Thursday, 31 March 2011

Preparing for Local Elections

A pre-election husting at the Oxford West and ...Image via Wikipedia
It's 5 weeks until the local elections and CTE News this month published some suggestions for churches contemplating holding hustings.

Could Churches in your area arrange a meeting with the candidates for your local Council election?

A meeting of regional representatives from the West Midlands Region Churches Forum met on 15 February to identify questions that can be asked prospective candidates in the run up to the May Local Elections. Last year, churches were highly successful in providing space for General Election Hustings. The WM Region Churches Forum encourages local Churches across the region to consider organising a Husting for the Council Elections in May. The questions below are offered as a framework.


The range of questions appropriate for a local election will be different from those for a general election. As the responsibility of local authorities are more localised and community orientated than that of Westminster Government, questions should focus on a) locally based issues, b) candidate’s knowledge of the community they wish to serve, and c) their willingness to listen and build trust with people if they are elected.

A husting is an ideal opportunity to observe the way in which candidates listen and dialogue with their audience and for them to show they are interested in building mutual accountability and trust. The following questions are offered as starters for a debate with candidates and are aimed at revealing their ability to listen and engage with an audience.

Partnership between Council and local community
  • What is your vision and understanding of a local community?
  • How will you go about consulting with the people of this community and listen to their voices?
  • What will you do to build trust and develop partnership between the Council and the people of this community?
  • In what ways will you help this community to develop its corporate voice?
  • In what ways will you help the Council to listen to the voice of our community?
  • How will you balance views of the majority when they conflict with legitimate concerns of minority groups?
Voluntary and Community Life
  • What do you know about the voluntary and community sector in this community?
  • What value do you place on the contribution of voluntary and community groups?
  • What support for the voluntary and community sector will you fight for, if you are elected?
Local response to national policy

  • What areas will you prioritise for cuts and further efficiencies in the next 2 year’s local authority budgets of 2012 and 2013? (Although reductions for 2011/12 are set, further reductions will be required in 2012 and 2013).
  • Do you think that further efficiencies can be gained through improved working methods, and if so in what ways?
  • What do you think about sharing services with neighbouring councils as a way of reducing costs and improving services?
  • How will you be sensitive to the human cost of reorganisation that involve staff redundancies, relocation and establishing new offices?
Big Society and community organising
  • How will you assist and enable our local community to organise itself?
  • What do you understand by the term, Big Society?
  • How will you support initiatives for community organising?
Good communication across levels of Government
  • How will you help to inform national government and local MPs of our issues?
  • How will you go about learning of best practice in neighbouring councils?
  • How will you liaise between the different strands and departments of Council and manage your relationship with the employed staff of the Council?
  • To what extent do you feel bound by the national policies of your party?
Questions specific to the needs of your locality

These are your local questions relevant to the needs of your local community

General Questions
  • What world-view informs your politics?
  • What issue would lead you to defy your party on a vote in the Council chamber?
  • What social action projects will you assist or put into place?
  • What do you understand to be the limits of your powers if you are elected?
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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council: Unity Post

Photograph of Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, West Yor...Image via Wikipedia
A brief post today to draw your attention to some good practice from West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council, rather appropriately known as WYEC. 

WYEC exists to promote Christian Unity and brings together churches, church leaders and church projects in shared witness, mission and prayer. We try to encourage local Churches Together groups, and any activities which build up relationships between churches.  There is a big map of Yorkshire in the WYEC office, with a region marked in that stretches from Whernside in the north west – the highest and most rural point – to the contrasting area around Ferrybridge in the south east.

Altogether, the population is over two and a quarter million people. This is the WYEC region, and it covers most of three Anglican Dioceses (Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield), two Methodist Districts (Leeds and West Yorkshire), the Catholic Diocese of Leeds, the West Yorkshire African Caribbean Council of Churches, as well as a large part of the Yorkshire regions of Baptist, United Reformed, Salvation Army, Quaker, Lutheran and Moravian churches.

WYEC consists of senior Church Leaders and Ecumenical Officers from each of these churches. We also try to build up relationships with other churches – Orthodox, Pentecostal, independent… - to encourage Christian people to work together wherever we can. Part of this work is celebrating all that is already happening locally, ecumenically. There is indeed a lot to celebrate.

