Thursday, 2 June 2011

Ecumenism is moribund - oh no it isn't!

The WCC stand at the Kirchentag is underneath a large sign that says "Gelebte Ökumene" which means "lived out ecumenism" or perhaps even "living ecumenism". This leads to some rather "spöttisch" remarks by a few of the visitors to the stand "huh, ecumenism these days is all abaout an atmosphere of resignation" one person just said, pointing up to the sign, and this was even before I had a chance to say "hello". Just as well that with my Prussian ancestry I am used to such muscular discussion!
We ended up having a really good discussion about how blaming those at the top for a perceived current lack of progress in ecumenism is actually very unproductive, it means we don't take responsibility for trying to move things forwards ecumenically in our own contexts, sometimes it even means that we use the supposed lack of progress at the top as an excuse to stop thinking in ecumenical ways in local and national settings. Of course this doesn't mean we should be satisfied with lack of progress, and we do need to continue to put pressure on the international levels through bilateral and multilateral dialogue.
We got to have this conversation because we started doing something practical together, drawing hands on the cloth petition against small arms. And doing this simple and rather childish thing helped take the conversation onto a different level and perhaps calmed things down after the rather feisty beginning. As we drew and were joined by others the tenor of the conversation changed and so did it's content. We talked about lively local ecumenical projects and were even able to speak about how there is real hope that change may just be around the corner. So much is happening, saying that things are moribund may actually be cover for saying that we're finding it difficult to rediscover our enthusiasm and get motivated, and so we look for someone else to blame.
So it was good to have a muscular beginning to a conversation about ecumenism. We ended feeling more energised and hopeful about the future, perhaps also more able to see what is already going on and being planted ecumenically all around us.