Why ecumenical structures?

There is often annoyance and bemusement about ecumenical structures - and in no sense should they be exempt from critique. We need to recognise that our own denominational processes are complex too. We should expect to behave professionally in understanding the ecumenical equivalents.

Ecumenical structures are in place to help us relate across the denominational ones:

  • They are part of the cost we all bear for experiencing and securing unity between separated Churches.
  • They are channels for communication, consultation and joint decision-making. If they do not deliver this, they need to be improved.
  • They express mutual accountability - and we do not always react well to that!
  • They are vessels for holding joint projects and visions, which would otherwise fragment as we return to our separate denominational paths.
  • They are vulnerable to changes of policy, procedure and personnel among the Churches represented. So participants need to make allowances for this - and promote good communication.
  • They are only effective if everybody is willing to collaborate, and if they are properly resourced for the work to be done. Poorly attended groups which are poorly resourced are unlikely to deliver.

Sometimes the emphasis will be on the achieving of tasks; sometimes on the building of relationships. And some tasks can only be addressed when the relationships are secure!

Ecumenical structures deserve the same respect as denominational ones and arguably more patience.

Where the local arrangements for ecumenical work do not meet the expected standards, the first step would be to discuss the problem with the local ecumenical officers. If the problem is found to be with connexional arrangements, or is thought to be of wider connexional interest, the issue should be referred to the Connexional Ecumenical Officer.

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