The main thing I want to draw your attention to is their annual newsletter, Unity Post, which is published as an edition of monthly Catholic Post.  It is an example of copllaboration between traditions and this paper is packed with examples of work of churches together across the region.  The link will take you to the January 2011 edition.
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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Churches Group for Evangelisation 08.03.11

Churches Together in England's Churches' Group for Evangelisation met earlier this month and have produced a 'popular report' of their proceedings.  Here it is:

Denominational news

Various national denominational officers for evangelisation brought news from their churches, including:
  • Redeemed Christian Church plan to plant churches in the UK.
  • Church of England Bishops listening to young people share the message of Jesus.
  • Roman Catholic parishes had resource about the purpose and mission of the Church as Papal Legacy project. (Their February newsletter appears to have been withdrawn and so I have added a link to the legacy site.)
  • Elim churches are being challenged in the 'Big Ask' to each plant a new form of church for the Centenary:
  • Methodist churches have an initiative called Deepening Discipleship which helps Christians share their faith:
  • Salvation Army are providing new resources to help members share their faith, eg for children and young peoples work
  • Baptists are again working with Back to Church Sunday with their material called The Big Welcome
  • Congregational Federation have resources on 'growing disciples':

Rob Cotton brought us up to date with the myriad of initiatives, both local and national which are celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James version of the Bible. We were encouraged that many local congregations had absorbed resources and activities provided by Biblefresh and thought this was a good model of how a national network can helpfully provide resources for local groups.

We discussed the challenge of the Olympic Games and the opportunies for all churches to engage in the resources being coordinated by More Than Gold. We would hope that local groups would again strategically use the many resources being produced in to their programs.

We discussed the two fold aspect of Hope Together of 'word and deed' and the interplay between these two vitally important priorities in mission. How to equip Christians to feel confident in sharing their faith, remains a key priority of the Churches Group for Evangelisation.

Confidence in the Gospel

Various resources were brought to the table, including Peter Graystone, Director of the Christian Enquiry Agency who spoke of the 10,000+ visitors to since it was launched in November. Group members were delighted with the development of the website and commended Peter for the work he had done in bringing it together. Members agreed with Peter that every church website, magazine, mission initiative and email signature should have the link somewhere prominent, so people can find out more and make contact.

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Monday, 28 March 2011

Methodist URC Liaison Committee, March 2011

Saltaire United Reformed ChurchImage via Wikipedia
The Methodist URC Liaison Committee meets three times per year to oversee the practicalities of the ecumenical collaboration between the two churches.  It meets today and it's worth taking am look at the post about the last meeting.  Here are today's live issues.  I'll be happy to expand on any of these issues after the meeting, just leave a comment.
  1. Following on from last autumn's joint councils meeting, see posts here, here and here, there has been one of the occasional meetings between Methodist District Chairs and URC Moderators.  MURC Liaison Committee will hear a report from this meeting.
  2. United Areas are places where the Methodist and United Reformed Churches collaborate over shared ministry, buildings, etc.  The paperwork to set them up has been quite challenging as there has been no standard constitution.  A model constitution for United Areas will go to Methodist Council for approval in April and to the URC for approval soon after.  This constitution will make it easier to set up United Areas and encourage innovative approaches to mission together.
  3. The URC will be sharing information about its review of ecumenical relations and its new publicity campaign. 
  4. MURC Liaison always spends some time reviewing particular challenging cases where collaboration has encountered snags or discovered new opportunities as well as taking an overview of progress in England, Scotland and Wales.
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Friday, 25 March 2011

Church Meeting Challenges Banks on Ethics

The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, Lo...Image via Wikipedia
Here is another article from the March edition of CTE News.

Searching questions were raised about banks’ role in society at a packed public meeting organised by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), the UK-wide church-based research and advocacy group, in Birmingham yesterday evening. Chaired by Rt Revd David Urquhart, Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, the panel discussion marked the launch of ECCR’s new report The Banks and Society: Rebuilding Trust. Introducing the panel, Bishop David Urquhart told the meeting that as a society we need to ask the right questions about our financial system in order to make economic life as good as possible.

Presenting the new report, Suzanne Ismail of ECCR highlighted financial exclusion, the financing of environmentally destructive projects, and lack of transparency as key challenges – and opportunities – facing the banks. ‘ECCR’s report helps show what a more socially responsible banking sector would look like,’ Ms Ismail said.

Also on the panel were Damon Gibbons of the Centre for Responsible Credit and the Better Banking Campaign and Professor Andy Mullineux of University of Birmingham Business School and its Centre on Household and Savings Management. Damon Gibbons highlighted responsibility in lending, financial exclusion, financial education and help with debt as key banking-related issues in the UK context. Professor Mullineux said he thought that current agreements between the banks and the government were not sufficiently in the long-term interests of taxpayers and consumers. Revd John Paxton of ECCR West Midlands, speaking in place of Revd Dr Giles Fraser of St Paul’s Cathedral, who was unable to attend due to train service disruptions, urged the meeting to consider the values and principles that society should look for in its banks. ‘What is a bank for, and who should it serve in society?’ he asked.

