Ecumenical Relations REPORT OF THE ECUMENICAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2011 INTRODUCTION Our society is becoming more and more dependant upon its connectivity either on a personal or corporate level. This is shown through the rise in use of networking facilities such as Facebook. More and more people get the majority of their information on the internet. If you seek information, “Google it” is the reply. Networks are becoming part of our everyday lives. In bringing people closer together, networks support and enhance our relationships. Of course that should not be news to the Church. Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We are called to play our part within the greatest network this world has known, the Body of Christ. Called by God, led by Jesus Christ and supported and inspired by the Holy Spirit, we, the United Free Church of Scotland, have our part to play as we strive for the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ACTION OF CHURCHES TOGETHER IN SCOTLAND (ACTS) Members Meeting: Representatives of the Member Churches of ACTS met regularly during the year to discuss issues relevant to the Ecumenical development in Scotland. Two issues were of particular importance: 1) the future of Scottish Churches House (see below) and 2) to reflect upon how the Australian Covenant Process (a process which aims to clarify how national Churches relate) could impact the Churches in Scotland. It is hoped, particularly after the former issue is resolved, that there will be a deepening of the already good relations between the Churches. Scottish Churches House: A large amount of effort and energy has been devoted towards the future of Scottish Churches House. This location has been central to many of the ecumenical initiatives over the past 50 years and last June (2010) it celebrated its 50 th anniversary, serving the Churches and the Ecumenical community well over this time. In recent years the subject of Scottish Churches House has been brought into focus due to a sustained period of yearly losses. The Churches Forum responded by deciding to launch the Jubilee Appeal, with the intention of upgrading the facilities at the House to en-suite. This has been completed to a very satisfactory standard. However, the hoped for increase in business has not materialised, a situation that was exacerbated by the financial difficulties in 2008/ 9. These external factors have meant that all residential retreat centres are finding it difficult to make ends meet, Scottish Churches House included. The House, unfortunately, has been unable to turn the recent losses into profit. Therefore it was with deep regret that the Trustees of ACTS decided to close the business at the House, making the staff redundant in the process. The staff have been fully supported within ACTS legal obligations but also through pastoral support given by the Trustees. Therefore, the current business of the House will end on July 15th 2011. The Trustees simultaneously set up a tendering process to invite interested parties to tender for a lease for the use of the House. An up-to-date report on this will be included in the presentation to the General Assembly. CHURCH OF SCOTLAND Covenant Group: Representatives from the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland have met with regard to the Covenant which was signed in 2006. These meetings have always been very amenable with the two-way sharing of information. Topics 9
Ecumenical Relations have included training of ministries, delegates‟ right to speak and Church Academy Forum as well as updates on the local situations where congregations are working together. A review of the Covenant has been started, the results of which will be reported to the General Assembly in 2012. FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND The convener and vice-convener, along with the general secretary met with two Free Church representatives, Rev Alasdair MacDonald and Rev Angus MacRae. The discussions were very amiable, areas of potential cooperation have been identified and the relevant contact information has been exchanged. It is not envisaged that this group would initiate any work but would be a conduit that enables cooperation where possible. LOCAL COOPERATION Congregations throughout the denomination continue to work with neighbouring Churches. The level of co-operation varies from area to area. Some are actively involved in local Churches Together groupings whilst others share an annual service with one other Church. These activities develop over time and the committee urge all congregations to look at their ecumenical engagement so that it may develop. Notably, this past year a Covenant between Cathcart: Trinity Church of Scotland and Cathcart UF Church was marked by a special service on Sunday 20th February 2011. The Covenant formalised cooperation which has already been taking place in such things as joint housegroups and prayer breakfasts as well as in shared ministry. CHURCHES TOGETHER IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND (CTBI) Over the past year, the new structures within CTBI have settled down and the focus has been on how to help facilitate ecumenism within the four nations. The vision of CTBI is “to serve the churches of Britain and Ireland on our shared journey towards full visible unity in Christ”. The leaner organisational structure has been supplemented by a greater onus on web-based resources as a means of sharing and facilitating discussion on topics raised by the member Churches. CTBI sees its role within the Ecumenical family as a facilitator to create space for Churches to engage with each other. To this end, they recently unveiled a revamped web page (http://www.ctbi.org.uk), which provides the hub to information and resources and the introduction of “Churches together > connect” (http://www.churchestogetherconnect.org), the ”interactive home of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, a place of welcome and community building”. Individuals can sign up to “Churches Together Connect” and share information, stories and comments by means of blogs and forums. Postings can be in writing or on video and the site will host video conferencing between members. Churches Together Groups are being offered free hosting of a web site which will also have a newsfeed from the Ecumenical Instruments automatically updated. THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (WCC) In August 1960, the WCC Executive Committee met in Scotland during which an Oikoumene plaque was unveiled to honour the opening of Scottish Churches House. Fifty years later, the Committee returned to Scotland, meeting together during 12 - 17 September 2010. Aside from the WCC business, many of the Committee members visited local congregations and opportunity was given for ACTS to present an overview of its work. This led onto conversations on how the “Churches Together” model was operating in Scotland. It proved extremely beneficial given that WCC are actively reviewing their governance structures. 10
