Thread: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Board: Purgatory / Ship of Fools.


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Posted by Albertus (# 13356) on :
 
Coming up (at least in the UK and elsewhere, I think, in the Northern hemisphere). Has never floated my boat- at best, I find it a bit forced, at worst, verging on National Brotherhood Week. Am I the only one who feels like this? What do we think?
 
Posted by sabine (# 3861) on :
 
Is the point to pray for a sense of common ground and fellow feeling or to pray for a set of beliefs and practices that all will adhere to?

I can imagine trinitarians and non trinitarians getting along in Christain love, but I can't imagine one group signing off on the beliefs of the other. Same for "real presence" or no divorce or a whole list of things that are deeply meaningful to some Christains but not negotiable.

Seems less frought to pray for something more attainable.

sabine
 
Posted by balaam (# 4543) on :
 
It all depends on the local group, are they after unity or uniformity?
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by sabine:
Is the point to pray for a sense of common ground and fellow feeling or to pray for a set of beliefs and practices that all will adhere to?

I can imagine trinitarians and non trinitarians getting along in Christain love, but I can't imagine one group signing off on the beliefs of the other. Same for "real presence" or no divorce or a whole list of things that are deeply meaningful to some Christains but not negotiable.

The point is to pray for what Christ meant in Gethsemene, when he prayed that “they will all be one, as you and I are one.” Undoubtedly, Christians of different stripes might have differing ideas of what that means or looks like, but hopefully most pray for the unity that Christ wills, and for discernment of that will.

quote:
Seems less frought to pray for something more attainable.
That seems odd to me. I would think we need to pray more about the things that are fraught, especially when it’s clear we’re doing a lousy job of attaining them on our own.
 
Posted by Eutychus (# 3081) on :
 
Ironically, I'm involved in two weeks of unity, not one. The evo churches in our city run the World Evangelical Alliance one this week, and I'm also involved in the ecumenical one next week (preaching at both main gatherings, as it happens).

The WPCU in particular I find a bit forced (I often feel like the non-Catholics are part of an annual zoo visit by the Catholics, who historically imposed, without even giving it a second thought, their own set of ecumenical hymns, none of which I knew), but I've found working together on this formal project over the years has helped build confidence and discuss concerns we have in common, as well as providing networking opportunities for those attending.

There is always plenty that grates in these meetings because of different worshipping/praying styles, too, but it's good to be confronted with that and shifted out of one's comfort zone.

In a secularised society, I think both ecumenical and interfaith events send a message about the importance of "the religious fact" as we call it here, and offer a counterpoint to religious conflict, with leaders setting an example to their constituencies about how to behave towards one another - not a minor detail in prison, for instance.

They are by no means the be-all and end-all of ecumenism or interfaith collaboration, but they're an important marker.
 
Posted by Ronald Binge (# 9002) on :
 
Here in Donegal, you wouldn't know it was on. So no change then and our own lite-touch cultural apartheid goes on.
 
Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :
 
Doesn't really affect us, apart from maybe a mention during the intercessions.

There used to be a local ecumenical group in the nearest large town that was suppoed to cover the surrounding areas but it died a death some years ago, and I don't think anything has replaced it.

Our nearest cathedral may host some sort of ecumenical service?

In our parish we only have 2 other denominations relatively close: RC church c10 miles away and Methodists c12 miles. The former has 1 mass per week, the latter a fortnightly service, alternating between morning and evening.

But then in our own congregation we have people who are (some by upbringing, some consider they still are) RC, SA, Methodist, Presbyterian and Jewish, so maybe we do cover the WPCU, we just don't do anything special; this year the service on the relevant Sunday will be Choral Matins.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Our church - to which I came last April - is part of an official "ecumenical area" but, strangely, no-one has said anything about the WOPFCU this year! I suspect this is because the prime ministerial enthusiast for it was off on Sabbatical for the last 3 months of 2017.

I have mixed views about it, in general. I think it's good for Christians from different traditions to mingle and worship together from time to time. However united services can be terribly bland and worthy (although I was at a really good one last year), and are often only attended by the ecumaniacs who think they "must" go. In general they tend to smell of tokenism: we've done our bit for this year, now we can forget about it till next January. This is a shame as we can all learn from other decisions.

In my former area we made the decision that different churches would host the United Service each year and that they would do it in their own way with few concessions. So last year (when I was preaching "elsewhere") it was a Methodist service, the year before a High Church CofE benediction. This has worked well.