A wide-ranging discussion followed, with people in the audience – including many members of the West Midlands business and academic communities, churches and the voluntary sector – raising concerns about the impacts of the banking crisis on local and regional economies and ordinary people. As the event drew to a close, there was broad agreement that society can and should expect considerably more from the banks in reciprocating the huge taxpayer support that they have benefited from not only during the recent crisis but before and since.

ECCR’s report, The Banks and Society: Rebuilding Trust, is sponsored by London-based CCLA Investment Management, published in association with a Better Banking Campaign and available for download.  ECCR has submitted the report to the UK Government’s Independent Commission on Banking, whose second round of consultation is due to begin following publication of its interim report in April.
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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Group for Local Unity, March 2011

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

Today is one of those meetings (the last meeting was in November 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.  I hope some of the papers mentioned below will be published following the meeting.
  1. There is a lot to be discussed about Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships (SCLEPs).  It is just over a year since GLU launched a new model constitution for SCLEPs, approved not only by the churches but also the Charity Commission.  This document was also an opportunity to simplify approval procedures.  Other things being equal, it is now much easier to set up a SCLEP.  It has had some time to bed down, and so some issues have come to light.  With the new charities legislation and the possibility of most if not all SCLEPs having to register as charities sooner or later, the model constitution has had some scrutiny from legal experts and their feedback is before GLU today.  One issue is, as the Parish Church Council (PCC) of the Church of England is set up by statute, it is important to understand the relationship between the PCC and the SCLEP Charity Trustees.  GLU will therefore consider a Memorandum of Understanding between the two bodies.  There is also the issue of conflict of interest between the Trustees and the PCC, especially where there is significant overlap of membership.  Various amendments to the model constitution will be considered.  
  2. A paper from the Salvation Army, clarifyies their Territorial position on LEPs.  Here's an extract: "It may seem unlikely that a single congregation form of LEP would be viable for an Army congregation, in that the partner congregations would probably require some form of sacramental practice.  However a covenantal partnership LEP including The Salvation Army has been formed in the Forest of Dean and provides an excellent model of how the Army can engage in this kind of partnership and yet retain a strong identity and enhance its effectiveness in mission."
  3. There will be a report about the ongoing review of Intermediate Bodies, and some of the emerging issues.  There are eight so far, including 'lighter structures' and constitutions, relationship with LEPs, Churches Together Groups, Para-Church Groups and National Initiatives, Church Planting and Fresh Expressions.
  4. LEP Reviews are one of the candidates for a 'lighter touch'.  The policy is to review LEPs once every 7 years and some of the Intermediate Bodies have been struggling to keep up.  GLU will consider a paper about how reviews may be re-envisioned with new guidelines for good practice.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

London Meeting of Inter-Church Families

St George's Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine is an U...Image via Wikipedia
I haven't posted about the Association of Inter-Church Families and this article from this month's CTE News is an opportunity to visit their website and review their work.  If you visit their site you will find their Mission:

The Association of Interchurch Families provides:

a support network and information service
  • for interchurch families (where the partners belong to different denominations – usually Roman Catholic and another Christian church);
  • for partners and parents, growing children and young adults;
  • for clergy, ministers, relatives, and all others concerned in the welfare of interchurch families.
a voice in the churches
  • by keeping the pastoral needs of interchurch families before church leaders and communities, at local, regional, national and international level;
  • by affirming the gifts of interchurch families and their potential as a catalyst for wider church unity;
  • by linking with groups of interchurch families in other parts of the world.
All these activities are rooted in prayer and worship.

And this is the article from CTE News:

The London Meeting of the Association of Inter-Church Families heard from Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Catholic University of Lviv, Ukraine, (the photo is of the Cathedral in Lviv) and Commissioner Betty Matear, Moderator of the Free Churches and one of the Presidents of AIF.

Professor Arjakovsky is a lay Orthodox and his wife is Catholic so he is himself in an Inter-Church family. He explained the background of his upbringing in France where there was a renewal of Orthodox faith amongst the Russian community and ecumenical links developed such as the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius which brings together the Anglican and Orthodox communions.

He spoke of his personal journey and his ecumenical vision. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church defines itself as being Orthodox, Catholic and Reformed! The Council of Florence in 1539 allowed the One Church to be both Orthodox and Catholic. The Ukrainians also took a lot from the Reformers.

