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Source: (consider it) Thread: In which he invites discourse on the demerits of MoTR churches
Aijalon
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So I'm bitter, clearly, meaning everyone is MOTR to me.

Perhaps we could do a round of throwing out certain forms of fundamentalism from the MOTR group.

I take it that Gamaliel would not include many evangelical USA groups in the MoTR. Do I have it right that MoTR as you have targeted it is to mean theological views? Are we talking about an MoTR view of God and the Bible, or a wider MoTR dealing with practices and procedures also?

So my church would be very MoTR in terms of appearance, very bland and non offensive in style. However, it's bylaws and theology are staunchly Southern Baptist and therefore full scale right wing. Some churches with virtually identical theology could be the hellfire breathing type, however, ours is moving MoTR in appearance to try to survive, while not changing any actual views, or even really challenging any old views.

Changing the window dressings is really all it is and half hearted at that.

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Callan
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
In other words it's a throwaway term, a weasel word, meant to mean "a church I don't like because it's not as exciting/biblical/liturgical/spiritual* as mine."

Prove me wrong.

_______
*/self-consciously offensive

IME, that's not true. The parishes where I have served have generally been on the High and Peculiar end of the candle but the place where I want my ashes interred was MOTR village religion. They tolerated my churchpersonship because I was emotionally invested in keeping them open and I loved them dearly because they were serious about the Gospel and because they had my back during a difficult time with The Powers That Be. When I was leaving they rang Mrs Callan and asked what I would like as a leaving present. Mrs Callan said get in a professional photographer and arrange for a photo of Callan in the midst of the congregation. It sits on my wall as a reminder that Serious People said they were doomed and they continue to flourish.

They were deeply unsound on the subject of Sanctuary Bells and Incense, but, no-one is perfect.

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by Aijalon:
So I'm bitter, clearly, meaning everyone is MOTR to me.

Perhaps we could do a round of throwing out certain forms of fundamentalism from the MOTR group.

I take it that Gamaliel would not include many evangelical USA groups in the MoTR. Do I have it right that MoTR as you have targeted it is to mean theological views? Are we talking about an MoTR view of God and the Bible, or a wider MoTR dealing with practices and procedures also?

So my church would be very MoTR in terms of appearance, very bland and non offensive in style. However, it's bylaws and theology are staunchly Southern Baptist and therefore full scale right wing. Some churches with virtually identical theology could be the hellfire breathing type, however, ours is moving MoTR in appearance to try to survive, while not changing any actual views, or even really challenging any old views.

Changing the window dressings is really all it is and half hearted at that.

Well, I did mention that I'd read an article recently that spoke about MoTR US evangelical and charismatic churches, which I understood to mean the milder end of the spectrum ie. not snake-handling Pentecostals in the Appallachians, nor millionaire evangelists in private jets nor chewing-a-brick Puritanical neo-Calvinist fundamentalists or the King James Only brigade ...

So, no, I wouldn't necessarily exclude US evangelicals from the ranks of the MoTR. In some parts of the USA I suspect that MoTR evangelicals ARE the mainstream ...

I suppose where I'm coming from is that whilst I've retreated from various forms of full-on evangelicalism I don't doubt its power to transform and to make a difference ...

Whereas with some forms of MoTR milk-and-water Christianity I don't see that capacity retained.

Putting it crudely, some forms of very liberal Christianity is neutered and can't reproduce itself - it's like a mule in that respect.

It can only grow or increase in numbers by fall-out from more conservative or more 'lively' traditions - it cannot reproduce itself in the way that evangelicalism - or other forms of more mission-oriented traditions can.

As the UK sociologist and lay-theologian Dr Andrew Walker (Pentecostal turned agnostic turned Orthodox) once put it, 'Nobody is going to die for one of Spong's or Don Cupitt's stories' ...

So, where I'm coming from is this ... I am certainly disenchanted with evangelicalism and forms of revivalism - but at the same time I don't believe that MoTR forms of Christianity have a great deal to offer - other than as pit-stops or recovery-bays for those burned out or hurt by more full-on and fervent forms of the faith.

Those who've been around these boards a bit know that I have something of a history of gnashing my teeth and tearing my sackcloth at the vicissitudes of charismatic evangelicalism.

I wanted to balance that our by having a go at more MoTR forms of churchiness for a change.

Does that make sense?

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
Yes, some definitions would be good - for example I wouldn't call Oasis Waterloo MoTR, it's evangelical.

Some denominations, of course, straddle multiple categories - obviously many Anglican churches are MoTR, but also many aren't.

I wouldn't call Oasis Evangelical - not in the usual definition of the term anyway.
It's neither. It's liberal. And packed.
It's liberal Evangelical - churches can be both, as they can be liberal Catholic. Oasis conforms to the Bebbington Quadrilateral (not being PSA doesn't mean not being crucicentric), uses distinctly Evangelical hymnody, and members/leadership would all self-identify as Evangelical (including Steve Chalke). I have attended Oasis many times, and have friends who are members there - they'd all identify as Evangelicals who are part of an Evangelical church. It may look different to many other Evangelical churches but that would equally be the case for a liberal Catholic church. I would consider it more Evangelical than Bloomsbury Baptist Church for example (which I have also attended many times).

