I’ve been thinking a lot about ecumenism recently.
I know, right? What a boring way to start a blog post.
But it’s true. I’ve caught quite a bit of flack from some folks within the Scottish Episcopal Church because I’m now working for the Church of Scotland. And some people I’ve met within the Church of Scotland learn that I’m Episcopalian, and they look at me as if I’m some kind of unidentified foreign species.
The thing is, I don’t actually think in terms of denominations. I know what kind of worship restores me, what kind of prayer is balm to my weary soul. But that’s not a denominational preference necessarily. I am not owned by a particular denomination. I do not belong to the SEC or the CoS.
It never even occurred to me that applying for a ministry post in the CoS could somehow be seen as an act of betrayal to the SEC (though out of respect, I did speak with my bishop about it before applying). I grew up Episcopalian in a family which was both Presbyterian (PCUSA and PCA) and Methodist. We all love Jesus and, while we don’t always see eye to eye on certain things, we are working out what that means as we live our lives with as much love and kindness and passion as we can. That’s what is important.
When I went to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as the SEC representative on the visit organised by the World Mission Council of the CoS, I was excited that it was an ecumenical trip (it also included someone from the United Reformed Church). I was thrilled to discover that first Sunday that we would spend the morning worshipping with the Anglicans in Nazareth and the evening at St Andrew’s CoS. Oh, of course, there was plenty of banter and joking about each other’s denominations and liturgy and traditions and bishops and presbyteries and committees and all the institutional baggage that we are each loaded down with. But there were no walls dividing us on that trip. We all were there to learn, to listen, to look for Christ amongst the people we met, to pray and work for justice and peace.
We all love Jesus. That’s what was important.
And so I started this new post assuming I’d be working ecumenically. I think nothing of going to a URC church to talk about Israel and Palestine next month. The congregation there want to pray for peace; I want to pray for peace. Let’s pray together. I think nothing of emailing an American friend of a friend who works with Young Life in Nazareth. One of his priorities is building relationships; one of my priorities is building relationships. Let’s build relationships together. I think nothing of contacting people on the SEC diocesan or provincial Information and Communications Boards to ask them to highlight stories out of the Middle East which might be of interest and concern to churches here. They want to communicate and raise awareness; I want to communicate and raise awareness. Let’s communicate and raise awareness together.
So I want to be clear here, at the start: I plan on capitalising on the networks I have across the SEC and the CoS. I want to work across the churches when I’m home on deputation. I’d love it if individual congregations in the SEC — and indeed the URC or Methodists or anyone else — would be interested in committing to praying for me and the people with whom I’m working, or would like to receive my quarterly prayer letters, or would like to join together with other congregations to invite me to speak when I’m in Scotland, or share information I post on social media, or even organise an ecumenical exposure trip/pilgrimage to the see the realities of the occupation.
Why shouldn’t we try to work together? Why build arbitrary walls around our institutions? Why allow walls which were built in the past to be barriers to justice and to hinder the flourishing of the Kingdom?
Because when it comes down to it, don’t we all love Jesus? And isn’t that what’s most important?