Commissioner Betty Matear, who completes her term as Moderator of the Free Churches in April, is the first Salvationist to hold that post. She spoke of her experience of the Papal Visit to the United Kingdom which she called ‘a faith lift’. She said it was a historical moment and she was glad to be part of it. She said her vision was a Church which sees the world with the eyes of Christ.
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Inter-Orthodox consultation begins discussion on the nature of the church

Christ Pantocrator, detail of the Deesis mosaicImage via Wikipedia
Another article this morning from the March edition of CTE News. 

A week-long inter-Orthodox consultation with the aim of studying the Faith and Order document “The Nature and Mission of the Church” began its work on Thursday 3 March in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. The aim of the consultation is to offer distinctly Orthodox insights as part of a world-wide discussion of the doctrine of the Church, or “ecclesiology”. The gathering is hosted by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus (This is a brilliant website!). Nearly forty participants from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, church leaders, university professors, theologians, men and women as well as youth, most of whom are members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order, will discuss the document and produce a common Orthodox response to this important theological text.

After a Te Deum celebrated by Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus in the historic monastery of Ayia Napa, Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, co-moderator of the consultation, expressed gratitude to the archbishop for his generous hospitality, extended regularly to inter-Orthodox and ecumenical gatherings, and highlighted the archbishop’s life-long struggle to overcome dividing lines, in his own country and elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, Metropolitan Gennadios added, “walls of separation and division still exist in the world and one of our priorities as Orthodox is to continue our struggle for peace, reconciliation and friendship among peoples and nations.” Archbishop Chrysostomos underlined the importance of the theme. “Orthodox theology is primarily ecclesiological,” he said. “Christianity cannot be understood except as the church”. By his incarnation, the archbishop continued, Christ made all human beings part of his own body. Orthodox contributions to ecumenical theological reflection consist in the fact that Orthodoxy, rather than defending a “confessional” interpretation of ecclesiology, shares the existential experience of the church.

Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary, expressed appreciation both to Archbishop Chrysostomos for his hospitality, which is a tangible sign of his ecumenical commitment, and to Metropolitan Dr Vasilios of Constantia-Ammochostos, moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, for hosting the consultation in his diocese and for his many contributions to the work of Faith and Order. The general secretary referred to the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC a decade ago and stressed the Orthodox contribution to both ecclesiological reflection in general and to the ecclesial character of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches in particular. The general secretary concluded by reminding participants of the forthcoming peace convocation in Kingston, Jamaica. “Our task will be to affirm that we aim at being one, so that the world may believe that a just peace is possible. We know that in this island there is a struggle for justice and peace. It is as part of our journey towards unity and common witness that we participate in this struggle.”
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Monday, 21 March 2011

Experiencing Unity Globally

World Council of ChurchesImage via Wikipedia
This month's CTE News includes this article, by Revd Theodore A. Gill, senior editor of WCC publications, about the recent meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.  It is worth checking out another account of the meeting by Revd Dr Donald Norwood.

Justice and peace provided a framework for planning and assessment of programmes as the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) met in Geneva from 16 to 22 February 2011. The Central Committee looked forward in particular to upcoming global gatherings that will focus on “just peace”: the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation at Kingston, Jamaica in May of this year, and the next WCC Assembly at Busan, South Korea in October 2013. Justice, peace and Christian unity were central topics in opening addresses by the general secretary of the WCC and the moderator of the Central Committee. The WCC Central Committee is a governing body representing 349 member churches that convenes approximately once every eighteen months.

Highlights and directions on the journey

An Assembly “theme” in the form of a prayer was adopted for Busan: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” Among the highlights in the life of the Central Committee were common prayer and Bible study, calls for renewed and creative efforts in the quest for Christian unity, the relationship of women and men within church structures, statements on public issues, as well as the practical details of approving the WCC budget.

A network of relationships

In a chapel meditation on the opening day, Revd Dr Ofelia Ortega, the WCC president for Latin American and the Caribbean, told her congregation: “Our whole existence is a network of relationships in which we need reciprocity, connectivity and interdependence in order for peace to be achieved.”

Another WCC president, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and Durres, the Orthodox primate of Albania, reflected that “Peace is not something a human being can acquire through its own powers alone. It remains a divine gift.” He added, “It is a gift that, in order to be given, requires the desire of each person to receive it.”

Later, in a discussion on “the community of women and men”, it was recognized that women have always been outnumbered in WCC governing body relationships. Prof. Dr Magali do Nascimento Cunha of the Brazilian Methodist Church argued, “Full participation of women through numbers has to be achieved and also has to mean women being able to speak, being able to do, to lead, women being respected as partners being seen, being heard, their gifts recognized and valued.”