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Aijalon
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Yes, G. That does make perfect sense. Unhappy with everybody! [Smile]

I really think you and I are in the same boat together right now. Truly do like the analogy about the mule too. Makes sense.

In all honesty, I'm in a Baptist church, which I'm totally unsatisfied with, for two reasons: no one is "praying in tongues", if I chose to I could vote on church business matters. Aside from that things are so MoTR as to be distasteful.

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Pomona
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Regarding British Methodism - I have a number of young (twenty- and thirtysomethings) Methodist friends, some of whom are ordained or are training for ordination. An awful lot of these are ministers' children (I know them mostly through the Student Christian Movement and Greenbelt, which themselves are probably at the more lively/thriving end of liberal MOTR Christianity), which to me says rather a lot. It reminds me of when Anglican clergy was often the family trade, and it would go from father to son without newcomers coming in. That's a problem, but I'm not sure British Methodism can repair the damage in time. It's sad.

For some reason MOTR churches and Berylware crockery go hand in hand, for me.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
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I had to look that up, Pomona, but as soon as I did my memory (always tightly-tied to the olfactory) hit me with the smell of slightly-off milk and the taste of over-diluted church-parade orange squash. Happy days!

Your point about minster's kids is a good one, and points to one of the reasons for our decline I think. Methodism modelled a very local society which doesn't really exist anymore, by which I mean:

* A church at the centre of friendship groups and uniformed organisations, for adults and kids alike
* Likely stable employment in or near one's hometown, meaning families stay around, kids become Sunday School teachers, youth club members marry each other (or someone from elsewhere in the circuit!).
* Lack of educational opportunities; people looking for an outlet for their skills (admin, preaching, social) not available to them in their work.
* Under-employed mothers available for loads of unpaid work to keep the whole show on the road.


Instead, my generation of no-higher-education-before-in-our-family folks pissed off, starting about 1980, all over the place to poly and university - and most never settled in a new church. Our parents' generation have carried on as before, but as they die what's left is falling off the cliff.

So, a new church for the atomised 'society' - Methodism isn't it.

[ 25. May 2017, 18:35: Message edited by: mark_in_manchester ]

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Enoch
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Not sure it's possible to define MOTR. It is easier to describe 'marks of MOTR'. I'd pick out a selection of the following:-

- I agree about the Berylware.
- Also about uniformed organisations.

I'd add at least some of the following:-
- a determination not to upset the horses.
- the biggest poster outside the church - i.e. its message - proclaiming the amount of money needed for a rebuilding project - even better - a thermometer.
- special services for organisations like the Round Table, the Lions or community choirs.
- a desire not to upset the Free Masons, who may well go there.
- seeing the church's role more as serving the community than Jesus Christ.
- a profound complacency.

Above all, I think for me one of the things that most irritates me about the MOTR tradition, is the feeling it gives me that this isn't what any of the great saints of the church, whether the apostles, or of any era since, would have been able to stomach.

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Baptist Trainfan
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That sounds about right, Enoch - though I suspect the fund-raising thermometer is a bit apocryphal!

One word which is definitely "not on" is "evangelism". Well, all nice people are Christians, aren't they? - even if they don't come to church, and we don't want to offend them by talking about religion,

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
Yes, some definitions would be good - for example I wouldn't call Oasis Waterloo MoTR, it's evangelical.

Some denominations, of course, straddle multiple categories - obviously many Anglican churches are MoTR, but also many aren't.

I wouldn't call Oasis Evangelical - not in the usual definition of the term anyway.
It's neither. It's liberal. And packed.
It's liberal Evangelical - churches can be both, as they can be liberal Catholic. Oasis conforms to the Bebbington Quadrilateral (not being PSA doesn't mean not being crucicentric), uses distinctly Evangelical hymnody, and members/leadership would all self-identify as Evangelical (including Steve Chalke). I have attended Oasis many times, and have friends who are members there - they'd all identify as Evangelicals who are part of an Evangelical church. It may look different to many other Evangelical churches but that would equally be the case for a liberal Catholic church. I would consider it more Evangelical than Bloomsbury Baptist Church for example (which I have also attended many times).
We've attended about half a dozen times, 2015-16, including 3 days with Rob Bell as one instance.

If we could afford it we'd move to attend.

It's alignment with the BQ is liberal, easily accommodates mine in these regards:

biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

[ 25. May 2017, 22:04: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Bishops Finger
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From what I've heard of Oasis Waterloo (and Steve Chalke, who was once the Baptist minister in my home town), I rather wish there were more churches like it. Perhaps there are, of course, and I just haven't come across them!

For all their 'worthiness', the MOTR churches in this neck of the woods all seem rather bland, for want of a better word.

IJ

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Sober Preacher's Kid

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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
Gamaliel wrote:

quote:
I'd tend to regard the Uniting Church in Canada (is that the right name?)
Assuming we're talking about the same group, no. It's still called the United Church Of Canada. Probably has a certain affinity(if not affiliation) with the groups calling themselves "uniting", but I'll leave any further explication on that to Sober Preacher's Kid, should he be so inclined.
Well of course we have an affinity. It's our Calling.

