This is the twelfth post in the sequence about Christian formation.
Last time, I suggested formation is familiarity with a library of texts associated with a particular tradition. It is further supported through encounters with other traditions, which cause us to draw upon experience of our own tradition and make it conscious. Indeed formation takes place not only through ecumenical encounters or interfaith work but in any missionary situation where we talk about God.
This leads me to ask whether, through a formational lens, we see more clearly the case for reconciled diversity.
Full visible unity strongly implies structural unity. This requires analytical theological negotiation. So step by step, as each difference is dealt with, theologians move on to the next problem.
With a focus on formation however, equiping all church members with insights from their own tradition and conversations between traditions, we are in a very different place. There is still a need for theologians but their focus changes to what helps communication between Christians rather than debate between scholars. This does not downplay scholarship but re-frames its energies.
A major problem with formal conversations is their lack of reception by church members. To see theological work as primarily one of formation, brings the urgent need for reception into focus.
This approach brings another debate into focus. Many claim to have abandoned the traditions and seek a Christians Together approach. The free-spirited nature of this is of great value but it tends to call into question the value of formation. We urgently need conversations between them and traditional ecumenists.