The Central Committee recommended that 50 percent of assembly representatives be women, but this has been an unachieved goal since 1981. Minimum percentages were also suggested in regard to young people, laity and Orthodox delegates.

Revd Jennifer Leath of ECHOS, the WCC youth commission, observed that “there is a delicate dance that is going on” because it is seen as important that the WCC speak with “authority”, yet the leaders of the churches whose voices are best recognized tend to be older and male. The WCC, she continued, is attempting to find a means of “maintaining a prophetic and youthful voice.”

Father Gosbert Byamungu, an observer from the Roman Catholic Church and co-moderator of the Joint Working Group with the WCC, stressed that there has been ecumenical progress over the decades. Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, he said, “distrust and animosity” among different traditions of Christianity “have been replaced by trust and friendship.” Today, progress is being made in relations among ecumenical bodies, world evangelical organizations and Pentecostal associations.

Consultation with Christian leaders from Iraq

Key leaders from several Iraqi churches, including a patriarch and four archbishops, held a consultation in Geneva at the time of Central Committee. Speaking to Central Committee participants at a public hearing, Archbishop Mar Georgis Sliwa of the Holy Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East reported that the most urgent needs in Iraq were “investigating the real reasons” behind violence and working “to empower the role of the state” in ensuring security for Iraqis regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Statements on public issues

The Central Committee adopted several statements, memoranda and resolutions on Iraq and the Middle East, Libya, Colombia and Australia, as well as taking positions on the topics of migration and the human right to water and sanitation. It sharply criticized a veto by the USA in the United Nations Security Council blocking UN condemnation of settlement-building in Palestine. The group also celebrated the 25th anniversary of WCC ministries to help churches in Africa achieve competence in dealing with the HIV-AIDS pandemic; this work was enthusiastically reaffirmed.

Approval of the budget and an application for membership

Amid fluctuating currency markets, the Central Committee acted to adopt a draft budget for 2011 with total income of 30.5 million Swiss francs, total expenditure of 32.9 million francs and a net reduction in funds and reserves of 2.4 million francs.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) took a step toward membership as the Central Committee accepted its application to join the WCC fellowship. While other WCC member churches are consulted to assure consensus regarding the application, the ELCJHL will participate in the life of the WCC both regionally and globally. A determination regarding full membership will be made at the Central Committee meeting in September 2012.
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Friday, 18 March 2011


just a craneImage via Wikipedia
The second Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) publication this week is Unreconciled.  This book relates to this year's Lent course and is also to feature on BBC Radio 4.

The book is by Anne Richards, with the Mission Theology Advisory Group, 'Unreconciled: Exploring mission in an imperfect world'.  Christians pray for peace and reconciliation and give money to alleviate the plight of others, while nodding to our neighbour whose problems we are not aware of. The Unreconciled are among us, but, because they don't make headlines, we assume they are coping and don't need our help.

The radio programmes address the following questions:
  • How do we bring about reconciliation?
  • Who is responsible for bringing about world peace?
  • Who should feed the hungry?
  • What happens when attempts at reconciliation fail?
  • How do we cope with failure?
These are some of the questions that are explored in the Lent course for 2011: The Unreconciled, which continues our partnership with BBC Radio. Beginning with the Sunday before Lent / Ash Wednesday, we reflect on our journey on what God has done for us in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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

Each week begins with Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 (0810-0850), complemented by additional programmes on the Daily Service (0945-1000 BBC R4 LW), and Sunday morning BBC local radio programmes will carry special items based on the themes of the course.  The local programmes are listed in the Rerligion and Ethics section of your BBC local Radio station website.
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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ecumenical Stakeholders' Forum, March 2011

The second meeting of the Ecumenical Stakeholders' Forum (ESF) takes place in London today.  I posted about the first meeting in October, when it was known as the Ecumenical Stakeholders' Group.  The name change brings it into line with the Methodist Connexional Team's policy.

If you read the previous post you will find details of the membership and remit of the group.  There is one additional new member, Canon Revd Harvey Richardson who is the Methodist Church's Advocate in Britain for the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.

