Monday, 12 September 2011

Supporting Local Ecumenical Life

Some European pilgrims on the road to Santiago...Image via WikipediaLast week I started to explore Churches Together in England's latest report A Review of Intermediate Ecumenical Life in England.

Chapter8 in the report examines the progress that has been made in the transition from the Council of Churches to the Churches Together model.  This chapter examines the amount of support intermediate bodies offer to Churches Together Groups, as well as the change of mindset hoped for in the late 1980s when the change was agreed between the churches.  The report reads:

Local Councils of Churches and those who devoted their time and energy to their development laid the foundations for the ecumenical life of England today, and helped to create the relationships - and the possibility of such relationships, which are now regarded so highly.  The transition to a Churches Together model, more rooted in the structures of each denomination, though perhaps less visionary, has been hard to achieve.  Intermediate Bodies (IBs) recognise the importance of local ecumenical life, expressed usually though not exclusively through Churches Together, and IBs want and need to invest more developmental time in the local.

Twenty years on from the inter-church process and the basic change of model from Councils of Churches to Churches Together has failed to take place in all but name.  Oh yes, everyone's taken on the Churches Together label but how much has really changed?

The old Protestant agenda of full visible unity persists and effectively excludes all the traditions which don't subscribe to it.  What in the 1960s was an inspiring vision was dead in the water by the early 1980s and it seems incredible that, after the significant success of 'Not Strangers but Pilgrims', we are still more than twenty years on, working under the old models.

Reality is going to catch up with the main Protestant churches very soon.  Their reluctance to address  issues about church unity has not gone unnoticed.  People under the age of 40 (or is it 50?) no longer feel obliged to continue as members of their traditions of origin.  They spoke during the inter-church purpose, were not taken seriously and so have left in droves in order to work collaboratively with any Christian who shares their values.  This new mindset seems to have been successfully communicated to their children.  This is why the mainstream Protestant churches are encountering decline.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing but I am saying it is what happened and no amount of analytical theology is going to make any difference because most people are no longer interested in what ecumenists have to say.  The opportunity to make a difference was in the 1980s and for whatever reason church leaders at the time and since have ignored the will of the people.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment