FACT Mission Statement

We are :
From various churches
Assisting and serving our communities
Christians working together
To make a difference

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Swanwick Declaration

I mentioned earlier in the week, the Swanwick Declaration of 1987. What was it? It was published in a blaze of publicity and meant to be the blueprint for all that we do ecumenically. It was published at exactly this time that I became involved in the Ecumenical movement. Actually that’s not true, coming from a mixed Methodist/Catholic household, I had always been ecumenical without realising it. So its perhaps better to say that it was around 1987, when I was 15 that I got actively involved because the three denominations in my village got together to discuss the Declaration and its theme of "Not Strangers but Pilgrims" It was not the sort of ecumenical meeting we are used to in Frome, I can see the room now, with each group sitting together in their own huddle ( except me, as I was with Mum I was in the Methodist huddle, as I went to the Town RC Church not the village one ! ) and not mixing at all. The discussions were fruitful if a little strained and led onto a good relationship which developed so well that Dr David Jenkins, specifically mentioned us as a good group in his farewell address to the Diocese of Durham.

Anyway, its no co-incidence that we first met in 1987 as it was only because of the Swanwick Conference and the Declaration that we could meet, because it allowed the Roman Catholic Church to be part of ecumenical groups. Councils of Churches were replaced by Churches Together and a new journey of ecumenism began. It nearly didn't happen, there were strains amongst the delegates which looked like meaning that no agreement would be reached. However a historic intervention from Cardinal Hume ( who did so much for making the Roman Catholic Church part of the life of Great Britain rather than being seen as something suspicious ) saved the day.

Heres the text of the declaration, its definitely worth us reflecting on it 22 years on, its worth reading despite its length :

Appointed by our churches and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we declare that this, the broadest assembly of British and Irish churches ever to meet in these islands has reached a common mind. We are aware that not all Christians are represented amongst us but we look forward to the time when they will share fully with us.

We came with different experiences and traditions, some with long ecumenical service, some for whom this is a new adventure. We are one band of pilgrims. We are old and young, women and men, black and white, lay and ordained and we travelled from the four corners of these islands to meet at Swanwick in Derbyshire. There we met, we listened, we talked, we worshipped, we prayed, we sat in silence, deeper than words. Against the background of so much suffering and sinfulness in our society we were reminded of our call to witness that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. We affirmed that this world with all its sin and splendour belongs to God. Young people called on us to be ready to sort out our priorities so that we could travel light and concentrate on our goal. Driven on by a gospel imperative to seek unity that the world may believe, we rejoiced that we are pilgrims together and strangers no longer.

We now declare together our readiness to commit ourselves to each other under God. Our earnest desire is to become more fully, in his own time, the one Church of Christ, united in faith, communion, pastoral care and mission. Such unity is the gift of God. With gratitude we have truly experienced this gift, growing amongst us in these days. We affirm our openness to this growing unity in obedience to the Word of God, so that we may fully share, hold in common and offer to the world those gifts which we have received and still hold in separation. In the unity we seek we recognise that there will not be uniformity but legitimate diversity.

It is our conviction that, as a matter of policy at all levels and in all places, our churches must now move from co-operation to clear commitment to each other, in search of the unity for which Christ prayed and in common evangelism and service of the world.

We urge church leaders and representatives to take all necessary steps to present, as soon as possible, to our church authorities, assemblies and congregations, the Report of this Conference together with developed proposals for ecumenical instruments to help the churches of these islands to move ahead together.

Continuing to trust in the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, we look forward with confidence to sharing with our own churches the joys of this historic Conference. We thank God for all those who, from Lent '86 and before, have been part of this pilgrimage. We feel their presence with us. We urge our churches to confirm by decision and action the hopes and vision on which we have laid hold, and which we shall not let go.

This is a new beginning. We set out on our further pilgrimage ready to take risks and determined not to be put off by `dismal stories: We resolve that no discouragement will make us once relent our avowed intent to be pilgrims together. Leaving behind painful memories and reaching out for what lies ahead, we press on towards the full reconciliation in Christ of all things in heaven and on earth, that God has promised in his Kingdom.

Lord God, we thank you
For calling us into the company
Of those who trust in Christ
And seek to obey his will.
May your Spirit guide and strengthen us
In mission and service to your world;
For we are strangers no longer
But pilgrims together on the way to your Kingdom.

Please pray for all the delegates, in the run up to and during the Forum. Maybe you could use the prayer at the end of the declaration.

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