Here in Wales there is the whole idea of the Ecumenical Covenant, to which my church is signed up, which still looks forward to structural unity in the future. My own congregation (and I) think that ecumenism has moved from this 1970s aim and that informal "unity within diversity" is the way ahead. But at least some of the denominations are still pushing for it.

What I think many folk don't realise is that the present openness between Christians of different ilks was unknown 50 years ago and is largely the result of those unsung and sometimes maligned folk who have pushed the ecumenical agenda. What really wrecks ecumenism is when some churches, be they Catholics, Anglicans or strict Evangelicals, look down their noses at others and imply that they aren't "proper" churches by way of their theology, liturgy, (lack of) episcopacy or history. Dare I say that social class may unconsciously come into play here too?

[ 17. January 2018, 10:37: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
What really wrecks ecumenism is when some churches, be they Catholics, Anglicans or strict Evangelicals, look down their noses at others and imply that they aren't "proper" churches by way of their theology, liturgy, (lack of) episcopacy or history. Dare I say that social class may unconsciously come into play here too?

I think local circumstances must play a part as well.

Those churches with the means to pursue their own prominent agenda in a given community may simply feel that they don't need to be particularly ecumenical.

And perhaps they don't. After all, ecumenicalism is often presented as a way of avoiding the wasteful duplication of effort and outreach by various churches whose means are all quite slender. But some churches can presumably achieve their goals without trying to co-operate with a range of other (possibly conflicting or even competing) institutions.

I think Christian unity is most likely to be achieved among Christians whose theological, social and cultural differences have already been reduced over time. Groups who feel that their distinctiveness is what justifies their existence aren't going to be so enthusiastic about it.

But I wonder if ecumenicalism can even make some relationships worse. In some instances perhaps it's easier to respect some groups if you never have to worship with them, engage with their clergy, study their theology or just make small talk with their layfolk...
 
Posted by Callan (# 525) on :
 
Originally posted by l'organist:

quote:
this year the service on the relevant Sunday will be Choral Matins.
I've always thought that, instead of the Unity Service, we should all rock up to the appointed church and experience whatever it is they would do for an evening service - Vespers with Benediction, Choral Evensong, Methodist Evening Prayer, A Free Flowing Praise Service With Much Waving Of the Arms, Sitting In Complete Silence For Absolutely Ages, Or Whatever. It may not float our personal boat, but we would learn something about our brothers and sisters, which is more than can be said for the Unity Service which floats very few boats and rarely resembles anything we'd experience in our,, or their, churches.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Which is basically what I said upthread! I agree.

But couldn't it be a MORNING service, with many churches deciding not to meet in Their Own Places?

[ 17. January 2018, 12:47: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]
 
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
 
Goodness, what a radical idea! Worth a try, maybe, though it's hard enough to get our own congregation to Our Place on a Sunday morning, let alone to Another Place.

I dunno. 'Christian Unity' always sounds like an oxymoron to me, though it's fair to say that the different churches in our Fair City do meet together, and pray together, far more than was the case only a few years ago. The ebbing tide of the Sea of Faith may have something to do with this.

IJ
 
Posted by Callan (# 525) on :
 
When I was a Curate in a Team Ministry, it was a struggle to get the congo of the smaller churches to rock up to the larger church for Confirmations and such like.

Besides which an incumbent has a legal responsibility to ensure that morning worship takes place in the parish church on a Sunday, so he can't just stick a sign on the door saying "We're all at the Baptist Church, see you there!" When I was priested at a neighbouring church, most of our lot turned up for it, but a handful turned up at HQ because the Boss was mindful of the canons, and got a locum in, and either it wasn't convenient to get to the other church or they felt a duty to keep the show on the road.

Factor in the Catholics, for whom attending an ecumenical service of the word is no substitute for Mass, and so forth, and the various concerns of the various other confessions and it's really a non-starter.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Which is a Real Shame.
 
Posted by Aravis (# 13824) on :
 
Apparently Exeter has an ecumenical Sunday morning annually where clergy take services in churches of other denominations. I don't know any details, sorry.
We have an ecumenical evening service which I think includes Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Salvation Army?
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
In my old church (Baptist/URC) whih currently has no minister, the morning service (non-eucharistic) this year will be conducted by a High Anglican.

There is a united service at a different Anglican church in the evening.
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
Doesn't really affect us, apart from maybe a mention during tge Intercessions.

That's my experience in these parts. The week may get mention in prayers and people may be reminded of it in announcements, but ecumenical services don’t seem to be common. Perhaps that is because many places will have had ecumenical services at Thanksgiving and, perhaps, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I think many churches around here look for other ways of encouraging and expressing (hoped-for) unity than through ecumenical services.
 
Posted by keibat (# 5287) on :
 
Amen to Callan's post:

quote:
I've always thought that, instead of the Unity Service, we should all rock up to the appointed church and experience whatever it is they would do for an evening service - Vespers with Benediction, Choral Evensong, Methodist Evening Prayer, A Free Flowing Praise Service With Much Waving Of the Arms, Sitting In Complete Silence For Absolutely Ages, Or Whatever. It may not float our personal boat, but we would learn something about our brothers and sisters, which is more than can be said for the Unity Service which floats very few boats and rarely resembles anything we'd experience in our, or their, churches.

This year, in our patch, we (C of E) will make a nod to Xn Unity on the following Sunday, at the end of the month, by attending the Covenant Service at the local Methodist church (tho' we will have a quiet Eucharist in our own conventicle beforehand).
 
Posted by balaam (# 4543) on :
 
I see a lot of Christian unity. Christians work together at food banks, as street angels on a weekend, loading containers of aid for Africa. Then once a year they stop getting on with being one in order to attend a service of unity which everyone does not go to.

Call me a cynic if you like.
 
Posted by Gill H (# 68) on :
 
Baptist Trainfan and Callan - that is what we did where I grew up. On Wednesday evenings during Lent, the local Baptist, Methodist and Anglican churches met together for a service. We took it in turns to go to each other’s churches, and anything necessary was explained. So you got Compline one week, a hymn sandwich another, and so on.

The only change was that the preacher was from one of the other two churches.

As a child, I loved those services.
 
Posted by Forthview (# 12376) on :
 
I rather like the collect prayer in the (RC) Mass for Christian Unity :

Almighty ever-living God who gather what is scattered and keep together what you have gathered, look kindly on the flock of your Son, that those whom one Baptism has consecrated may be joined together by integrity of faith and united in the bond of charity.......

To me this is a reminder that we are almost all united together already by our common baptism, that we can recognize the integrity of another's faith, hoping that they will recognize ours.

As in everything and in spite of differing outlooks within as well as outside of individual communities, we can always be united in the bond of charity.

There are relatively few special services here for the Week of Christian Unity, but it is my impression that the various Christian groupings try to show respect for each other,more perhaps than they do with those of their own community grouping with whom they disagree.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service works well here because the clergy/ministers have developed a format which seems to work well and which includes a short presentation from each church represented.

Does it make a difference? I'm not sure. It is quite an encouraging occasion each time and there does appear to be genuine friendship among the clergy/ministers. The churches are generally doing some good stuff in the community and also supporting some interesting initiatives abroad.

Both of those are worth celebrating innmy view.
 
Posted by ExclamationMark (# 14715) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by sabine:
I can imagine trinitarians and non trinitarians getting along in Christain love, but I can't imagine one group signing off on the beliefs of the other.

I think there can really only be polite listening in such a context: after all, Trinitarian belief is at the heart of the Christian and historic accepted creeds. I can't see much common ground between two groups one of which cannot or does not accept one of the core foundational beliefs of the other.
 
Posted by Enoch (# 14322) on :
 
The trouble with most ecumenical activity is that we all think we are exercising loving Christian forbearance working with each other rather than condemning 'them' as offerers of false fire and resisters of the truth. Inside, however, the Catholics still really think everybody should acknowledge their error and submit to Rome, the CofE thinks that as its way is such a light and flexible yoke that there's no excuse really for the rest not just fitting in with it, the Happy Clappies think that the rest of us should lighten up and be dogmatic and fervent like them etc etc etc. We may be more polite about it but we all assume that God really wants the rest to give up their errors and become like us. We are expressing his forbearance because alas they haven't realised that yet.

We all think it's the other lot's lines in the sand that are obstructing unity, whereas, of course, ours are the ones that God insists on, whether it be apostolic succession, believers' baptism, the primacy of Peter's chair or what.

We are called ('ordered' would be a better word to use) to love one another. As in so many other situations though, that doesn't mean de haut en bas 'in spite of' our differences', but 'irrespective of' them.

