CTE ENABLING GROUP (March 2012) REPORT
(This is not Minutes or a complete record, but only notes on selected items.)
1. In response to the Directors’ Report, paragraph 2, which says, “The bringing together of individuals and groups within a safe space to explore our belonging together is seen as one of the most important contributions we make to church life in this country,” I raised the following:
- Within the ecumenical organisation is the place to air differences with a view to a better understanding of one another and opening up possibilities that might bring us closer.
- The public space, e.g. leaflets through doors or TV programmes like the “Big Questions”, is not the place to undermine fellow Christians. We need a cross-denominational/ecumenical ethical agreement not to undermine one another in public, but to discuss reasonably with one another in the appropriate ecumenical space.
- The IMCGB does not favour organisational unity. We are not the only member body of CTE in this position. It is essential for people in the Enabling Group to know that IMCGB, among many other Christians, understands unity differently.
- Unity is based on truth. We need to discuss doctrine – I mean widely throughout the land –not only in the Theology and Unity Group(TUG), but also in every Church and congregation, clergy and laity. Unfortunately the secular world seems to dictate the Churches’ agenda. Let’s initiate this one ourselves. And this time could we please have a level playing field. It would appear there is a superior group who like to inform “ignorant” and “stupid” people like evangelicals and Pentecostals what we can and cannot teach, imagining they know what goes on in our minds and what we teach in our Churches. Be prepared to listen to us. You might be surprised.
- We must look critically at what is happening to the ecumenical movement on the ground. We need Christians who will commit to one place and put their energy into bringing non-Christians to Christ. Unless we engage in some study of doctrine, ecumenism at grassroots level may falter.
I received a positive response. One person pointed out that among the members of CTE the big bodies talk to one another. They do not talk to the small bodies. So there is a parallel journey of two groups and they never meet. Representatives of small bodies then begin to ask why they are there, since they seem to be excluded from the activity that is taking place. Another said we should take up the idea of an ecumenical ethical agreement and another volunteered models for this. One thanked me for everything I had said and agreed with it, especially the need to discuss theology more widely across the divides. Another said the discussions of the Theology and Unity Group should be more widely disseminated. Another, who had been involved in talks with another denomination, said they learned much from their doctrinal discussions, and many things they thought of as insurmountable hindrances proved not to be so after discussion. But they did not make the results of this experience available to others, and perhaps they should do so. We learned that the paper to TUG about the views of Black-led churches showed that generally they do not favour organisational unity, though one church appeared to look towards a unity that is yet to come and which might be organisational.
2. CTE Forum 23-25 October: will be embedded in worship and grounded in Scripture. Themes: Body of Christ, Holy Spirit Gifts, Love as the greatest gift. We will worship together; study and think; give some general direction to the ecumenical movement.
Theologian Diane Reynolds will speak on “What does Love require of us?” There will be Home Groups; a Presidents’ Panel speaking on what gifts they see their Churches receiving from other Churches; Working Groups will discuss some things on which we might differ; We will reflect on where we are coming from and where we think the ecumenical movement is going. There will be exhibition space.
3. News from the Churches:
- Church of England: Having healed the past with the URC they are building the future by developing thinking together and growing work at local level. The Council of Oriental Orthodox have been designated under the Ecumenical Measures of the Church of England and will send a representative to the General Synod. The ordination of women as Bishops: 40 out of 42 dioceses voted in favour and ¾ of Bishops and nearly ¾ of clergy and laity. It now goes to the General Synod. Archbishop R. Williams is in post until December. CTE will send letter of greeting.
- Methodists: There have been more developments between Methodists and Anglicans. Joint Council of Methodists and Anglicans meets in Autumn. They are working together on public issues, doing research, making statements. Baptists, Methodists and Anglicans are talking: learning and development for lay and ordained – Phase 1: Fruitful Field – identifying what is in place now – over 20 training institutions , recognition of opportunities, resources and centres to share with ecumenical partners. Methodists are trying to look after and encourage congregations of different language groups using their buildings – ecumenically and across Europe.
- United Reformed Church: International conversations are taking place between World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Anglican Communion. Starting a radical welcoming campaign – launch 9 May - free-standing, non-denominational, independent charity.
- Roman Catholics are redefining marriage; focussing on true value of marriage as a fundamental part of human nature.
- The Quakers drew attention to their press statement on same-sex marriages. Apparently they differ from the Roman Catholics on this.
4. Rev. Bob Fyffe: How do the Churches relate to one another?
Conference of European Churches during the cold war kept the Churches together. They are now reviewing process and purpose. CEC Assembly is to make decisions. CTBI Meeting about CEC: to discuss: importance of ecumenical encounter and communications; concern about proposals – e.g. privileging orthodox voting; CEC will not succeed if churches feel they cannot make a contribution, but how do you get representation from 320 churches? CEC Assembly will downsize – how ensure ethnic and other diversity? Will the location be Brussels? Purpose of CEC is i) to relate to European institutions; ii) to unite churches across Europe; iii) there’s a questionnaire, see CEC website.
World Council of Churches plan an Assembly in 2013 in South Korea. There is a review process. Rev. Bob Fyffe will organise meetings for CEC and WCC.
CTBI This week a liturgy is available for the Queen’s jubilee. Racial Justice Sunday is 9 September: resources are available: Being an inclusive Church. CTBI and CTE are developing a web-resources partnership. Senior Representatives meet in May 2012 in Glasgow Gorbals to discuss the Good Society. Churches have asked that the debate on Scottish Independence should not be confined to Scottish Churches. At present it is confined to the political classes. What kind of society do we want? CTBI want to hear from different voices.
5. The Pioneer network of Churches and the Assemblies of God have applied for membership of CTE.
6. Presidency: The 5th CTE Presidency will be shared by the two Orthodox families, Eastern and Oriental. One will be represented on the Trustees and one in the Presidency, and they will change over. Work progresses on the 6th Presidency.
7. See CTE website for revised membership procedures. Each Church is to have two sponsors.