Each local gathering of Christ’s people is unique and will need to discover the particular mission to which it is called. An Ecumenical Vision Statement, locally produced, is an expression of that mission and a framework against which future developments can be assessed.
Ask yourselves prayerfully
- In the light of the prayer of Christ ‘may they all be one… that the world may believe that you sent me…’ (John 17.21) and the injunction to ‘spare no effort to make fast with bonds of peace the unity which the Spirit gives’ (Ephesians 4:3) what do we now have a vision to do together instead of separately?
This isn’t an optional extra or merely a way of stretching limited resources further. It is seeking to make visible locally the unity you are being given because you are convinced that is what God wills.
- How does this venture relate to the local community beyond the Church and the Church beyond the local community?
The ecumenical vision is of the ‘whole inhabited earth’ (oikoumene) as our concern because it is loved by God.. Narrow parochialism which is not interested in the community beyond the church or the Church in the rest of the world is a denial of that vision.
- What is the added value of this ecumenical commitment to the whole Church offering the whole Gospel to the whole Earth?
What might you do better together rather than separately? How do you expect this initiative to result in the church being more effective in its mission?
- What is the next step in acting on this vision?
Should we seek to form a Local Ecumenical Partnership?
LEPs are not the only way of acting ecumenically in your locality but they are widely recognised by the Churches in England as a way of making unity visible. A Local Ecumenical Partnership is defined as existing ‘where there is a formal written agreement affecting the ministry, congregational life, buildings and/or mission projects of more than one denomination: and a recognition of that agreement by the Sponsoring Body, and authorisation by the appropriate denominational authorities.’ There are six different kinds of LEP.
Should we make a formal Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment?
A formal Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment is only for places such as villages where there is only one place of worship. It is not an ‘easier’ alternative to forming an LEP. It recognises that the one congregation comprises people of different Churches, some of whom have recognised ministries in them.
A time-limited project for the next x years?
Not all initiatives are meant to be permanent. Sometimes significant goals can be reached in a short period. They need careful consideration of the desired outcomes and what might follow them.
In the light of ‘Mission-Shaped Church’ and Fresh Expressions, LEP structures can appear too prescriptive and based on inherited models. An ecumenical vision of communicating the Christian message to people without previous connections to the Christian Church may lead to new models. New Christians will become part of the whole Church but there may be a cultural gap to be bridged between them and those of the historic Churches.Fresh expressions of church often start with light and flexible structures and agreements. Annual review of these can be helpful as growth occurs.