Christian unity has come a long way and is being demonstrated both through meetings of Church leaders and at the grass roots through local social action. That was one of the messages that emerged from the Forum of Churches Together in England (CTE), which took place at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, from 17-19 September 2018.
Presenting the general secretary’s report, David Cornick said that 5 new member churches had joined since the last Forum, together with 8 new Bodies in Association. ‘In their diverse lives, yet common witness, England’s Christians want to be seen together gathered around the same tables. That’s a funny ecumenical winter. We felt the movement of the Spirit in so many ways over the past few years’, he said.
Transforming Presence of God
Commenting on a theme of the Transforming Presence of God, Archbishop Angaelos, the President for the Orthodox Churches (and also moderator of the CTBI trustees), said ‘Twenty or thirty years ago it would have been unlikely to have had a gathering like this. The breadth of the Church across England is inspiring. Many of the churches and Church leaders get involved in the grass roots’.
‘Just being here is an example of what Christ is doing in our lives. Just looking at this gathering and the representation from different groups who hitherto may have respected each other from a distance but certainly wouldn’t have been coming together to worship and pray with one another. That’s an amazing positive’, commented Pastor Agu Irukwu, the Pentecostal President.
‘Churches Together in England must be complimented, and the other groups that are doing the work of pulling us together. But I think it must go to the next stage, the next level. More of the responsibility cascades from the institutions or the organisations to the individuals, and that’s where the rubber really hits the road, where we must take on our responsibility’, said Pastor Irukwu, ‘if we don’t take on responsibility, if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, this whole thing can bypass all of us, and start in the most unlikely places’.
‘God is always in the work of bringing renewal to what is and birthing new things, commented the Revd Canon Billy Kennedy, the President nominated by the New Churches, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Lutheran and German-speaking Churches, saying that the ongoing transforming work of Christ was seen in the new churches.
‘The Church was birthed as a movement for change right at the beginning. Whatever church we’re talking about, whether the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, the churches we represent, as churches that are experiencing constant change… Some of the churches that we represent have come out of that sense of frustration at times. Whether that’s a good thing or not I’m not entirely sure because I think God is constantly renewing His Church and whether it has to be with forming constant new denominations… although God’s a God of great variety so it doesn’t really bother me that we’ve got lots of denominations as long as we all respect each other and love each other as Jesus said’, commented Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, the Free Churches Moderator.
God’s transforming power was seen though the Church of Christ around the world working together, said Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, commented that when life is centred on Christ it is truly transformed.
Videos and texts
You can watch video recordings of many of the sessions and also download some documents from the Forum, including a press release, on the CTE website.