Appendix A: Our Understanding of Ecumenism
We want to be very clear about the model of ecumenism with which we are working. It is really important that our partners in other denominations and streams of church understand how we see our relationship with them and on what basis we expect to work and make decisions with them.
Principle One: Partnership rather than Absorption
Some models of ecumenism assume that we should all come together and form one single organisation. Those who support this approach believe that it is a worthy goal and will produce great benefits in terms of coherence in vision, communications, decision-making, training and so on...
Unfortunately there can be a tendency for some churches, denominations and communities to
find themselves on the outside, either by choice or conviction. In Milton Keynes Deanery, six of our twelve parishes are uncomfortable with the structural unity that has been a prominent goal for Milton Keynes in the past. There are also a number of newer churches who are unlikely to become formal members of the Mission Partnership - but with whom we are beginning to work more closely...
We would prefer to work with a partnership model in which we understand that we are all one in Christ - whether we like it or not!
As pilgrim communities traveling in the same direction we are able to help and support one another, listen to each other and make decisions together. Our members will increasingly feel free to move between different strands of church life which will continue to affect and influence each other in a myriad of significant ways.
We feel that it is particularly important that all churches are thought of as being “in” and that no
churches or communities should be placed in a position in which they feel that ecumenism is something that would deny their identity or undermine their integrity.
In keeping with the Mission Partnership’s recent review, we would like our ecumenical structures to become the space or mechanism within which these conversations and relationships continue to take place.
Principle Two: Network rather than Hierarchy
One way of simplifying the life of the churches in Milton Keynes would be for the Mission Partnership to act as a layer in a hierarchy - standing between the denominations and the local congregations and parishes.
This has been seen as an attractive goal in Milton Keynes in the past and was one of the motivations behind the setting up of the Mission Partnership as a converged body.
On the other hand, there has been a lack of clarity about authority and the place where decisions can be made. There have also been tensions about “denominationalism”.
The hierarchical model is actually a very “modernist” approach to ecumenism and is less helpful in the more fluid environment in which we find ourselves.
We would therefore prefer to work with a network model. Each church, parish and LEP has relationships with a variety of bodies. In many cases a parish may relate to both the Deanery and other denominational bodies like the Methodist Circuit - and this should be regarded as a good thing!
Decisions should be made by those who are most closely involved or affected but there needs to be an understanding of how resources are controlled or coordinated by different bodies. For instance, the Deanery has responsibility for the deployment of Anglican clergy and the allocation of Anglican parish share.
We feel that an understanding of church life in Milton Keynes as a complex network will be more productive for us at this time than thinking of it as a hierarchy of organisations.
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