That I think is why ecumenism is often so bland and where it has got stuck.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Wow - what a post! Possibly a little bit cynical (dare I say?) but also contains a lot of truth - especially about the blandness. I have often thought that, on occasions such as the Week of Prayer, we should expose our differences (and prejudices) and have hearty discussions about them, rather than sweeping them under the carpet.

Where ecumenism does work is in practical projects such as Night Shelters or Food Banks where our theological differences don't come into play.
 
Posted by rolyn (# 16840) on :
 
'Hearty discussion' ? That’s a joke isn’t it?

If divergence of opinion on sites like this one is anything to go by, or indeed the catastrophic history of Christianity, then 'under the carpet' is by far and away the best place for Christian differences.

I take Balaam's point about Christians of different denominations working together for certain (good), causes, there again it might argued that the same is true for any group of people.

There are aspects of religious practice which can bring about comfort, joy and healing. It does though have the less helpful potential to access the primitive areas of the brain from which the negative aspects of tribalism originate, thus causing disagreement and divisions in Jesus' followers pretty much from the get-go.
Having said all that there is no harm in praying for Christian Unity, for as Christ Himself said, presumably without the aid of an irony detector, —all things are possible with God.
 
Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
 
It probably means a bit more and is more significant in areas where there's never been any national church nor strong identification denominationally. It's reasonably often that people ask what the difference between various. If the leadership of RC worship in Anglican churches with Lutherans leading it seems a bit more unity.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
'Hearty discussion' ? That’s a joke isn’t it?

No, it wasn't intended to be. The point I was trying to make is that lots of Christians have preconceptions about those from other denominations. If they actually get together and talk honestly they will discover what's really true, find out what they have in common, and deepen their fellowship. I'm not suggesting that they try to convince others that they are right and the others are wrong!
 
Posted by rolyn (# 16840) on :
 
Sorry BT. I was actually being deliberately flippant.

Without wallowing in the counsel of despair there are, I am sure, practical ways of working towards a kind of unity.
Necessity has a habit of forcing the agenda. Diminishing congregations has for quite some time encouraged unity in this neck of the woods, and continues to do so with a new Anglican/Methodist accord.
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
[Ecumenicalism] probably means a bit more and is more significant in areas where there's never been any national church nor strong identification denominationally. It's reasonably often that people ask what the difference between various. If the leadership of RC worship in Anglican churches with Lutherans leading it seems a bit more unity.

I get the feeling that these questions have declined somewhat in England. Perhaps it's because there have been ecumenical relationships for several decades now, but probably more so because non-religious people are just less interested in denominations.

Choosing to attend a particular church today doesn't seem to have much to do with its theological and historical aspects. Lots of people are more focused on their own spiritual needs, and whether a church can meet those needs.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
I'm sure that's true. I remember in the 70s people who retired to villages travelling 20 miles each week to their nearest Baptist Church - today they're more likely to go somewhere nearer, if it meets their needs, irrespective of the sign outside.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
I tend to think that's the case unless there are specific - or to some minds - exotic requirements ie. if you are Seventh Day Adventist, for instance, or if you are RC or Orthodox.

Evangelicals, of course, irrespective of denomination, will tend to search out other evangelical churches if they move house or move area. Evangelical Anglicans and evangelical Baptists seem particularly 'porous' in this respect.

You still get some people insisting on particular features or aspects - I remember a woman in West Yorkshire travelling 30 or 40 miles each Sunday over to the old 'East Riding' to attend a particular independent Pentecostal church which was an offshoot of one of the 'mainstream' Pentecostal denominations.

I also remember hearing of someone from Northallerton who travelled down to a Church of The Nazarene in the south of Leeds every Sunday because she insisted on attending a church of that denomination.
 
Posted by Anselmina (# 3032) on :
 
I checked out the official resources for inspiration for the service we're involved with. I inherited a 'relationship' with the neighbouring URC place so apparently we do certain things together, including Prayer for Christian Unity services. I'm not sure I would have observed it otherwise.

As it happens our national Church's representative on human trafficking issues attends our church, so she'll be our speaker. There's not a lot I can use from the resources linked to as we're not going for the Caribbean slavery aspect idea. But some bits have been helpful.

Whether it overall does anything positive? Well, I suppose it's good to remember that there are other Christians around - very close to us, and that we can get along reasonably well, if an effort is made. But there's no CTBI organization, that I'm aware of, in my part of the country, so no format or structure for getting together or doing stuff jointly.

