This is the second 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.
Unity demands expression in life and mission. Our search for unity must always be seen against the horizon of a lost and broken world to which the Church is called to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. In our divisions we need appropriate structures or networks to enable this to happen.
I agree with the start of the second sentence: church unity must be seen within the context of the wider Oikoumene. Christian unity is evidence of God's activity in the world, without it the Christian story lacks credibility.
But is this true? Divisions between churches often seem to lead to renewal (sometimes for both sides of the split). This leads me to conclude the unity we seek is not necessarily the obvious structural unity, the model in many people's minds.
Let's examine the first sentence. It is not a surprise to find 'mission' present as an expression demanded by unity. Unity and mission has been a mantra, at least since the Church of England report, 'Mission Shaped Church'. Must unity be expressed through mission? It is hard to find conclusive evidence. Churches compete in mission and still manage to get their message across. The problem is, we have tried to stick mission and unity together in a superficial way - too often we miss out on a significant part of the story.
So, does 'life' provide the missing part of the story? It is hard to say because I don't have a clue what they mean by 'life'. I have argued in a sequence of posts starting here, that formation is the stepping stone we need. Formation is the way we live as Christians and so perhaps 'life' is meant to represent this otherwise missing dimension.
The third sentence also needs unpacking. Ecumenism has become associated with structures and networks. This is not always to its advantage. Perhaps it would be better to emphasise the need for relationships and the means to deepen them through conversation.