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In this second post about formation, I take a closer look at the Swanwick Declaration. The link takes you to the full declaration on Churches Together in England's website. It's a good read and mercifully short, in contrast to many ecumenical statements.
The second paragraph shows who made the declaration and these particular people were only a few of the many thousands who took part in the Not Strangers but Pilgrims interchurch process. Note also the means by which they came to agreement about the Declaration 'we met, we listened, we talked, we worshipped, we prayed, we sat in silence, deeper than words'. They were reminded of the context, a sense that this was an essential detour from the mission of the church to a sinful world and of the views of younger people, who 'called on us to be ready to sort out our priorities so that we could travel light and concentrate on our goal.'
Note the words of paragraph 3:
We now declare together our readiness to commit ourselves to each other under God. Our earnest desire is to become more fully, in his own time, the one Church of Christ, united in faith, communion, pastoral care and mission. Such unity is the gift of God. With gratitude we have truly experienced this gift, growing amongst us in these days. We affirm our openness to this growing unity in obedience to the Word of God, so that we may fully share, hold in common and offer to the world those gifts which we have received and still hold in separation. In the unity we seek we recognise that there will not be uniformity but legitimate diversity.
The commitment is to commit ourselves to each other under God. This does not imply full visible unity, although it does imply accountability. This is easily said but what happens where we disagree? The desire is to become 'more fully' the one church of God. Note this is not 'fully'; the process, it is implied, is about becoming; there will never be a past tense. Unity increases and is not expected to stop growing. So, they did not anticipate uniformity. There has been much discussion about what is meant by 'legitimate diversity' and we can anticipate some disagreement about what is in fact legitimate.
One final comment about paragraph 4, which reads:
It is our conviction that, as a matter of policy at all levels and in all places, our churches must now move from co-operation to clear commitment to each other, in search of the unity for which Christ prayed and in common evangelism and service of the world.
Note the agreement is commitment to each other. This is not the same as full visible unity. It is a vision of a diverse church committed to all its parts.
Over the years, It seems this commitment has been interpreted through the medium of mission. Perhaps this is an easy option as mission tends not to be quite so tied up in ecclesiology (although it is) but also because young people seem to have decided over the last 20 years to go it alone, presumably because the churches have decided not to travel light and have taken an awful lot of baggage with them.
But perhaps another error has been to believe mission is the only game in town. We have focused on mission at the expense of formation and it is the relationship between these two I will explore next.