Doing things ecumenically

Moderator John Chalmers has been saying all week at the General Assembly that the Kirk needs to have some of its ‘mother church’ feeling knocked out of it. There is a feeling you are entering a world – kind, warm and welcoming. But a distinct culture which is sufficient onto itself.

People here talk constantly about ‘doing things ecumenically’ and they genuinely want to do that. But too often – deep breath – that means inviting other churches to join in what they have already decided to do. When we in response are less than enchanted with that, the result is hurt and misunderstanding – which is much to be regretted.

‘Doing things ecumenically’ means to us meeting on equal terms and starting from the beginning to define what we hope to do and how to do it. The Kirk is the National Church – that means that we can hope and expect that it will take the initiative ecumenically. But it has to be on the basis that we start from the beginning together.

And communication between churches is dreadful. We need to have an instinct to share what we do all the time, all the time, constantly, instinctively

We are all small churches now in the context of Scottish society. We need to work together instinctively and wholeheartedly and constantly

There is one area of real ecumenical progress which we should celebrate. A while ago I attended the launch of a Learning Agreement in Galloway between the SEC and the Kirk. It is a local coming together in response to a shared understanding of need. Next month in Perth, the clergy of our diocese will come together with the ministers of Perth Presbytery to look at issues of ministry and the sustaining of vocation – a local coming together in response to a shared understanding of need.

In both we are well beyond ‘nodding and smiling’ ecumenism into a relationship where we help one another to tackle the difficult stuff. I rejoice in that and look forward to more