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This post is one of my occasional orientations, introducing new themes for Exploring Ecumenism.
When I started this blog back in 2008, I was working for the Methodist Church and have done so until the end of last month, as Assistant Ecumenical Officer. The big change is that I have been made redundant. This will have implications for this blog. My relationships with the ecumenical scene will inevitably change. I will be more dependent upon the internet and my direct experience will be more local. This may not be a bad thing, as I have long doubted the relevance of national ecumenism.
Whilst I was with the Methodist Church, I started a second ecumenical blog, called Methodist Ecumenical News. My intention was to do something quite different from Exploring Ecumenism. EE has always been speculative. I have written mostly about my own thinking about ecumenism. Methodist Ecumenical News was intended to be more of a billboard, drawing attention to what others are doing.
With Methodist Ecumenical News suspended for the time being, if not forever, I plan to add some of its approach to this blog. However, the news sharing depended upon time and opportunity to pick up on things that were happening and those opportunities are harder now. My plan is to explore how I can introduce posts which pick up some of the characteristics of Methodist Ecumenical News, drawing attention to new developments as they come to my attention. My aim will be to combine the notice board elements of Methodist Ecumenical News with the comment typical of this blog.
I will also not be quite so constrained in my comments as I was. I will still adhere to the principle that writing about ecumenism should be constructive and supportive of the work of others but I have already started to introduce material with more of an edge. I will attempt to be an increasingly critical presence on the web because I believe anyone writing or thinking about ecumenism probably encounters a daunting lack of comments on their work.
I should note that my hope back in November 2008, three years ago, was this blog would become a forum for debate. I know it has readers but for whatever reason, few comment. I would value more comments but in their absence, the least I can do is comment on the work of others, hopefully constructively. If that generates debates, it would certainly be a welcome development as far as I'm concerned.
I am increasingly uneasy about the direction of modern ecumenism. I have so far been critical by implication, writing about how I think things should be rather than how they are. I have more freedom now to highlight bad practice and I shall begin to do that over the coming weeks and months.
In a nutshell, which shall take some time to unpack, I will make the point that national ecumenism is becoming bogged down with analytical theology, a mode of theology that was out of date in the 1960s (if it ever was up to date) and is increasingly counter-productive. This type of theology is not fundamentalist but rather it is technocratic. It is designed to keep power in the hands of church leaders. It is divorced from the needs and interests of local churches and causes unnecessary confusion.
The time has come for a sea change in the way ecumenism is done. I wouldn't be so arrogant as to suggest you will find it in this blog, but as one of the few people regularly blogging about ecumenism, I intend to challenge the old ways and encourage new radical thinking.