When we consider ecumenical reception it is easy to assume that it is an activity entirely within churches; indeed that is how I have presented it so far (see especially the second subheading at this link). Today I want to suggest that this dimension of ecumenical conversation is somewhat more complex.
It is easy to think that ecumenical reception is simply advocating the outcomes of formal conversations between church leaders to local churches. I have already stated several times that I think this view is flawed unless it is seen as a conversation. But there is a further flaw in this one way view, and that is to see the conversation as solely between church authorities and local churches.
I think there is also a need for reception between young and old. Of course, this is not about old people, who enjoy traditional church activities imposing their preferences on the young. There is a real need for conversations between young and old for the following reasons:
- on a basic level younger people tend to practise different styles of worship to older people, and indeed different Christian lifestyles
- there is far less adherence to a particular tradition amongst younger people in Britain, many younger people 'shop around' and attend a church in their locality that feels right, and will change tradition when they move to a new neighbourhood
- this is also a trend from neighbourhood based congregations to congregations based around shared interests, or demographic groups
- there is a trend to new styles of congregations, eg evangelical, charismatic and pentecostal churches, house churches or fresh expressions
- traditional ecumenism is seen as something older people do in mainstream churches, and new traditions are seen as inherently ecumenical
We are certainly considering people under 30 here and possibly people under 40. In other words this new take on ecumenism (which has strengths and weaknesses) will one day be a majority view, ecumenism will change beyond recognition.
Conversations of this type whilst primarily within traditions may also have an element of receptive ecumenism (between traditions) because the goal will be mutual enrichment, a learning from the history of the older traditions and the new discoveries amongst the new.
One last thought. Are there other sorts of conversation within traditions? There may be a geographical conversation needed, eg between south and north in England. That's all I've thought of so far but there will almost certainly be others.