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This is the eighth of eight posts reflecting upon a recent paper released by the Conference of European Churches. The background can be found in a post on Methodist Ecumenical News. The paper is Visions of Unity in Our Churches - Points of Convergence.
The report includes eight points of convergence and I thought it might be interesting to consider them one by one.
Using the same terms does not always lead to or reflect common understanding. Conversely different terms can mask a common understanding. We need thus to continue in dialogue in a way that listens closely to the different ways words are used and interpreted. This takes humility and a capacity to hear and receive. However difference of interpretation can be a means of spiritual enrichment so long as listening goes on.
Whilst I welcome this convergence, I am still concerned by the little word 'we'. 'We' has cropped up several times in these paragraphs and it gives away the theological game at the heart of too many ecumenical conversations.
These conversations are formal talks. Formal conversations take place behind closed doors. They are for a closed community of theologians who have qualifications and write in footnotes. They worry about the meanings of words and lose sight of what faith means to churches on the ground.
Our churches don't struggle with the meanings of words so much as with unreasonable people, hopeless property, lack of finance, unresponsive hierarchies, bizarre rules and regulations...
So, it seems for qualified theologians differences in interpretation of words can be a means of spiritual enrichment. Really? So long as you can encapsulate it in a footnote maybe. Spiritual enrichment can also come out of frustration, anger or despair - maybe they should try that?
It is hard to have confidence in people who write as if they have never walked along a pavement.