The only bad thing about the Uniting Church in Australia is that they are so far away. Otherwise we are two peas in a pod. Get along famously.

quote:
Mark in Manchester wrote:

For me good MOTR Methodism is evangelical (high regard for the bible) and a bit liberal (we can talk about what it means, and that might change; but it surely means something, and what it means is really important). It is charismatic (what it means is subject to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds) but also historical and sometimes even a bit academic (Wesley wrote in 17** that........).

[Overused]

Ooh, that hits it right on the spot. That presses every single one of my buttons. It's like the French Reformed Church's baptismal blessing: it makes one's heart just melt as an expression of what the faith should be.

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Gamaliel
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That sounds lovely, Sober Preacher's Kid and I don't doubt what you are saying for one second ...

However, the purpose of this thread from my OP was to discuss the demerits and weaknesses of the MoTR position (however defined) rather than its strengths and advantages ...

Of course, there are two sides of every coin.

I feel awkward being an Eeyore here and focusing on the downsides, but as I've said, I'm partly compensating for having been one of the folk SvitlanaV2 cites who has directed fire against more conservative or hard-line churches whilst not spreading my shot to liberal or MoTR outfits ...

But hey, if this thread helps people see the value in their own tradition/s then that's great ...

It's interesting talking to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are involved in a very MoTR Methodist church now - having been involved for decades with Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal / charismatic churches.

Even though they are aware of problems and decline across Methodism here in the UK they are loving every minute of it ...

Sure, they find some of the hymnody to be pretty bland and the sermons are a bit 'after dinner speech-ish' at times ... but the sense of community and the level of engagement they have in the house-groups and so on has proven very positive and stimulating ...

Intriguingly, and this ties in with your observation, Sober Preacher's Kid, my brother-in-law observes that he picks up just as much of a sense of God's guidance, providence and 'engagement' if you like among the Methodists as he ever did in the more full-on churches he's been involved with ...

Only it's discerned and discussed in a more sober or slow-burn kind of way ...

He feels it's none the less 'real' than what he had previously in more explicitly 'lively' and charismatic settings ... it's simply expressed differently and worked out differently ...

That's all the positive stuff.

How back to the downsides ...

[Two face]

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:


On SvitlanaV2's observations on the rate of Methodist decline, the question is whether they've brought that on themselves or whether it's a societal / cultural shift we can none of us do a great deal about ...

Things are being 'done', as I said above. The Methodist church I know best has recently spent thousands of pounds on modernising its building, and is the home of a FE which has already been in the media. The question is, what are such ventures trying to achieve, and is it possible that they'll have a significant denominational effect?

Statisticians claim that FEs are not sufficiently successful or numerous to make much of a dent in the rate of Methodist decline. In the long run some of them might become viable congregations, although I sense that the influence of MOTR 'moderation' means that few Methodist FEs are likely to become very dynamic. In any case, will it be the Methodist Church as such that benefits? Probably not.

Now, as to your earlier question, I'd say there was no division; Methodists both created and were subjected to the challenges which arose in a Christian nation of which they were a part. The same forces were at work in other denominations as well as theirs.

So although the following are some of the approaches one might come across, I'd see them as interconnected:

1. Methodism fit the rather fatalistic paradigm of church-sect (or rather, sect-church) theory very well. Growth occurred with advancing respectability and institutionalisation, but like a large ship that keeps moving after the engines have been turned off, there was a false sense of security because recruitment from outside and the socialisation of members' children slowed down dramatically. At some point the lack of recruitment meant the management of a protracted decline: mergers, etc.

2. Methodist historiography tended to emphasise the devoutness and heroism of the early pioneers, and bemoaned the censorious (or, conversely, too lax), bourgeois, superficial faith and witness of their successors. There were also many ex-Methodists who heavily criticised what this kind of Methodism had done to them in their youth.

3. Methodism has been the beneficiary or victim of much larger historical forces, with the popular enlightenment, democracy, urbanisation, market economies, etc, as the relevant factors. IOW the movement can be seen as benefiting from a particular moment in history, but unable to sustain the momentum when the culture moved on.

There are also attempts to insert the specific Methodist experience into various secularisation paradigms. I find these relevant:

a. The movement became a victim of its own success. E.g. by successfully defying religious monopolies it helped to create the culture of religious pluralism. This eventually reduced its own share of the religious market, and probably contributed to the rise of post-Christendom. (But in the USA religious pluralism has had a more more positive outcome for popular religiosity.)

b. The urbanisation theory of secularisation suggests that the historical community-based revivalism in parts of the UK is inappropriate for modern urban populations. OTOH, it's also true that post-revivalistic Victorian and Edwardian churches overreached themselves in trying to promote a diffusive Christianity within the 'community' via social means. It took resources and energy away from internal spiritual development, which helped to weaken congregations further. Even today I see a desire to influence the penumbra which doesn't take into account the internal weakness of the church.

c. The extent to which Methodism had allowed itself to become highly numerically dominated by women (often over 65%) made it susceptible to the secularising impulses of the cultural revolution in the 60s and 70s, which had more of an impact on the religious perceptions and behaviour of women than of men.

d. Some would argue that the propensity of state churches in Europe to align themselves with the forces of conservatism and traditionalism in the face of societal change disastrously contributed towards secularisation; but it was particularly disastrous for the Nonconformist churches that tried to emulate them, since they lacked the prestige, the institutional strength or the ability to recruit or to keep members/worshippers which would ensure their health overall.

