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This is the thirteenth post in a sequence about ecumenical formation.
There are then, two movements in ecumenical formation. I came across a slogan at a conference about Arminianism last year, 'Roots Down, Walls Down'.
Logically roots down comes first, although in time the two movements will interact with one another. As we explore our own tradition (even before we think of it as our own), we drill down into it. We learn of the distinctive insights, shared by those who belong to it. This is not to claim traditions are unchanging. Compare the agendas of Methodist Conference in the 1930s and today. The concerns about the sabbath and temperance have almost vanished, replaced by political issues such as racism, poverty and the environment. And yet it is still the same tradition.
Drill deeper still and we begin to tap into more that is shared with other traditions. Methodism's history means it shares some of its heritage with the Church of England for example. But the point is we approach this material through the Methodist doctrine and church structures that make Methodists different from Anglicans.
At this stage encounters with other traditions make sense. We can challenge each other to go deeper, confident we are drilling into the same bedrock. We should not need to defend our differences because in discovering them, we help those of other traditions see their own from a new perspective. This approach is known as receptive ecumenism. We discover as our roots go down, so too the walls between us come down.
In following this path, we steer a course between two unwelcome extremes. First, the desire to tidy up and bring everything into a single structure. The challenge is to love and support one another despite our differences. To convert someone would be to lose their insights from the conversation.
The other is the desire to fly apart, to abolish the traditions and go it alone. Ultimately, I don't think this is possible. To choose no tradition, is failure to acknowledge what influences you. Ultimately it displays spiritual ignorance, lack of awareness of one's own roots.