The agenda for this time includes the following items.  As usual I will post about some of them after the meeting, especially if you leave a request in the comments.
  1. Methodist view of the Swanwick Declaration - the churches in Scotland are reviewing progress with the Swanwick Declaration.
  2. Connexional Ecumenism: connecting up denominational, national, regional and local partnerships
  3. Current position and thoughts about Local Ecumenical Partnerships
  4. Review of developments and current issues in Scotland, Wales, England and Europe
  5. Ecumenical Reception (held over from last time)
  6. Joint Implementation Commission including Methodist response to Church of England proposals for extended covenant partnerships, including 
  • recognising and regarding churches
  • revisiting Recognised and Regarded, Authorised and Associate ministries
  • associate status for local preachers / readers
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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Forgotten Trinity

c. 1400Image via Wikipedia
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) have recently published a couple of books which might be of interest.  Today, Forgotten Trinity, was first published 20 years ago and has been republished this year. 

CTBI write on their website:

Is the doctrine of the Trinity an irrelevance? Or is it of vital importance to the life of the churches?

In 1983 the British Council of Churches set up a Study Commission on Trinitarian Doctrine which grappled with these questions and other issues. It was prompted to do so by:
  • the need to set the charismatic movement's witness to the Spirit in a Trinitarian context
  • the theological concerns of the Orthodox members of the BCC
  • work done by the World Council of Churches' Faith and Order Commission
The result of this commission was a three volume publication under the title The Forgotten Trinity:
  • Vol.1: The Report of the BCC Study Commission on Trinitarian Doctrine Today
  • Vol.2: A Study Guide on issues contained in the report
  • Vol 3: A Selection of papers presented to the Commission
Although more than 20 years old, they remain an important contribution to Ecumenical theological discussions.

The second edition is now available, combining the three publications from the work of the Commission - a Report, a Study Guide and a Selection of Papers - in a single volume for the first time.
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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Free Websites for Churches Together Groups

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) are offering free websites for Churches Together Groups.  Churches Together Groups were established through the 1989 Swanwick Declaration and they are an opportunity for local churches to work together usually under a constitution for an unincorporated association.  Consequently, they are a flexible approach to local collaboration and can accommodate a very wide range of traditions.

CTBI on their website, explain what they have on offer:

We are offering local Churches Together groups a free website and hosting, based around an easy-to-use Content Management System (CMS), linked to our new social networking website Churches Together Connect .

A number of features help to keep website content fresh and up-to-date: the website automatically takes news feeds from CTBI and your national Churches Together organisation (CTE, Cytun or ACTS); and 'plug-in' content allows local groups to quickly add details and direct links to resources available from CTBI, such as for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Lent, Creation Time, Racial Justice Sunday and Remembrance Sunday.

The website comes with sample content but is customisable to enable local groups to add and edit their own sections and pages as required, as well as upload photos and add videos. A banner and logo, plus a number of themes, are provided, but local groups are free to upload their own.

A sample website can be viewed here

If you are interested in a free Churches Together website, please email CTBI. 

Websites for Churches Together Groups that have already signed up can be found here.  See below for a recent post about Churches Together Connect.
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Monday, 14 March 2011

The Ecumenical Theology of Archbishop Rowan Williams

Dame Mary TannerImage by David Michael Morris via Flickr
Here is advance notice of a lecture organised by the Society for Ecumenical Studies, which works towards the unity of Christians through dialogue, study and mutual understanding.

‘The Ecumenical Theology of Archbishop Rowan Williams’

A lecture given by

with a response by
Haythrop College

Westminster Abbey


Thursday June 9th
5 p.m. - 8.00 p.m.
By kind invitation of the Dean and Chapter


5.p.m. Evensong in the Abbey
6 p.m. Reception in the Jerusalem Chamber
6.30 – 8.00 p.m. Papers and discussion

Invitation is by a free ticket, please apply to

Donations on the night will be invited for the work of the society

This lecture is part of the ongoing programme of the society, membership of which is open to all.  For details of membership and activities please go to the Society for Ecumenical Studies website.
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Friday, 11 March 2011

CTE Theology and Unity Co-ordinating Group

The Revd Canon Professor Paul Avis (1947) is a...Image via Wikipedia
Churches Together in England (CTE) has a number of Co-ordinating Groups.  One of them, the Theology and Unity Group (TUG) has recently produced a report for 2010.  Here are some extracts from the report:

At the March meeting, we had papers by Paul Avis, of the Anglican Commission for Christian Unity, on doctrinal development and by John Bradbury of Westminster College, Cambridge on the Reformed understanding of ecclesia semper reformanda.  Both concepts raise key issues relating to the preservation and transmission of the apostolic faith and the authenticity of the ways in which it can be expressed in varying modes across time and space.  Both papers engendered lively discussion with particular stress being laid on such matters as the relationship of diversity of expression to unity in faith and the extent to which contextualisation necessarily involved different expressions.  Roger Paul drew our attention to current scientific thinking about co-evolution and wondered whether this had a bearing on the possibility of alternate authentic developments within the one Tradition.  The relationship of the reformed ecclesia semper reformanda to the Roman Catholic stress on ecclesia semper purificanda was also raised.