On the last point, I'm particularly convinced that as Methodism sought to emulate the CofE it was doing itself out of a job in the long term. Who needs a second rate CofE when the real CofE already exists and is present? This is why I think newer groups should be careful of learning from larger but declining historical denominations. The main thing they might learn is how to decline themselves - only more rapidly! Some commentators argue that in some contexts this is precisely what's happening.

As for what the denomination should have done or could do now, I might discuss that in another post. Hopefully a shorter one!

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ExclamationMark
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In this neck of the woods there are a few MOTR churches (about 50% of all local churches). They are numerically weak but punch way above their weight in inter church matters - a function of their numerical strength in the past.

They are all declining in size - some very rapidly. They have a good focus on social justice but are often very embarrassed and non committal of anything that has a missional edge. Problem is they just don't see that their position is analogous to that of other churches: there are one or two strong personalities who have dominated things for a while but are stuck in an 1989 timewarp (the date is significant).

The big growth in church life locally is in new churches - often one national or ethnic grouping. They will have absolutely nothing to do with the existing set up whilst it's dominated by MOTR churches and agendas.

It's a very unhappy future for everyone.

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mr cheesy
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I wonder what has changed about Methodism.

There were 4 large Methodist churches within walk of 20 minutes of here - two Primitive (for sure), two Wesleyan (I think).

Gamaliel tells me that these were never really filled, and yet I'm not sure if that can be true - I saw a survey from the 1930-40s where 80% of people in this part of Wales said that they attended church at least once on a Sunday.

It'd be interesting to see if there was any more granular information at any point - and there are also various other churches within the same distance (2 Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist.. possibly others). But the Methodist were a lot bigger, so it seems possible that they were a big part of the local culture after they were built (around 1890-1900, I think).

I wonder what changed.

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arse

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SvitlanaV2
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A lot changed for Methodism, as I tried explain above. But you're talking about Wales, aren't you? Gamaliel will probably have a lot to say about that.

My understanding (as per this essay, but it's not available online) is that the contributory factors were the decline of the chapels' role in maintaining the Welsh language, the disaffection of the working classes as Welsh religion was Anglicised and professionalised, the damage caused by economic and industrial decline in Wales, and the rise of the unions and then the welfare state, which took over the caring role that the church had previously maintained.

Wales now has a lower church attendance than England, which I imagine is still shocking for many English Non-conformists to hear. But it's said that the Welsh churches that remain could still have an important social role, especially as social services struggle.

[ 26. May 2017, 17:16: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
A lot changed for Methodism, as I tried explain above. But you're talking about Wales, aren't you? Gamaliel will probably have a lot to say about that.

Yes, I suppose I was musing that at some point Methodism changed from being something that attracted a lot of people around here to be something that was a minor sport. The one of the big Methodists chapels closed in the 1960s, so that process of decline has been going on for a long time.

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SvitlanaV2
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mr cheesy

It took a long time, but in the Welsh context it might be easier to track the process than in England, since the contributory factors appear to be much clearer. And Wales is a smaller country, after all.

Emigration must surely be a factor too. I've read that Irish Methodism suffered a lot from that. English Methodism too, although we hear less about it. The youngish, ambitious, upper-working class and lower-middle class Methodist was surely attracted by the possibilities of good employment elsewhere.

When my church closed, a whole flock of elderly former members turned up from far flung suburbs and small towns to share in the commemorations. The ones who went to Oz, NZ, Canada or elsewhere in the 60s and 70s were unlikely ever to return, certainly not to the church.

[ 26. May 2017, 17:37: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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leo
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I am an anglo-catholic serving a MOTR church - I am suprised, though I shouldn't be, at the depth of people's prayer lives - nothing lukewarm here.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:

It's a very unhappy future for everyone.

Can you explain why you think the new churches in your area will have an unhappy future?
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Gamaliel
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Never usually one to be lost for words, something I share with a former close neighbour of yours, mr cheesy, 'Welsh wind-bag' Neil Kinnock - I have little to add to SvitlanaV2's excellent analysis of what went on in Wales.

On the issue of whether chapels were ever as full as popular legend maintains - I'll meet you half way there. If my memory serves I was thinking more of Yorkshire than Wales where it was certainly the case that chapels were built to an excessive size in anticipation of growth that never materialised.

It wouldn't surprise me if attendance stood at around 80% in the Welsh Valleys until around the 1930s.

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Albertus
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
That sounds about right, Enoch - though I suspect the fund-raising thermometer is a bit apocryphal!