I do value good relationships and support with clergy colleagues, where it happens, and I can see where it can be fruitful if congregations could work together, worship together at times. But finding time and energy to add another layer of churchy stuff onto one's own church's plans and demands just seems to be the straw that'll break the camel's back.
 
Posted by Gee D (# 13815) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Where ecumenism does work is in practical projects such as Night Shelters or Food Banks where our theological differences don't come into play.

I would not call that ecumenism, but rather a couple of charitable projects that happen to have been set up by local churches.

St Sanity is very strong on ecumenism. It is part of a formal agreement with local Baptist, Uniting and Catholic churches. Sadly, the Lutherans do not feel able to join us, the continuing Presbyterians keep to themselves, as do such others as the local Church of Christ. Each year, there are 7 or 8 ecumenical services and a Palm Sunday procession. The services are not lowest common denominator type, but a simplified version of the evening service (the services are held on a mid-week evening) which the host church would hold. On top of that, there are the sorts of charitable projects noted above.

The ecumenism that we practise is to recognise and respect the validity of the traditions and worship of the others in the covenant. We don't seek to paper over our differences, but note that they are there and no matter what we do on the ground, these will remain indefinitely - how long is a matter for discussion outside our local area. In the meantime, we present to the community a common faith in the basics of Christian belief, the Incarnate Word, His death, resurrection and ascension, and the promise of our own salvation in Him.
 
Posted by hatless (# 3365) on :
 
CTBI publishes the services, but the structures, in England, are, at the national level, Churches Together in England, a body at a county level probably called Churches Together in Xshire, and then local groups, Churches Together in Xtown or Xdistrict. It’s the local groups that arrange Week of Prayer services.

There seem to be two motives for ecumenism. One is to do something: few churches could run a food bank or a street pastors scheme by themselves, so you find a group willing to work together.

The other is to explore your differences and commonalities, to see what you can learn about others and yourself.

In the 70s and 80s we all assumed ecumenism was about churches joining together, and welcomed or opposed it. Organic unity didn’t happen, and I don’t think ecumenism has yet found a new vision.
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Where ecumenism does work is in practical projects such as Night Shelters or Food Banks where our theological differences don't come into play.

I would not call that ecumenism, but rather a couple of charitable projects that happen to have been set up by local churches.

I think the point is that they've set up these projects together, or have agreed to participate in the projects set up by other churches. Ecumenicalism in action, you might say.

In the UK at least, the kinds of churches that engage in these joint projects are also likely to share in occasional shared worship services. One thing leads to the other.

At my end, I've been amused to see that a shared service at a church of the same denomination is being promoted as an act of 'Christian unity'. They're all CofE, but the church holding the service is evangelical, whereas the others are not!
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
In the 70s and 80s we all assumed ecumenism was about churches joining together, and welcomed or opposed it. Organic unity didn’t happen, and I don’t think ecumenism has yet found a new vision.

Here in Wales this is a dream still pursued by some. Matters reached a high point with The Gathering in 2012, but nothing much seems to have happened since then (as far as I can see). In this area there were proposals for an Ecumenical Bishop but that all collapsed and left a great deal of disappointment in its wake. Whether I could have supported it, I don't know.
 
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
 
I really don't see that unity - complete and universal - is necessarily desirable (it's certainly not likely).

OTOH, working together, worshipping together, sharing resources e.g. church buildings, are all possible, and, IMHO, Good Things.

Of course, a good deal of this is going on already.

IJ
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Absolutely, which is why I think the desire for "structural unity" has more-or-less died. However what I do think is necessary - as I hinted a long way upthread - is for all churches to recognise all other orthodox churches as "legitimate" and "valid" and not get all snooty over issues such a episcopacy or liturgy or Establishment or whatever.

As soon as any church even thinks "that lot over there isn't a real church because they don't have bishops" or "the people down he road can't be a proper church because they use a set liturgy from a book" (or whatever), then all attempts at unity are doomed.

A lot of that sort of thing goes on - in both directions!
 
Posted by TomM (# 4618) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Absolutely, which is why I think the desire for "structural unity" has more-or-less died. However what I do think is necessary - as I hinted a long way upthread - is for all churches to recognise all other orthodox churches as "legitimate" and "valid" and not get all snooty over issues such a episcopacy or liturgy or Establishment or whatever.

As soon as any church even thinks "that lot over there isn't a real church because they don't have bishops" or "the people down he road can't be a proper church because they use a set liturgy from a book" (or whatever), then all attempts at unity are doomed.

