Thursday, 6 September 2007

Press conferences ... it's all about profile

Press conferences at assemblies like this are always a bit chaotic. Things always over run and you're not sure if people will be free on time. Anyway we wanted to give all of the stewards in turn a taste of what it's like. Press conferences can be stressful enough just in one language - on Wednesday we were trying to work with five while only having interpretation equipment for three. Thank goodness the interpreters managed to cope despite only having a 16 minute lunch break.
It really was a bit of a marathon - a double press conference starting with the Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomeos I and then Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Cardinal Walter Kaspar and Metropolitian Kirill in the second. Metropolitan Kirill attacked modernity and stated that ecumenism as it is currently structured is in crisis.
Huber and Kaspar must meet often both in Germany and beyond in these sorts of contexts. It was fun listening to them sparring with one another - rather lengthily in German. Though I do wonder whether anyone outside the German-speaking world really understands what the whole debate about profile-based ecumenism or ecumenism of profiles is all about. I spoke with Danish journalist Claus Vincents about this briefly today, he'd asked a question about it at the press conference. Ökumene der Profile is very difficult to translate, in my professional life I've officially approved "profile-based ecumenism" but as I see how this gets used journalistically I wonder whether I won't have to force myself to use two terms interchangeably or maybe go back to ecumenism of profiles - hmm we translators really try to avoid this so I'm just creating problems for myself really.
Thinking about it more theologically I realised that the two Reformed churches I come from have quite different takes on consensus or profile in terms of ecumenism. The United Reformed Church has written into its Basis of Union the idea almost that its own existence could give way to something else for the sake of wider church unity, more consensus, less profile. The Eglise Réformée de France, in some ways a much smaller church numerically than the URC, is much keener on providing specifically Protestant or Reformed perspectives on life. In a secularised context where the majority of Christians are Roman Catholic, having a distinctive Reformed profile and a commitment to being serious about faith, is one of the things that makes me proud of the ERF.
Anyway, enough theological musings for now. It is beer drinking time. I must throw the journalists out of the press room and let them and you know that tomorrow's press conference will be with His holiness Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Bishop Margot Kässmann of Germany and two young people. More tomorrow on what their profile is.