One word which is definitely "not on" is "evangelism". Well, all nice people are Christians, aren't they? - even if they don't come to church, and we don't want to offend them by talking about religion,

It's the whole bloody *niceness* thing. I have only very rarely wondered whether I should join the RCC but one of the things I find attractive about it is that it doesn't, on the whole, seem to confuse being Christian with being nice.
I don't know whether MOTR always equalled 'nice'. My great hero ++Fisher was probably the last Central Churchman to be ABC and I don't think anyone ever accused him of being *nice*, warm and friendly though he could be.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:

It's a very unhappy future for everyone.

Can you explain why you think the new churches in your area will have an unhappy future?
The reason they will have an unhappy future is that, fundamentally, they are just the same as all the others that are already there and/or have gone before. There's more and more fragmentation and division amongst them: they flourish and then fade very quickly.

First generation migrants are founding their own churches, second generations are either moving out to mainline denominations or moving out altogether.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
That sounds about right, Enoch - though I suspect the fund-raising thermometer is a bit apocryphal!

One word which is definitely "not on" is "evangelism". Well, all nice people are Christians, aren't they? - even if they don't come to church, and we don't want to offend them by talking about religion,

It's the whole bloody *niceness* thing. I have only very rarely wondered whether I should join the RCC but one of the things I find attractive about it is that it doesn't, on the whole, seem to confuse being Christian with being nice.
I don't know whether MOTR always equalled 'nice'. My great hero ++Fisher was probably the last Central Churchman to be ABC and I don't think anyone ever accused him of being *nice*, warm and friendly though he could be.

Around here they are nice being the public face of the church (Radiuo, TV, papers), until you express a contrary view. Niceness is very superficial and it is quickly extinguished when certain shibboleths are questioned (both DH matters and local issues).
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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:

It's a very unhappy future for everyone.

Can you explain why you think the new churches in your area will have an unhappy future?
The reason they will have an unhappy future is that, fundamentally, they are just the same as all the others that are already there and/or have gone before. There's more and more fragmentation and division amongst them: they flourish and then fade very quickly.

First generation migrants are founding their own churches, second generations are either moving out to mainline denominations or moving out altogether.

Ah, I see.

Unfortunately, traditional ecumenicalism has very little to do with keeping hold of the younger generations. I was the secretary of a Churches Together network, and it was very difficult for the churches to get their young people interested in coming to (boring?) meetings. I think this is something that the headquarters of the movement need to think about.

What did seem to work was joint activities between the youth groups from different churches. Of course, if the mainstream churches have few or no youth of their own then this isn't going to involve them anyway.

[ 26. May 2017, 23:33: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
Unfortunately, traditional ecumenicalism has very little to do with keeping hold of the younger generations. I was the secretary of a Churches Together network, and it was very difficult for the churches to get their young people interested in coming to (boring?) meetings. I think this is something that the headquarters of the movement need to think about.

What did seem to work was joint activities between the youth groups from different churches. Of course, if the mainstream churches have few or no youth of their own then this isn't going to involve them anyway.

Churches Together isn't really operating any more. When it did, it appealed to the lowest common denominator (ie we're churches) and lived off its history. Very few church leaders, let alone young people, attended. It wasn't and isn't relevant to most people and, as I say, it was dominated by pressure groups from the MOTR camp.

The young people do meet but there have been comments from the liberal/motr camp that it's too overtly "church" and evangelistic. I just get the feeling we can't win!

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Baptist Trainfan
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Ecumenism works when it majors on getting churches to share in local projects which fire the imagination and cannot be run simply by one congregation - eg Street Pastors, Night Shelters, area litter-picks, combined public open-air celebration service and witness.

It doesn't work when it majors on boring committee meetings, structures and constitutions or dutiful and worthy lowest-common-denominator services. Nor if the clergy aren't willing to get to know each other, or if those from some denominations regard others as "below the salt".

As you say, ecumenism tends to be the province of MoTR church, possibly because they are broader (or woolier!) in their theology than the "new" churches - though this is changing. Sadly, the enthusiastic folk organising the interchurch projects which do "take off" tend to forget that they do need some structure for these to work properly, and that they are unconsciously building on the labours of the ecumenical movement over the last 60 years which have served to break down the barriers between denominations.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
Niceness is very superficial and it is quickly extinguished when certain shibboleths are questioned (both DH matters and local issues).

Ah, the illiberality of Liberalism!

Been there, got the T-shirt (and the bruises).

[ 27. May 2017, 10:59: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
The young people do meet but there have been comments from the liberal/motr camp that it's too overtly "church" and evangelistic. I just get the feeling we can't win!

Then just invite them to social events. Don't you have any purely social events?

Obviously, if the others don't share your theology on evangelism then joint effort on that score won't work, and might actually be quite confusing for your young people. So be grateful for small mercies!

quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


As you say, ecumenism tends to be the province of MoTR church, possibly because they are broader (or woolier!) in their theology than the "new" churches - though this is changing.

Sociologists tend to argue that ecumenicalism is a symptom of church decline and marginalisation, which is a plausible reason why it would appeal to MOTR churches rather than evangelicals.

Of course, the former also make a virtue out of a necessity by emphasising unity. But I suspect that the specific benefits of church unity depend very much on where a church is in its life cycle, and on its precise goals.

