The conversation took place because there is a misconception that local ecumenical structures tend to hinder pioneering mission. The idea was to get people involved in pioneering mission into conversation with ecumenists.
The stage was set through two papers. The first, 'Mission in a post-denominational culture' was by Graham Cray and the second, Patterns of church and mission in the Acts of the Apostles' was by Loveday Alexander.
The conversation that followed highlighted these points:
- Ecumenism in terms of its organisational structures carries a stigma, which is unfair as many feel it is being scape-goated for all the structures of the inherited churches. The reality is that ecumenical structures are appropriate for some fresh expressions and not for others. It would not be appropriate to ignore the presence of other denominations (although this happens) as ideally there is a need for 'a new sense of waiting on God together to discern his will'.
- Uniting in mission can transcend denominationalism and it does. Much collaboration happens 'under the radar', most of us have little idea of the amount of collaboration that takes place. Let's face it, many expressions of local ecumenism are missional.
- We should take care not to be too glib in dismissing Christendom. The line between maintenance and mission is not easy to define. Indeed, for many it is the traditional approaches, eg the parish system, that helps people understand the church is for them. The inherited church raises issues of money. resources and power. These might not be comfortable subjects but we should not be afraid to discuss them.
- There is a need for a range of options for structural ecumenism, which can be tailored to specific contexts.
- Fresh Expressions tends to be Anglican or Protestant and this masks certain ecclesiological questions about the nature and shape of the church. The dialogue needs to engage insights from Catholic, Orthodox and Pentecostal traditions.
- There needs to be dialogue between those who have responsibility for mission and those who control resources.
- Conversations between Fresh Expressions and CTE about how ecumenism is re-formulating itself around mission need to take place. There is potential here for a 'creative synergy', as churches attempt to understand their inherited structures alongside of mission in a complex, increasingly unchurched society.