We all have some kind of commitment to, interest in and energy for the support and development of ecumenical shared ministries. We also have our convictions about working ecumenically.
For some of us, the focus is primarily on our particular congregations. For others, the interest is related to our judicatory positions and responsibilities. Persons involved in local shared ministries are more likely to be thinking and working ecumenically more of the time than those of us in denominational judicatory positions.
All of us derive satisfaction from our association with persons of other denominations as we live out and/or support ecumenical shared ministries.
Our commitment to ecumenical shared ministries, as judicatories and denominations, is neither uniform nor consistent, one denomination to another, one judicatory to another, nor is it “written in stone.” Much of the success of the partnerships is derived from the good will, the energy and the interest of particular individuals. There may be broad principles regarding co-operation and ecumenical involvement that our Churches have endorsed, but there are no constitutions, governing bodies, or oversight and review procedures for ecumenical shared ministries to which we have given common consent.
Local ministries may have a covenant relationship covering their particular situations; these have likely been developed in cooperation with and agreed to by participating judicatories/denominations.
Change of personnel, in both judicatory and local positions, can result in a loss of continuity or memory regarding agreements with and commitments to local ecumenically shared ministries. “New” persons may also give different interpretations to these understandings.
Maintaining good communication links between appropriate denominational judicatories, as well as between these judicatories and the local ministries, is challenging and time consuming and, given our various polities and geographical boundaries, can also be quite frustrating and confusing.
External factors, beyond the control of both the ministry and the judicatory, can affect a denomination’s ability to honour or maintain its agreements with and commitments to a particular situation. This is most likely to happen with issues relating to mission funding (e.g., denominational cutbacks) and/or pastoral relations (e.g., shortage of suitable supply).
Adequate consultation with ecumenical partners and consideration of the consequences for particular shared ministries are important when judicatories choose or need to act in response to external factors and/or to matters with “their” personnel.
Denominational traditions, loyalties, responsibilities, and concerns can be in tension with the possibilities and requirements of participation in ecumenical shared ministries and requires adaptation and flexibility. Such diversity can also enrich and expand our experiences and can enhance our participation in and appreciation for the universal Body of Christ.