As it happens, I note with interest that a new book has been published about the ecumenical movement from a URC perspective. It's the sort of thing I'd like to read, not least because books about MOTR/liberal church culture and engagement seem quite rare. If anyone else has read it a review on this thread might be relevant.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
[I note with interest that a new book has been published about the ecumenical movement from a URC perspective. It's the sort of thing I'd like to read, not least because books about MOTR/liberal church culture and engagement seem quite rare. If anyone else has read it a review on this thread might be relevant.

Yup, I've read it (I know the author). But I borrowed my copy from another Minister so no longer have it ... I'll try and see my way to making some comments. I seem to remember thinking that it was good (if possibly a bit dismissive of evangelicals), depressing and - quit rightly - of particular interest to URCers but hopefully saying some things to the wider Church.
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Pomona
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I am commenting from Cliff College chapel, which feels very appropriate (volunteering at Cliff College Festival for SCM)! I'm not sure I've ever seen so many Methodists before.

Where I live, our local Churches Together is thriving and the local Pentecostal pastor is one of the most enthusiastic members. I realise it may be unusually successful though!

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Baptist Trainfan
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Re. that book! The author certainly knows what he is talking about, not only having been a URC minister for many years but also one who has traced its history and studied its statistics very carefully and from them drawn uncomfortable conclusions.

I found it informative, interesting and easy to read. I was particularly taken with the section on LEPs and their relative failure, with its observation that these may be formed from several denominations but usually embrace a single theological position.

One slight “gripe” is that the book does appears to make an underlying assumption that “liberal = good” and “evangelical = bad”; which to my mind is unduly simplistic and groups all evangelicals into one group whereas they are very diverse.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
Where I live, our local Churches Together is thriving and the local Pentecostal pastor is one of the most enthusiastic members.

Here we have a "new (ish)" Evangelical church running a joint Alpha course with the Catholic church ... neither though are officially members of the local ecumenical grouping!

[ 27. May 2017, 16:40: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Gamaliel
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If we are considering the 'demerits' of more liberal or MoTR churches - however defined - then I think that 'illiberal liberalism' can certainly be included.

The mileage varies, but I've sometimes encountered a greater generosity of spirit among people from more 'hard-line' or entrenched church traditions than I have among those traditions that make a big deal out of espousing tolerance and respect.

That's one of the conumdrums (conumdra?) we have to live with, I think ...

The mileage varies of course and there are always exceptions to any rule ...

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


I found it informative, interesting and easy to read. I was particularly taken with the section on LEPs and their relative failure, with its observation that these may be formed from several denominations but usually embrace a single theological position.

That's interesting, I've often wondered what happens to the churches as they age and develop.

One doesn't hear much about the church in Milton Keynes, I wonder whether there each congregation retains something of the dominant "former" (I know it is more complicated than this, but it feels more like the churches have joined to make a new denom than anything else) denomination or whether there is any consistency across the area.

[ 28. May 2017, 08:51: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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SvitlanaV2
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BaptistTrainfan

Interesting stuff about the book, thanks. Perhaps the author never met the kinds of evangelicals who were willing to be serious fellow travellers, and he resents that - especially since he's obviously disappointed with how the ecumenical movement turned out.

But I want to go back to MOTR 'niceness': I think it has fairly practical reasons in the Methodist case.

- With closure such a real possibility for many churches, a Methodist minister will be loathe to drive away committed members (and their money), no matter how troublesome.

- The lack of clergy and funds means ministers have several churches in their care, which reduces the amount of disruptive energy you can expend on one place.

- Most sermons are given by lay preachers, so if you're a minister it's hard to control a congregation and make unwelcome changes if you're not around.

- Due to the stationing system, if you turn the congregation against you you'll be leaving in 5 years anyway.

The above is mostly due to the circuit , and I think the circuit as an organising structure for Methodism has helped to create a MOTR identity overall for the denomination.

For a start, with so many local preachers passing through the pulpit you're not going to get preaching closely targeted at your church's particular mission or needs, so it's not easy for a single congregation in a circuit to develop a different worshipping persona from all the rest.

Local preachers aren't expected (and nor do they expect) to deviate significantly from their usual practice when they go to a church. And AFAIK they receive no updated training from the circuit on how to construct or deliver contemporary and/or alternative forms of worship services. It's all about the 15 min. monologue sermon in the middle of a hymn sandwich.

Only well-attended, well-resourced and self-confident congregations that can produce their own preachers have any chance of circumventing this uniformity - and to do so is inevitably to defy the circuit system to some extent.

Apart from that, it's back to money. The circuit assessment (financial contribution) is very challenging for congregations. The assessment has to be paid on top of building maintenance costs, and even relatively well-attended churches can find it overwhelming.

The assessment is based on how many members a church has, and largely disregards their level of income. Unfortunately, this means that the making of new members may be detrimental to a church's finances unless the newcomers are well-off and generous. I'm sure this discourages evangelism, especially if the local economic situation has declined.