A lot of that sort of thing goes on - in both directions!

Surely those are only improper ideas to hold to if they aren't true? If a certain characteristic is of the esse of the Church, rather than being perhaps merely of the bene esse (to follow Richard Hooker), then it is right and proper that the group that has that characteristic by defending it is defending what it is to be Church.

Clearly the problem is that we don't have perfect perception of the distinction, and tend to associate our preferences with divine mandates, but to argue that there is no limits on what is the Church is this way also rules out any doctrinal limits to the Church - and there is little point leaving the bounds without some sense of being 'Christian' as a defining characteristic.

('esse' can be perhaps be translated 'being' or 'essence' and thus 'bene esse' as 'well-being')
 
Posted by Enoch (# 14322) on :
 
Tom, that's part of what I was saying earlier in the week. Each ecclesial community presumably regards its pet lines in the sand as of the esse but everybody else's as erecting bene esse into esse. Otherwise, there is no excuse for splitting from that lot down the road, or not uniting with them.

That's so even if we don't believe God has rejected that lot, and merely think how good he is for tolerating them in spite of their errors. But if I say any more, I might get accused again of being cynical.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Absolutely, which is why I think the desire for "structural unity" has more-or-less died. However what I do think is necessary - as I hinted a long way upthread - is for all churches to recognise all other orthodox churches as "legitimate" and "valid" and not get all snooty over issues such a episcopacy or liturgy or Establishment or whatever.

As soon as any church even thinks "that lot over there isn't a real church because they don't have bishops" or "the people down he road can't be a proper church because they use a set liturgy from a book" (or whatever), then all attempts at unity are doomed.

A lot of that sort of thing goes on - in both directions!

In which case all attempts failed from the Reformation onwards, or from the Great Schism onwards perhaps - or from the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies onwards ...
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
Enoch

Myself, I do think one can be a little cynical about the reasons for ecumenical engagement, even while accepting that it has its virtues.

Why, after all, would one of the larger historical denominations really care about the disapproval of, say, some small Pentecostal group? Is there in fact a hurt ego involved if these people refuse your generous overtures? Are there PR advantages in being friends with the newish kid on the block? It is a chance to spread your influence?

For the smaller churches the subtle advantage of ecumenical connections with larger or more prestigious groups seems to be in increasing their own status by association. Inevitably, those groups that choose to minimise the importance of their distinctive beliefs in order to build connections with other churches do so in order to benefit in this or some realated way. It's a trade-off. Not everyone is going to accept that trade-off.

The scholars will, of course, make their own objective assessments about the 'legitimacy' of any particular religious institution, but ordinary Christians are under no obligation to recognise the legitimacy of all the 1000s of other churches that exist besides their own.

However, I imagine that in a small town or village too much criticism in inter-church relations must be unpleasant.
 
Posted by Aravis (# 13824) on :
 
Why should Christians from one denomination have to think that others are wrong?
My extended family includes all Christian denominations (except Orthodox). I'm Anglican, but have no problem with attending services of another denomination and wouldn't rule out regularly worshipping at a different type of church altogether.
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
I didn't say they have to think other Christians are wrong. I said they don't have to think other Christians are right!

With regards to Anglicans, though, I wonder how common it is these days for their members to join smaller, newer churches. It seems that they tend to go 'upwards' and 'backwards' so to speak, i.e. into the RCC or the Orthodox, rather than in the other direction. I wonder if anyone has done any research on that.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
My impression these days, SvitlanaV2 is that evangelical Anglicans don't tend to head off into newer groups as many of them did in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, because there is sufficient scope for them within the CofE.

On the charismatic scene, HTB and New Wine are well resourced and unless they all decide to hive off and set up their own networks outside the CofE - and why would they with the tide running their way, then I don't see them going anywhere soon.

Evangelical clergy and laity can and do go 'up the candle' but in my experience they tend to stay at the higher end of the CofE rather than scootling off across the Tiber or Bosphorus.

I don't know the figures but there are only a handful of clergy a year who go over to Rome or become Orthodox.
 
Posted by Enoch (# 14322) on :
 
SvitlanaV2, I know what I've said doesn't give this impression. But I'm actually in favour of ecumenism and churches co-operating with each other more.

What I'm commenting on is the way I think much ecumenical endeavour doesn't get anywhere very meaningful because of assumptions of those of us that are involved which are so innate that we can only see them in others and not in ourselves.
 
