I’ve just been reading an article by Paul Goodliff, General Secretary of Churches Together in England. He was writing about what it might mean to be genuinely “ecumenical” in Britain in 2020. As someone who is occasionally invited to attend or advertise events which claim to be ecumenical, but in reality are events only for like-minded people, I was heartened to read how CHURCHES TOGETHER IN ENGLAND is a fine example of what might be considered genuinely ecumenical.

Paul acknowledges that there are still some for whom the word “ecumenical” arouses suspicion and negative emotions. I would say that’s a shame because ecumenism is so clearly a proper response to Jesus’ prayer that all his disciples might be “one”.

In many countries old suspicions between Catholics and Protestants, or between Evangelicals and Pentecostals on the one hand, and the historic churches of the Reformation and the Orthodox on the other, are deeply embedded still. Remnants of those old suspicions remain stubbornly present within England, too, but ….

… the reality of 50 member churches in CHURCHES TOGETHER IN ENGLAND comprising at least six families or traditions—Anglican, Catholic, Free Church, Pentecostal, Orthodox and others—and with such breadth and depth of engagement, is a cause of thanksgiving (if you think ecumenism is good, of course!). Churches as varied as the Antiochian Orthodox Church, The Church of God of Prophecy (mainly a Black majority church of Caribbean origins in UK) and the New Church networks Pioneer and Ichthus are members; Pentecostal churches New Testament Assembly and The New Testament Church of God journey with Free churches Congregational Fellowship, Moravian Church, Baptists Together and the Methodist Church; historic English Pentecostals, The Apostolic Church, Elim and Assemblies of God join the African originated Redeemed Christian Church of God, Presbyterian Church of Ghana and the Unification Council of Cherubim and Seraphim Churches; and both Eastern Orthodox Serbian and Russian Patriarchates with Oriental Orthodox Copts and Malankara Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox) walk with Anglicans and Catholics. It is a truly extraordinarily diverse and rich mix. Your church is probably part of CTE and you may not be aware of it!!

This co-operation at national level should surely be our aim for all Christians and our churches in the town of Northampton. When the present lock-down ends, will we return to our separate, often isolated church groups? Or will we feel free in the spirit of Jesus to look beyond our own like-minded group and be enriched by the wider Christian family as we find inclusive ways to work and pray together? I hope we’ll think and act more ecumenically, because according to Jesus, effective witness depends it.

Ted Hale

With thanks to Paul Goodliff for his thoughts. shared in the Baptist Ministers’ Journal: April 2020