CTE held its second Enabling Group of 2020 on 22 and 23 October. This gathering was not only the AGM, but also an opportunity for delegates from our Member Churches, National and County Ecumenical Officers and Bodies in Association to hear about CTE’s key areas of work. The focus this time was on racial justice, intermediate ecumenism and a draft CTE Strategic Plan.
CTE’s Chair of Trustees, Rowena Loverance, reports on the two days…
There was no missing the ‘quote of the day’ from Churches Together in England’s Enabling Group, meeting online for the first time; ‘What an adventure playground is my life’ being how ecumenical officer Robert Mountford describes the opportunities of ecumenical work.
The Enabling Group 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 also serves as the AGM, receiving the annual report and accounts and making any necessary appointments.
Any worries that holding Enabling Group (EG) on zoom would detract from the ecumenical fellowship built up over many years soon vanished, as participants swapped catch up stories and tips on adjusting screens and lighting so that we could see one another better.
The EG welcomed three new trustees; Maddy Thomson from Pioneer, Nephon Tsimalis from the Greek Orthodox archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and Victoria Turner from the United Reformed Church, as well as a new deputy convenor, Lurliene Miller from JCCAN (Joint Council of Churches for All Nations). Outgoing trustees Richard Bradbury and William Gabb were thanked for their service.
In the chair’s report, I highlighted CTE’s new draft Strategic Plan, drawn largely from recommendations made by the churches in the 2017 Theos report, ‘That they all may be one’. This will be a major item on the EG agenda next March, once our Member Churches have had the opportunity to feed in their comments.
The treasurer, James Laing, reported on a successful outcome to 2019 and presented what he described as a ‘cautious’ budget for 2020. General Secretary, Paul Goodliff, reporting on six months of hectic online activity by staff, reassured us that despite this time of change, the God whom we serve – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – changes not. “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
In the main sessions, the EG tackled two topics key to our joint church life; racial justice and intermediate ecumenism (unity at the county or city level).
The first topic explored was racial justice, and especially working to encourage and enable black-majority churches to play their full part in UK church life. This has long been central to CTE’s and CTBI’s work. The heartfelt appreciation offered by the EG to Joe Aldred, CTE’s long-serving staff member for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multi-cultural Relations, on his upcoming retirement at the end of October, was testimony to this.
The EG heard how this concern is being carried forward at different levels, including by CTE’s Presidents in their public statements and ongoing conversations; by the new Racial Justice Working Group which CTE trustees are in process of setting up; and by County Ecumenical Officers (CEOs) across the country, who will be following up their first awareness-raising session with one focused on possible future actions.
The second major topic was how the essential work of intermediate ecumenism – churches working together at county or city level – can be sustained and reinvented.
A new Toolkit for A Flexible Framework for Local Unity in Mission was launched. This provides an easy-to use framework helping local churches to collaborate with confidence and flexibility, developing the right agreement for their joint venture – such as a holiday club, mission event, messy church, homeless shelter or community café.
This was followed by a three-way conversation of voices from Surrey, Hertfordshire and the Black Country, which as well as generating the ‘quote of the day’ (‘What an adventure playground is my life!’ from ecumenical officer Robert Mountford), also challenged intermediate church leaders to ensure their groups mirror the full diversity of CTE’s Member Churches. It also encouraged CEOs and other ecumenical workers to prioritise work together which actually makes a difference in people’s lives. CTE stands ready to help to find new staffing and funding mechanisms to resource this work, and hopes to facilitate regional meetings over the next few months.
And last but of course not least, there was time for shared prayer and bible study – a kaleidoscope of passages from Isaiah and the Psalms, the gospel of John and Paul’s letter to the Romans helped to offer comfort in exile and light in dark times. ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God’ (Romans 18:19).