for the Geneva article on WikipediaImage via Wikipedia
For the first post after the Easter break, I thought the following article from the April CTE News would be of interest to some.

“We must avoid stereotypes,” said Revd Dr Nikolaus Schneider, chair of the council that coordinates relations and activities within the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). As diverse groups encounter one another in the contemporary dynamics of world Christianity, he added, the key questions are whether the calling of the church is being fulfilled by a given community, and whether Jesus Christ is to be found there. Schneider made his comments during a wide-ranging discussion of Christianity in the 21st century during a three-day visit by EKD leaders to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. Taking part in the conversation were staff members and other representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Prof. Odair Pedroso Mateus, a Brazilian theologian teaching at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, observed that Western theologians of a century ago tended to experience Christian plurality “in a traumatic way,” in terms of dispute, disaffection and disunity. It was in the context of the global South that pluralism came to be seen in a positive light, providing an opportunity for diverse groups of people to confront common challenges. Revd Dr Martin Sinaga, an LWF staff member from Indonesia, noted that in many nations Christianity sees itself as “the little flock” that needs to embrace a wider religious pluralism in order to make an impression prophetically and politically. Even so, a distinctive Christian identity forms the basis for minority churches’ witness to the gospel through their life and work.

Kristine Greenaway, the WCRC communication secretary, warned that many promising opportunities for cooperation among Christians “are blocked by our stereotypes about one another,” separating the member churches of ecumenical councils from more conservative evangelical and charismatic bodies. “Changes in our situations are being perceived through a lens of mutual misunderstanding,” she concluded, arguing that the so-called “ecumenical” churches need to communicate more openly and effectively, and to gain an institutional competence in languages beyond the traditional, European, “official” languages of the councils.

Revd Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel of the Protestant aid agency Brot für die Welt, a member of the EKD delegation, noted that “plurality is threatening to people when they feel that they have to give up something important, or adopt beliefs that are not their own.” Revd Christoph Anders of the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany (EMW) observed that new church movements tend to be less bound to historical traditions and more likely to want to join in common reflections on common problems. Revd Dr Fidon Mwombeki, a Lutheran leader from Tanzania, applauded recent dialogues and conversations that have opened their examination of issues with practical realities in today’s churches rather than with the finer points of theological doctrine.

Prof. Kathryn Johnson, a US theologian and assistant general secretary of the LWF, testified to exciting developments in inter-church dialogues among widely differing communities: “Christian world communions are very aware of growing diversity,” she said. “We live it all the time.” This is true not only on the global scale, but in every nation and city: “The world is coming to us.” Revd Dr John Gibaut, director of Faith and Order for the WCC, agreed that varying confessions, cultures and nationalities are living side by side, interacting, facing common challenges. “The most pressing ecclesiological question before us,” he asserted, “is migration. This is not merely a matter of practicalities; it is profoundly ecclesiological. It speaks to faith, unity, mission and local ministries. Today, the migrant communities in our societies, and in our own neighbourhoods, are where ecclesiology and pastoral responsibility meet.”
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