BEING THE CHURCH IN TODAY'S WORLD
"ECUMENICAL" MEANS "THE WHOLE WORLD"
For eleven years of my parish ministryI was privileged to be in the vanguard of the ecumenical movement in Birmingham as the vicar of a Methodist/Anglican congregation.
But in today's multi-faith UK, we begin to understand the full import of the word 'ecumencal'. The present religious illiteracy of UK's leaders and populous is dangerous and we need to work together for mutual understanding, doing together what we can for society whilst respecting our differences. We are therefore setting up an Inter-Faith group on our doorstep here.
It turned out that I becameone of the longest serving bishops in the present Church of England until my retirement and I always had many bones to pick with the institution that I continue to serve. I'm still very much aware of the classist attitudes of its leadership and fight to see the oppression of the downtrodden and marginalised groups within it ended. I nevertheless stay true to the Church of England because day by day I see the beauty of what local Christian congregations are doing for the everyday lives of their communities and what some of our church leaders are offering to the community and nation at large. I applaud those who speak out for justice and the needs of the poor here and across the world and welcome what I see as the genius of Anglicanism – its inclusivity – even though that openness has to be fought for day by day, especially in today’s globalised atmosphere. The Church’s mission must be conformed to God’s mission – and indeed, Archbishop Rowan Williams defined mission as finding out what God is doing in the world and then joining God there.
OF LATE I've been much impressed with the work of my friend Stuart Murray. In his recent book "A Vast Minority" Suart points out that the church institution is still pretending it deserves preferential treatment by virtue of it's majority status. It still does not realise that the majority of the population knows nothing about Jesus Christ. A school boy was fascinated by the story of Jesus the teacher told, but said to her after the lesson, "He was a wonderful man but why did his mum and dad give him a swear-word for a name?" Stuart shows how we need to think about ourselves in a new way and shows how the new situation can be a gift if we become a servant church again.
As we passed into the 21st century I was often asked to reflect on ways in which the Insitutional Church might still be relevant to the new century. Here's a lecture I gave on that topic at Anglia Ruskin University at that time.
Some believe that the church is only being true to itself if it takes on a certain form. But new and old forms can sometimes be inspirational. In a short Thought for the Day I reflected on this:
If the Church is to lead its life in a Godly way it needs to model is life, mission, and ministry on the God who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. In 1997 I offered a talk looking at how we should see the Trinitarian model in all that the Church is and all it seeks to do.
a conference address for the Willesden Episcopal Area, Swanwick, October 1997
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