Ecumenical Conversations

How you can be involved in ecumenism

Ecumenical conversationsEcumenical conversations can take place: 

  • Nationally or internationally - these are often between denominational leaders and are known as formal talks
     
  • Locally, between your district, circuit or local church and other neighbouring churches or groups of churches
     
  • Conversations can take place between Christians anywhere, by accident or design.

In the Methodist Church, lay people, presbyters and deacons can be involved in formal talks. 

Who takes part in ecumenical conversations?

Take a look at the Guide to Denominations on this site to find out more about the diversity of Christian denominations and congregations, including new churches. We should not make the mistake of believing ecumenical conversations are restricted to the mainstream denominations that are members of the ecumenical instruments. Increasingly new churches are becomming involved with local Churches Together groups.  Many of these have no national presence. 


Goals of formal ecumenical conversations

Canberra Assembly of the World Council of Churches 1991

©WCC/Peter Williams

The Canberra Assembly of the  World Council of Churches in 1991 enumerated the marks of full visible unity (what it called 'full communion'): 

  • the common confession of the apostolic faith;
     
  • a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one Eucharistic fellowship;
     
  • a common life in which members and ministries are mutually recognised and reconciled;
     
  • and a common mission witnessing to the Gospel of God's grace to all people and serving the whole of creation.

Some smaller congregations may find this statement difficult to relate to but any congregation can explore to what extent they share in this unity.
The goal of any ecumenical conversation, formal or informal, is to build loving relationships within the worldwide church of God.


Goals of Informal Ecumenism

Faithful Capital describes the way that people are enriched not only by their ownership of physical and financial assets or by the 'human capital' of their skills and qualifications, but also by their social relationships and participation in social networks.

From Faithful Cities: A call for celebration, vision and justice, page 2

Many theologians have remarked on the difficulty  of living in community.  
As Christian congregations grow together they will struggle to love one another despite the inevitable conflicts.

Congregations that have weathered many  storms can be very close and this is one kind of  Christian relationship. But any such group will tend to be made of people who are similar in some way. 
This may be defined by their denominational or theological tradition but can also be defined by age, race or sexuality.

 

 

'Moral sense' gives value to things such as honesty, self effacement, generosity of spirit, putting others' needs ahead of one's own and genuine respect for those who know deeply about personal distress and struggle. Our case is that it is this 'moral sense', maintained by religious teaching and religious discipline, which proves such a potent source of transformation of individuals and neighbourhoods. This is widely overlooked or misunderstood.

From Faithful Cities: A call for celebration, vision and justice, page 81

The challenge to all congregations is to take the further step to commitment to loving Christians who are different. Just like relationships within congregations, this will bring its joys as well as inevitably its conflicts or pain.

The challenge and fascination of ecumenism is that it transcends narrow definitions of tradition and draws us into forging relationships between Christians in very different, even opposed walks  of life.

 

Ecumenism outside the Churches

One last thing, if you take a look at What is Ecumenism?, you will see that the word 'ecumenical' stretches to include 'the human community within the whole of creation'. In our relationships with other Christians, this is what  we are doing; taking the first steps towards the transformation by the Holy Spirit of relationships throughout the whole human community and indeed the whole of creation.

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