Churches Together in England held its second Enabling Group of 2021 on 14 and 15 October. Around fifty delegates from our Member Churches, National and County Ecumenical Officers and Bodies in Association came together in person to hear about CTE’s key areas of work and to attend the AGM.
CTE Trustee, Stephen Fowler, reports on the two days…
There was a discernible buzz as delegates gathered in the refurbished lounge at The Hayes Conference Centre. Smiles all round as old and new friends greeted one another face to face. Conversations over lunch were seasoned with stories about church life during lockdown and how we looked forward to worshipping, talking, and praying together without camera and screen. We shared delight that the conference centre was ‘back in business’ and preparing for more events over the autumn and winter.
The Enabling Group (EG) is CTE’s twice-yearly ‘members meeting’ of representatives of Member Churches, Bodies in Association, and intermediate ecumenism, to which staff and trustees are accountable. The Autumn meeting is also the home of the AGM, where the annual report and accounts are presented and accepted and where necessary appointments are affirmed.
In the main sessions, this EG tackled two important topics; The Post-Covid Theology Project and Living together well with disagreements.
Post-Covid Theology Project
The purpose of the recently launched CTE Post-Covid Theology Project to help Member Churches think ‘what next’ was shared with delegates through presentations and discussion groups. This project is not primarily about answers, but rooted in asking good questions which can be explored by churches at a local level.
The topics church life, worship and liturgy, mission, and spirituality and God were discussed by small groups which, in turn, each contributed new questions for consideration. The project outcomes will be a set of resources on these topics which will be made available to churches via the CTE website.
Living together well with disagreements
This is a subject to which EG returned to several times. In her Chair of Trustees report, Rowena Loverance, invited the EG to reflect on the conversation about the fourth presidency and the pressing need for us to work out why we still struggle to walk together in this, because the result is that our unity is impaired. And General Secretary Paul Goodliff also asked ‘what would the Apostle Paul say if he were here now?’ CTE’s Paul suggested that we must learn to disagree well, because this is a concept rarely understood outside of the church. And that our message should be ‘there is a way around every roadblock’.
Members of the EG (Alan Kennedy, Hilary Treavis, Annika Mathews and Akpo Onduku (in absentia) presented papers based on the writings of Christopher Landau in his book ‘A Theology of Disagreement’ published earlier this year (and recommended by our General Secretary as a useful resource for CTE at this time). These insightful presentations led to more great round the table discussions.
The 24 hours were interspersed with conversations, food, (wine for some), prayer, and worship. A highlight was the evening talks given by Bishops from two of CTE’s national Member Churches. Rev Dr George Paduthottu explained the history and current status of the Mar Thoma Church in Europe, followed by Bishop Awraham Youkhannis who spoke passionately about the worship, work and mission of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East.