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Albertus
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Ecumenism- oh Lord, yes. Six months working for Churches Together in Wales got rid of any illusions I might have had about that. And then Week of Prayer for Christian Unity joint services- just, no. Lowest common denominator is the politest thing I can say about all that. I have been in places where there were excellent ecumenical relationships but that was about local people getting on with each other. I'd take my local RCs/ Baptists/ Presbyterians/ Quakers/ whatever as I find them and that's how I'd expect them to take me. Get on as neighbours, do our stuff in parallel, do things (study, social action, public witness, social events) together if it makes sense or is enjoable- but saints preserve us from the annual Sunday evening mishmash, just in the interests of showing we can be nice to one another. A sort of ecclesiastical National Brotherhood Week.

[ 30. May 2017, 18:05: Message edited by: Albertus ]

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


I found it informative, interesting and easy to read. I was particularly taken with the section on LEPs and their relative failure, with its observation that these may be formed from several denominations but usually embrace a single theological position.

That's interesting, I've often wondered what happens to the churches as they age and develop.

One doesn't hear much about the church in Milton Keynes, I wonder whether there each congregation retains something of the dominant "former" (I know it is more complicated than this, but it feels more like the churches have joined to make a new denom than anything else) denomination or whether there is any consistency across the area.

I lived fairly close to Milton Keynes some years ago - the churches were in our local association as well as being in the local diocese etc. From what I recall, Ecumenism was seen pretty much as an embarrassing mess. Lots of "new" churches were springing up, meeting in community halls as I think the Local Council would only let a church be built if it was ecumenical. One or two later joined the BU, others NFI I think.
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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
If we are considering the 'demerits' of more liberal or MoTR churches - however defined - then I think that 'illiberal liberalism' can certainly be included.

The mileage varies, but I've sometimes encountered a greater generosity of spirit among people from more 'hard-line' or entrenched church traditions than I have among those traditions that make a big deal out of espousing tolerance and respect.

That's one of the conumdrums (conumdra?) we have to live with, I think ...

The mileage varies of course and there are always exceptions to any rule ...

I agree with you on that one ... if a MOTR set up is crossed, watch the fur fly
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Baptist Trainfan
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Especially, perhaps, if the group prides itself on its "tolerance" and finds it hard to accept that others actually have definite views [Devil] ... or else if the forms of the faith (eg liturgy, ritual) have become more important than its fundamental common "esse" or beliefs.

By the way, I suspect that the question about MK was specifically about the Church of Christ the Cornerstone which is a 5-way ecumenical church in the centre of town. Perhaps someone here can comment?

[ 31. May 2017, 10:39: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
I lived fairly close to Milton Keynes some years ago - the churches were in our local association as well as being in the local diocese etc. From what I recall, Ecumenism was seen pretty much as an embarrassing mess. Lots of "new" churches were springing up, meeting in community halls as I think the Local Council would only let a church be built if it was ecumenical.

This gives the impression that it was the appearance of the new churches that made the rest worry that ecumenism was an 'embarrassing mess'. I find that sensibility a bit problematic.

I assume that the ecumenists wanted to project an image of total unity and compliance, and resented outsiders coming in who undermined that image. That's understandable, but the best ecumenical partners are surely those who are completely committed to the ideology. By definition, those churches with a different theology and a different history are going to have other priorities. And since this is a free country, the new groups have a right to set up where they will and take their own approach. Their time usually comes in the end.

Moreover, if ecumenism evolves then the version that the Methodists/Anglicans/URC bought into 20-odd years ago probably isn't the version that'll be of much use to most British churches in 20-odd years' time. (And how much use is it today, one might ask?)

For example, many Methodists and a few Anglicans have been working for years towards a merger of their respective denominations. Maybe we're closer than ever. But some now say that this kind of unity isn't really where it's at any more. Perhaps the people involved need to take a step back and ask themselves how the ecumenical project can be reinvented in a way that's meaningful to our future.

[ 31. May 2017, 20:42: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
But some now say that this kind of unity isn't really where it's at any more. Perhaps the people involved need to take a step back and ask themselves how the ecumenical project can be reinvented in a way that's meaningful to our future.

Which is what I am trying to say to our collapsing ecumenism here.
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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Especially, perhaps, if the group prides itself on its "tolerance" and finds it hard to accept that others actually have definite views [Devil] ... or else if the forms of the faith (eg liturgy, ritual) have become more important than its fundamental common "esse" or beliefs.

By the way, I suspect that the question about MK was specifically about the Church of Christ the Cornerstone which is a 5-way ecumenical church in the centre of town. Perhaps someone here can comment?

You're right on the money there. The LEP's in MK usually had a Minister of a specific denomination, the upshot being that they tended to be more "interested" in their denomination than in others. After a few years the music stopped, the leader changed and another denomination stood up to the plate.. Christ the King had a large congregation, mostly Anglican. It was an Anglican church in reality which no amount of ecumenism could hide.
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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
I lived fairly close to Milton Keynes some years ago - the churches were in our local association as well as being in the local diocese etc. From what I recall, Ecumenism was seen pretty much as an embarrassing mess. Lots of "new" churches were springing up, meeting in community halls as I think the Local Council would only let a church be built if it was ecumenical.