Work towards the next WCC Assembly in Busan, Korea 2013 continues. The theme will be: „God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace‟. The following sub-themes will be explored: „Life together in faith: unity and mission‟ „Life together in hope: for justice, peace and reconciliation in the world‟ „Life together in love: for a common future‟. EDINBURGH 2010 ‘WITNESSING TO CHRIST’ 2-6 JUNE 2010 From 2-6 June 2010, the eyes of the ecumenical world were on Edinburgh, Scotland. The centenary of the 1910 World Mission Conference was marked throughout the world but Edinburgh 2010 was seen as a key point in the centenary celebrations. The secondment of Br Stephen Smyth (ACTS General Secretary) as Conference Manager ensured that, with the help of the conference team and volunteers, the 300 delegates were well looked after and had a profitable time in the various plenary and presentation sessions. The Conference brought together delegates from over 60 countries and over 80 churches/denominations and culminated on Sunday evening with over 1000 attending the Closing Celebration. The “Common Call” adopted at the conclusion of the conference provides us with an invitation and challenge to develop the themes and witness of the conference and a copy is attached in Appendix 2. THE WORLD COMMUNION OF REFORMED CHURCHES (WCRC) Grand Rapids 2010: The Uniting General Council was the culmination of many years work in bringing two world Reformed bodies together into one common one. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Alliance (REC) met in Grand Rapids to conclude the two separate organisations and to inaugurate the new body, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). The Uniting Council took place in Calvin College, with accommodation provided on campus. This setting gave an excellent opportunity to meet others in informal as well as formal ways. Formalities: WARC met for the final time to agree to move forward with the new united organisation and to conclude the old one. As soon as that was completed, the formalities of inaugurating the new organisation were completed and we moved on to the business of determining the purpose and direction of WCRC. The first point of business was to adopt a constitution and bye-laws under which the WCRC would operate. During these deliberations a lot of the time was taken up by gender equality issues with respect to representation on Committees. Rev Dr Jerry Pillay was elected President. He is the General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa. Decisions were taken with a consensus method using orange and blue cards. It initially worked well as time was given to achieve consensus. However, as lack of time became more of an issue, the cards were used more for voting rather than consensus. Ultimately we ran out of time and the final decisions were taken rapidly. The Convener was involved in the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Engagement sectional group as well as the European regional meetings. Community: The Campus setting was invaluable for this type of meeting. It gave good opportunity for informal chats over meals etc. All delegates were placed in a bible study group which took place on five mornings. There was also morning and evening worship on each day. Different regions led worship, 11
Ecumenical Relations bringing their own style to the worship. Sharing in such diverse styles of Worship was very enlightening and reinforced the feeling of God‟s hand being at work within the Council. Local Churches: The convener was honoured to represent the WCRC at Westminster Christian Reformed Church in downtown Grand Rapids as well as Ideal Park Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, MI. Both visits were interesting but were too short. Overall, the experience of being at the Council was invaluable. As the new organisation develops, it will prove useful to have met and spoken to many in leadership positions. Details of the General Council, including documentation, videos, pictures and reports can be found at www.reformedchurches.org. More information about WCRC can be found at www.wcrc.ch. Prague 2011: The convener travelled to Prague to attend the first meeting of the Council of WCRC Europe. Forty-two participants met, from all over Europe, to discuss how Europe Council should be set up. The President of WCRC, Rev Dr Jerry Pillay gave a keynote speech on the future of the organisation. VISITS TO OTHER CHURCHES The committee wishes to acknowledge the visits undertaken by the Moderator, Rev Robert O Owens to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Assembly of the Baptist Union of Scotland, the Scottish Area Assembly of the Congregation Federation and the Scottish Methodist Synod. Rev J Patrick Coltman represented the denomination at the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Rev Martin C Keane represented the denomination at the United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland. CONCLUSION The committee would like to thank all who have represented the denomination on ecumenical committees and as delegates to other denominations‟ Assemblies etc. The Ecumenical scene in Scotland is constantly developing and changing. It is the committee‟s hope that the denomination remain active and supportive of the various initiatives that aim to bring us closer into the “unity of the Spirit”.
In the name of the Committee IAN A BOA MARGERY P COLLIN JOHN O FULTON
Convener Vice Convener Secretary