Tuesday, 10 January 2012

On Ecumenism

Last night I had a wonderful dream.

Every church in the world had come together in perfect unity. All doctrinal differences were resolved, and each church recognised the other's ministry and sacraments.

Truly, we were all one in the Spirit, and recognisably the One Body for which Our Lord prayed.

But then I noticed.

Sure, it was lovely, the way that everyone in the world was lighting tea lights in one acccord. And the knowledge that as one Community was pouring-out beakers, on the other side of the globe another group was filling them up.

But in my dream all the newly-redundant male priests, excluded from ministry according to ages-old Beaker Lore, wandered the earth wondering what else they could do. The ceremony of "Tenebrae", which so many groups had adopted for its dramatic loveliness, lost its power for some when they were told that they must keep a couple of tea-lights lit "for people who are scared of the dark".

And do you know, in my dream, as I surveyed the nations of Beaker Christians, and worried about the worldwide hazelnut and tea light shortage - not to mention the rocketing commodity-market price of voile - I realised there was something missing. And it was difference. Nobody could ever disagree any more - because, in the world of the Wholly Beaker Church, all viewpoints were equally valid - especially the viewpoint that all viewpoints are equally valid, which is the most valid of them all.

And I rejoiced that we had broken down the old hierarchical oppressive church relationships. That no longer did authority flow downwards from men of God to men not-quite-so-much of God to people of even-less God. And instead, across the world, bottom-up democratic communities were spontaneously deciding policies that I just happened to agree with.

And I realised that without crusty, reactionary elderly male bishops, and people in ludicrous outfits and Drayton Parslow and fundamentalists who really believe what they say - that the place was really boring. What was the good of people the world over using icons if there wasn't somebody, somewhere, believing they were real vehicles of grace, and not just shiny pictures that make us feel good? Why sing music from the charismatic side of the church without someone - somewhere - really believing that if they are receptive enough the Spirit will fill them and give them spiritual gifts? For in my Beaker world church, being filled with the Spirit was acceptable as long as
nobody thereby acquired gifts that might be a bit awkward - like tongues, or prophecy. Or healing.

So I woke screaming.

I've had a flick through a few blogs this morning and I'm pleased to report that everything's OK. The Catholics are still convinced everyone else has got it wrong. And the Fundies still thinlk everyone else is going to hell - including other Fundies they argue with on minor matters. And the Methodists can still see the good in everyone. And the Unitarians seem to be happy with letting everyone get on with being themselves, regardless of doctrine.

All's right with the world again. So I'm just off out to accuse Drayton Parslow of being a woman-hating bigot. Thank goodness it was just a dream.


  1. I sometimes think that the whole point of religious difference is to give us all lots of practice working up to being kind to those who sing the wrong kinds of songs dressed in the wrong kinds of clothing and standing in the wrong part of the building. Admittedly, it sometimes feels like I'm at the stage at which refraining from screaming at my, er, erring fellow-worshipers is a great achievement, but that's an improvement over hitting them over the head with a hymnbook.

  2. There are few religious differences you can't settle with a hymnbook over the head, Cheryl. Maybe that's why Hnaef and Young Keith are so keen on us using the data projection for all song words.


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