Deep Church

Fr Peter cswg on the origins and relevance of two contemporary ecumenical movements explored at the 2009 RooT conference

 

Receptive Ecumenism and Deep Church are two fresh ecumenical movements operative in the contemporary Church, which members of RooT explored together at their recent annual conference at Mirfield. There was a significant attendance despite thelack of an episcopalpresence, the conference coinciding with a meeting of all the bishops in Oxford. RooT was continuing its ecumenical theme of recent years as Dr Marcus Pound from Ushaw College in Durham introduced receptive ecumenism, originating at an international research colloquium at Ushaw in 2006 in honour of Cardinal KaSjper.

Learning from others

Earlier this year, no fewer than eight English Roman Catholic bishops (and two Anglican) were among those gathered at their conference at Durham in January, focusing on Receptive ecumenism and the local church (at which a member of RooT was also present). That gives some indication of the movements standing among the Catholic hierarchy in this country. Receptive ecumenism, in contrast to earlier expressions of ecumenism that sought to inform others about your own Church's position on various theological or doctrinal matters, is directed to learning about and 'receiving the good practice of others,' in a spirit of humility and penitence. What, for example, can the Catholic Church learn from a dedicated order like the Salvation Army? It is not all passive, for each church needs also to look at its own attributes and bring a critical eye to them. It is a basic exercise in re-thinking about church in the face of'contemporary aggressive secularism.'

Equally important and unsurprisingly, we found something of a kindred spirit to be present in Deep Church, the theme of our afternoon address. The term Deep Church originates in a letter of C.S. Lewis to the Church Times in 1952, pointing to the common ground of Anglican Catholics and Evangelicals in their belief in a supernatural religion. The term then went underground, until it took on new life more recently through a group, mainly from the Evangelical tradition, who were desiring to explore the Tradition of the Church. When Evangelicals express doubts about the Reformation and whether it could have been avoided, the ears of Catholics are likely to become keenly attentive, and doubly so when they express an interest and desire to learn from the Church's Tradition.

Two fundamentals

Professor Andrew Walker from King's College, London, took us through the sometimes complex byways of modern evangelical revival through Emerging Churches to Greenbelt and Steve Chalk. This was all finally resolved through adopting a position enlightened by a modern Orthodox writer, John Zizioulas, who Speaks of Christ coming to institute the Church and of the Holy Spirit constituting the Church. The pressing need ecumenically is for us to bring and hold these two fundamentals together, the institutional and the charismatic.

The conference also welcomed Fr Darren Smith from the Additional Curates Society to open the conference with a colloquium on vocation, which began by asking why every office in the church from reader to lay pastoral assistant is explored as a possible vocation, but rarely is the religious life considered in any shape or form. This later brought us to focus on the follow-up to the DVD All for Christ and led to a conference decision to publish a study guide, possibly for next Lent, to encourage people to look at the issues raised by the DVD, and to the second stage of outreach (the first being to the parishes and their priests): this is to include DDOs, Vocation Officers and Directors of Education, the education departments of cathedrals and schools.

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