Sunday, 9 September 2007


Reflecting on this meeting is quite difficult. I never once got to the plenary tent, nor to a fringe event, nor to worship - not much liturgy so far in of life and laughter...
Yet through the press conferences, documents, the website and journalists questions - as well as my nightly forays into Sibiu's drinking establishments - I did get a sense of what was going on. There was some anger amongst Protestants at part of the content of the final message - at the last moment a phrase on respecting human life "from conception to the end of natural life" was added, this has since been changed further to the slightly more acceptable "from the beginning of life to natural death". In a quiet moment in the press room this morning we managed to discuss this between Catholic and Protestant colleagues, which was good and important. There is a plurality of ethical positions within most of our churches, yet it tends to be only Protestant churches who will give voice to these different perspectives publicly. It is too late today for me to begin to write about abortion, cloning and assisted death but I must try and return to those themes at a later date in this blog.
I wondered whether sometimes it is difficult for Protestants in ecumenical gatherings of this kind to give voice to a different ethical perspectives, for fear of upsetting the ecumenical apple cart.
I'm glad that some of the ordained women attending the meeting did get to meet - simply to meet and talk and share together, no formal declaration was written but a great photo was taken, just a shame I couldn't get there.

Nevertheless I remain shocked at how few women were in prominent roles at the assembly - Archbishop Anastasios and Bishop Margot Kässmann were in some way in agreement that this represents a certain reality of where the churches in Europe are at the moment. Despite mention of gender in the closing message there was no reference at all to the issue of women's ordination, despite massive applause in the plenary tent when mentioned.
Reading the my UK newspaper online this morning I cam across an article entitled the new feminists which did cheer me up rather. However, it ends like this:
"What makes you angry?
It makes me angry that violence against women is so endemic. It not only irritates me, it horrifies me. It causes more death and disability worldwide among women aged 15-44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war."
I suppose many in both church and society still hope that domestic violence will stay at home, I am still shocked at how easily we brush it under the carpet. Another subject I must return to in more detail - domesticating issues does not mean we are making them safer.
So where next for ecumenism? Will there be any point in having an EEA4?
The stewards in their goodbyes wrote out loud and clear "We didn’t come here to repeat what others have said before !"
Somehow we must find a new way forwards for ecumenical gatherings. Will it be enough to simply meet, pray, talk, celebrate and do things together, without thinking that there has to be a message written and agreed to during the meeting?
Metropolitan Gennadios, who was plainly delighted to receive one of the t-shirts from the stewards saying "H.E. metropolitan Gennadios started as a steward", said at the press conference that EEA3 is only now beginning, as we all go home, returning home is the start.
With pilgrimage we tend to have the idea that it is about reaching the destination but actually it is much more about taking the experience home, embedding something experienced here in a new way of being ecumenical at home. If we manage to really put that into practice then there might be a way forwards for ecumenism beyond hollow promises and compromised lengthy statements.