At the June residential meeting, we explored Paul Avis' new book on ecumenical theology.  We looked in particular at Paul's stress on the importance of the relational in ecumenism.

At the November meeting, we majored first on the recent papal visit, with particular reference to its ecumenical impact.  On this we were carefully guided in a comprehensive review by Rev Mark Woodruff, who, in taking 'Peter has strengthened his brethren' as a sort of text, stressed the way in which the Holy Father had helped to give confidence to all the church leaders, not just the Roman Catholic bishops.  He particularly stressed the impact of the Holy Father's speech to Parliament and its role in returning faith to the realm of public discourse.  The other main topic considered was the compatibility of the practice in 'fresh expressions' with traditional ecclesiology. 
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Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Churches' Co-ordinating Group on Spirituality

The cloisters of Iona Abbey.Image via Wikipedia
The next meeting of Churches Together in England's (CTE) Enabling Group will be considering a paper from the Churches' Co-ordinating Group on Spirituality.  The is one of CTE's Co-ordinating Groups and it is reviewing its work and seeking priorities for the future.  The group has access to a wealth of committed and insightful people from across the churches and they are asking what Enabling Group sees as priorities for the next few years.  Here are some extracts from their paper:

The group was formed in 1997 with the following aims:
  1. To encourage member Churches to explore, discover, affirm and share their spiritual traditions and current practices.
  2. To promote an understanding of spirituality which embraces the whole of life, and leads to action for justice and service in the world.
  3. To encourage co-operation between the Churches and all those Bodies in Association, groups, communities and networks concerned in prayer and spirituality.
  4. To support and encourage the work already being down at Intermediate and local levels through Spirituality Forums, Quiet Days, retreats, etc; to arrange occasional consultations and promote networking among those concerned about spirituality in England; to co-operate in any four nation events organised by CTBI's (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland ) Living Spirituality Network.
  5. To hold to the wide variety of forms of spirituality - charismatic, sacramental, evangelical, etc - and promote unity in diversity; but to be aware that some forms of spirituality can be damaging, and to warn when necessary.
  6. To be sensitive to the spirituality of each human being, and to promote the use of accessible language in helping people explore their relationship with God and how it works in the world.
The group has achieved:
  • publications like Such a Feast and Sharing Our Spiritual Treasures
  • consultations on subjects like 'Faith and Spirituality'. 'Youth Spirituality', 'Hospitality at Holy Communion' and 'Healthy and Unhealthy Spiritualities'
Over the years since 1997, there have been immense changes in the practice and in the understanding of spirituality within the churches and wider society.  Sr Diane Reynolds in a recent paper, presented to the groups wrote:
"'Spirituality' was part of the churches' heritage when the group began.  It was their 'property'.  In the intervening years it has become a consumer product, partially secularised, and frequently individualised.  It would appear that the churches have therefore lost some of their interest and enthusiasm for this area of church life.  It is as if Spirituality covers every dimension of church life, and yet has no 'particular place' and in many cases has a very low profile and certainly does not register as a priority on the Churches' agenda.  The paradox is that outside the church structures spirituality has never been more alive, or sought after, and this in itself poses a challenge to the church of today."

The group has identified some themes it might pursue and seeks further ideas and responses to them:
  • the value of a spiritual discipline
  • the need for a Rule of Life
  • the diversity of experience of the Spirit which can lead to member bodies taking opposing stances on ethical issues
  • the relationship between theology and spirituality
What do you think?  Leave a comment and I can pass ideas on to the Group.
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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

CTE Enabling Group, March 2011

Photograph of Aylesford Priory, Kent, EnglandImage via Wikipedia
This week Churches Together in England's (CTE) Enabling Group is meeting in Aylesford, Kent.  The last meeting took place in September and some notes were reported in October.  As I wrote in September, "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.)"

Here are some highlights from the agenda:
  • An update on the review of Intermediate Bodies.  There is likely to be more information about the review and so I will prepare an update in the near future.
  • An introduction to CT Connect.
  • Spirituality Group consultation.  There will also be a report from CTE's Theology and Unity Groups. 
  • The nature of the ecumenical space which CTE offers.  It will be interesting to find out what this means!
  • The legacy of the Papal visit.  There are several posts on this blog relating to the Papal visit. Search for 'Papal visit' in the right hand column to find the rest.
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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Ecumenism in Ambridge

178Image via Wikipedia
Regular readers will be delighted to hear ecumenism is very much alive in the County of Borsetshire.  Usually we hear little of the churches in Borsetshire, primarily because its best known village, Ambridge, seems to have never accommodated anything other than a parish church.

