This post relates to the thirteenth critical issue in Called to be One: What Now?, Ecumenical Initiative: Whose Responsibility?
This critical issue follows on from the last and in some ways responds to it. They write: In the past certain ecumenical networks (often quite informal) have been catalytic in challenging the churches and ecumenical bodies alike. This implies local churches are making their views known, although it is not easy to grasp what is meant by ecumenical networks (if they are not networks of local churches, what are they?).
I stand by my last post, confirming 'ecumenical prodding' must come from local churches. They need to be networked and they need to take the initiative. This has been the message of this blog from the beginning.
Ecumenism will get nowhere if it is solely the province of church leaders and academic theologians. This is in no way a criticism of their abilities. They cannot enable progress independently of fully participating local churches.
Paradoxically, the problem lies in the progress that has already been made. As more issues are identified and settled in formal talks, the remaining issues become more difficult; the easy things have been settled and now we turn to those entrenched issues, which have so far defeated the best minds. These issues are difficult because they are about authority and decision making; the thing Christians cannot agree about is how they make decisions together.
This is not as dreadful as it might seem. Churches can empower people to make decisions together and so now and again Christianity has inspired the growth of local organisations, co-operatives, businesses, trade unions, banks, insurance companies - you name it. This wealth of ways of making decisions has been a great gift of God to the world.
These form a generative tension and so will never be reconciled because this tension is the crack in the broken Body of Christ that allows God's love to flow to the whole of humanity.
This is why the prodding must come from local churches. As they struggle with the implications of irreconcilable authorities, against the need to collaborate for the Kingdom of God, they are generating solutions and pressing church authorities to relax their regulations.
It is out of this debate that real change will come.