This gives the impression that it was the appearance of the new churches that made the rest worry that ecumenism was an 'embarrassing mess'. I find that sensibility a bit problematic.

I assume that the ecumenists wanted to project an image of total unity and compliance, and resented outsiders coming in who undermined that image. That's understandable, but the best ecumenical partners are surely those who are completely committed to the ideology. By definition, those churches with a different theology and a different history are going to have other priorities. And since this is a free country, the new groups have a right to set up where they will and take their own approach. Their time usually comes in the end.

Moreover, if ecumenism evolves then the version that the Methodists/Anglicans/URC bought into 20-odd years ago probably isn't the version that'll be of much use to most British churches in 20-odd years' time. (And how much use is it today, one might ask?)

For example, many Methodists and a few Anglicans have been working for years towards a merger of their respective denominations. Maybe we're closer than ever. But some now say that this kind of unity isn't really where it's at any more. Perhaps the people involved need to take a step back and ask themselves how the ecumenical project can be reinvented in a way that's meaningful to our future.

Sorry - my post was poorly worded. The LEP set up was a mess before the new churches came on the scene, they didn't cause it.

Time wise I'm referring to the late 1990's by which time the love affair with LEP's was really over. Christians weren't looking to share someone else's praxis on a revolving weekly basis - they were looking for continuity.

The expectation for places like Milton Keynes and Swindon were that people would attend their local church whatever their denominational origins - hence the view that LEP's would thrive. In practice people began to be happy to travel to church, to a place that met their denominational expectations and/or the way they liked their church to be "done." It didn't help either that the traditionalist/motr/liberal theology adopted by most LEP's to enable the whole thing to operate, alienated those of a more charismatic or evangelical persuasion who found churches to their liking outside their immediate community.

I understand that both Swindon and Milton Keynes now have denominational and other churches on the doorsteps of LEP's.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
But some now say that this kind of unity isn't really where it's at any more. Perhaps the people involved need to take a step back and ask themselves how the ecumenical project can be reinvented in a way that's meaningful to our future.

Which is what I am trying to say to our collapsing ecumenism here.
Locally that's just the situation we face here. A 1980's model with 1980's assumptions. It just doesn't wash nearly 30 years later with a town 3 times the size and way more diverse than it was then
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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
[QUOTE]
I assume that the ecumenists wanted to project an image of total unity and compliance, and resented outsiders coming in who undermined that image. That's understandable, but the best ecumenical partners are surely those who are completely committed to the ideology. By definition, those churches with a different theology and a different history are going to have other priorities. And since this is a free country, the new groups have a right to set up where they will and take their own approach. Their time usually comes in the end.

Moreover, if ecumenism evolves then the version that the Methodists/Anglicans/URC bought into 20-odd years ago probably isn't the version that'll be of much use to most British churches in 20-odd years' time. (And how much use is it today, one might ask?)

For example, many Methodists and a few Anglicans have been working for years towards a merger of their respective denominations. Maybe we're closer than ever. But some now say that this kind of unity isn't really where it's at any more. Perhaps the people involved need to take a step back and ask themselves how the ecumenical project can be reinvented in a way that's meaningful to our future.

Ecumenism is not about lowest common denominators. about presenting an image of total unity and compliance, or about merger. Ecumenism - and St Sanity is in a covenant with the local Catholic, Baptist and 2 Uniting churches - is recognising that while we come from different traditions, valuing those other traditions as valuable contributors to Christ's church on Earth, we do have most points in common and sharing those between ourselves . So on Palm Sunday, for example, we have a joint procession through the streets. The Catholics and we have our crucifers and thurifers, the Uniting have neither but are happy to join in giving this public witness to our faith.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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SvitlanaV2
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I don't have an issue with ecumenical walks at Eastertime (although I think I find Easter walks of witness a bit embarrassing, which is my own problem). What I'm saying, I suppose, is that ecumenism often seems grander in theory than in practice.

But your post reminds me that parts of the Anglophone world have moved quite far along the ecumenical route. Australia doesn't just have ecumenical congregations, but has a Uniting Church, which has perhaps influenced attitudes towards ecumenism among Australian Christians in general.

I must add that the RCC doesn't seem to be the problematic element in English ecumenism today. (I can't speak for other parts of Britain.) MOTR Anglicans, Methodists and others usually admire the RCC's spirituality, and respect its ancient traditions of worship and theology. The denomination is further away from changing its teachings on DH issues than many smaller evangelical groups, but the fact that many RCs at grassroots level are quite moderate helps to make their denomination more acceptable, so it seems.

No, the challenge today is what to do about the evangelicals. Do they participate in your Palm Sunday walks?

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Baptist Trainfan
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There are Evangelicals and Evangelicals! So no real generalisations can be made. There's a world of difference between your average Baptist Union church, New Frontiers congregation, Christian Brethren and FIEC - for instance.

I have found (most of) them happy to take part on Easter Walks of Witness, though they may hanker for more overt evangelism within that.

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Gamaliel
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I'd second what Baptist Trainfan says. In my experience, most evangelicals are more than happy to take part in such things, even if it's only to fly the flag for evangelicalism and use it as a platform in some way.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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