At the meeting of new ecumenical officers last week, participants examined a case study of Borsetshire and found there was much going on in the surrounding villages and towns.  It appears a County Ecumenical Development Officer post is about to be advertised and I'm sure many of us will be viewing it with a mixture of interest and scepticism.

The new ecumenical officers' training course has undergone a number of staff changes in recent years and consequently, this year a number of new elements were introduced, of which the Borsetshire case study was one.  Overall, there were a number of unexpected emerging themes.

One development was a deepening appreciation of the role of prayer and spirituality in ecumenical work.  The staff have always underlined the need to deploy listening skills and this year, the group explored the importance of presence and using all senses to understand the stories of ecumenical work but also the underlying or hidden narrative, which sometimes needs to be reflected back to local people.

Closely connected was the important insight that the role of the ecumenical officer is more than being a resource for technical know-how.  It is a ministry and can draw on conventional forms of ministry.  Some Ecumenical Officers might draw on pastoral work, for example, or development work.

Here are some of the issues identified by participants on the course:
  • How do we get the right balance between bottom up work with Churches Together groups, for example, and top down constitutions?  Why do we need constitutions?
  • To what extent are emerging churches off the ecumenical radar? 
  • How inclusive are we?  Are we prepared to take risks in relationship forming? 
  • The Global perspective, ecumenism is not restricted to Britain alone.
  • Belonging to an institution and forming relationships beyond it can be a difficult balancing act.  How far can we go?  Does ecumenism embrace groups such as Mormons?
  • What do we do when the institutions cause problems, eg over the ordination of women or sexuality?
NB    For overseas readers, 'The Archers' is a BBC Radio 4 soap, set in Ambridge, Borsetshire.  Please don't confuse this Ambridge with the one in Pennsylvania!  Furthermore this video, demonstrates the central place The Archers has in our national life.

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Monday, 7 March 2011

Ecumenical Engagement of the Methodist Church in Wales

Presbyterian Church of WalesImage via Wikipedia
The Methodist Church in Wales is split into two Synods or Districts.  Synod Cymru is Welsh speaking and the Wales Synod is English speaking or bilingual.  Here are some extracts from a paper written in January 2011.

Synod Cymru

Synod Cymru exercises the vast majority of the ministry in Welsh.  Chapel culture is very strong within the Welsh speaking communities in Wales and so it is more natural for Welsh speaking Methodist congregations to form partnerships (which may or may not be formal arrangements  - hence the 'LEP' in commas) are most common with the Presbyterian Church of Wales and with chapels belonging to the Union of Welsh Independent Churches (UWI).  (We should of course remember that the latter is an informal grouping and that chapels which are members of the UWI retain their autonomy - the Union having no oversight or authority over them.)

Synod Cymru has counted about 16 area based partnerships or 'LEPs'. 

Wales Synod

There are about 18 circuit based partnerships as well as 4 chaplaincies in higher education, 4 industrial and workplace chaplaincies, 1 prison chaplaincy and one other.  There are also a couple of training partnerships.

Challenges and difficulties facing ecumenical co-operation
  1. Strategic deployment of ministry.  The difficulty is that we all use different processes and timing patterns in deploying ministry which can lead to frustration between partners, particularly when there is pressure to reduce staff levels, and where there is a different approach to the length and timing of interregnums. 
  2. More limited access to funding to support strategic development.  Restructuring of connexional funding has led to Districts (including the Cymru and Welsh Synods) having to fund what previously was held to be connexional priorities, with a consequent reduction in the financial resources available. 
  3. Changing assessment of key strategic issues.  Faced with this reduced level of funding, we have to make difficult decisions as to where we can continue to support ecumenical ministry schemes.  In some cases this means that given changed circumstances, we can no longer afford to resource some areas of work in the way we once did. 
  4. Different language / cultural settings require different partners.  The language and cultural geography of Wales means that Methodism may look to different partners in different places.  For example, the Wales Synod may look more naturally to the Church in Wales or the URC, whilst Synod Cymru may look to the PCW or UWI as partners.  However, in responding to issues across Wales, we need to remain coherent as a denomination.
Potential areas of new ecumenical work

We suggest that key is to find common areas of mission priority.  These may include:
  1. areas where significant new housing development is planned
  2. areas where chaplaincy work is developing
  3. sharing in new approaches to training for ministry
  4. sharing in other ecumenical mission projects
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