Posted by Ian Climacus (# 944) on :
 
The Anglicans, Catholics and Uniting churches hold joint services here - sadly the Catholic priest has recently died: he was greatly loved.

Priests and people from all take part, get the services I have attended have always been standard services (Evensong, Carols and Lessons...), which I prefer to some bespoke service that tries to cram different traditions in.

Muslims come and participate (readings on Mary from the Qur'an) in the Advent services also.

It is tricky as has been discussed above. I think getting together is good. Worshiping together better. But there are differences, and probably ever will be, and how people acknowledge and deal with that is interesting.

I dare say I think I'd be less likely to join the Pentecostals in worship if they held such an event. But that speaks more of me than them.
 
Posted by echosbones (# 18862) on :
 
Being a new Christian who has ended up happily worshiping at the high end of the CofE, but remains open to exploring the breadth of traditions, I'm finding this week helpful in thinking about denominational relationships, their meeting points and where they depart.

As I prepare for Baptism and Confirmation at Easter I've been thinking about and praying on my own longing for unity with Christ's Church. Better discerning what is helpful and what isn't in how I worship has certainly been in my prayers this week. A book I've been reading recently mentioned that each year during this WoPfCU the choirs and clergy of the Anglican St Paul's Cathedral and RC Westminster Cathedral each respectively offer a service of Choral Evensong and Solemn Vespers at the other's church. Well it turned out that the very next evening Westminster Cathedral were hosting St Paul's for Evensong, so I went along and wow... I've heard the choir of St Paul's many times but on this occasion hearing them sing Herbert Howell's Collegium Regale setting of the Nunc Dimittis made me want to fall on my knees and cry (I didn't, which probably tells you all you need to know about what church I belong in [Biased] ). The tenor soloist really sounded to me as if he were Simeon gazing on the baby Jesus and when the choir joined in and the solo line was enfolded by the simple yet lush chords I felt as though I could hear a multitude of voices experiencing the Gospel and responding at their own pitch but in great harmony. At that moment I could say 'this is the Church' and it was neither Anglicanism or the RC I had in mind but a worship that went far beyond the two. I'm going to allow that moment to guide my prayers this week.

[ 20. January 2018, 23:29: Message edited by: echosbones ]
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
My impression these days, SvitlanaV2 is that evangelical Anglicans don't tend to head off into newer groups as many of them did in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, because there is sufficient scope for them within the CofE.

That's what I would have thought, yes.

In fact, this adds to my sense that in cultural terms the CofE has more to gain from ecumenicalism than any other Christian group in the British setting.

Why? Because the CofE already has the market sewn up with regard to evangelicalism, as well as the MOTR, high church and Anglo-Catholic tendencies. Its congregations and clergy can therefore be gracious and welcoming to other churches and faith traditions (which is good for community relations), all the while knowing that they don't risk losing members or their distinctive identity by doing so.

It's a very interesting situation to be in.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
I wouldn't say that the CofE had evangelicalism sewn up, SvitlanaV2.

There are probably more evangelicals outside the CofE than within it, but with the resources of New Wine and HTB at its disposal they make a significant contribution to the UK evangelical charismatic scene. On the Big E Evangelical scene, the more reformed end of things I'm not so sure how big a player Reform is.

But yes, the CofE is in an interesting position because whilst it can drip-feed personnel from either end, either towards independent evangelicalism or Romewards or into Orthodoxy, it can also prevent people going in those directions by, arguably, offering its own ersatz versions ...
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
Yes, but the point you made is that Anglican evangelicals don't have to go outside the CofE for evangelicalism. Many of the folks on the outside presumably started off on the outside anyway (if I've understood you correctly).

It's very useful that there is an 'outside', of course. Ecumenicalism exists precisely because there's an outside and an inside. But more importantly, IMO, the outside provides the CofE in particular with both new people and new ideas. I should think the relative strength of evangelicalism outside the CofE feeds into its success within the CofE.

Indeed, now that it's so hard to reach the unchurched, the ability to attract the churched and de-churched from other denominations is arguably quite an important factor in terms of congregational morale. Naturally, it's expressed in virtuous terms: a church that attracts a membership drawn from a variety of denominations isn't described as some kind of conquering force, but as an embodiment of ecumenicalism. The post by Aravis above seems to contribute to this idea.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
Sure, I don't dispute that. Most churches here in the UK seem to be recycling adherents rather than reaching the unchurched.
 


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