Why Local Ecumenical Partnerships?

Because:

  • They are a tried and tested way of organising practical, long-term partnerships between local churches.
  • Churches have established detailed procedures and permissions for working together in LEPs.
  • They open up possibilities not otherwise available. For example, for the Church of England, these are offered through Canon B44, with particular provision for the sharing of eucharistic ministry and for joint confirmation - both capable of being powerful signs of unity.
  • They can be a means of sharing resources - possibly saving money!
  • They challenge us to persevere with difficult matters of Faith and Order
  • And they are a significant visible expression of the Churches' commitment to unity.

Details of the six types of ecumenical partnership can be found under 'Local ecumenical partnerships - the shared language'. The most common one is the Single Congregation Partnership. As this one implies two or more churches sharing a common life including property and finance, they tend to cause most of the frustrations referred to below. Congregations in Covenanted Partnership are increasingly popular, where the participant churches retain their denominational integrity whilst covenanting to share as much as possible.

All LEPs but particularly Single Congregation Partnerships have their critics. In response, the Churches held a National Consultation in 2002, and subsequently produced a brief follow-up document: Local Ecumenical Partnerships in Changing Times - Perspectives and Priorities. It would be wise to have a copy handy for reference. Among the priorities and tasks to be addressed as priorities are:

  • Developing good practice in shared consultation and decision-making.
  • Simplifying LEP constitutions and LEP documents generally.
  • Developing light, robust, flexible and purposive structures.
  • And changes to Charity Law will mean most LEP constitutions will need to be updated in the not too distant future.

In response to those requesting a 'Vision for Local Ecumenical Living', three themes have been identified:

  • The spirituality of sacrifice
  • A deeper understanding of team-working
  • A theology of diversity in our unity

These themes have emerged as a common thread and are intended to guide our relationships and planning.

LEPs, as expressions of unity, need care from the Churches sponsoring them. Sometimes you will be right to be frustrated. However, our real frustration should be about the disunity of God's Church.

LEP procedures exist for a purpose and arise out of experience. They won't be perfect for every situation. Evaluating and modifying these procedures in collaboration with ecumenical colleagues is certainly appropriate. Unilateral, pre-emptive action is not.

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