There is an Anglican ecumenical officer for each county, and one for Milton Keynes.
To promote and seek the fullness of unity in Christ’s Church through every avenue, and particularly by:
- implementing agreed diocesan ecumenical policy to pursue closer fellowship and decision-making with other Christian traditions, and to foster the development and progress of Local Ecumenical Partnerships and other forms of ecumenical co-operation;
- supporting and servicing county ecumenical bodies and Local Ecumenical Partnerships and maintaining and strengthening links with local councils of churches and Churches Together
- providing information and advice to parishes and deaneries on ecumenical matters;
- encouraging the fullest possible use of the permissions now granted by the ecumenical Canons B43 and B44, and by the Church Representation Rules of 2004;
- monitoring the implementation of the Anglican-Methodist covenant across the diocese and encouraging closer co-operation at all levels.
We seek to keep the ecumenical dimension before the diocese at every level. We do this through regular meetings with the diocesan and area bishops, through membership of the county ecumenical bodies and of the diocesan and archdeaconry pastoral committees, and through ecumenical representatives appointed in each of the deaneries.
Further information can be obtained by contacting the ecumenical officer for your area.
In each of the three counties in the diocese, there is an ‘intermediate body’ (Churches Together in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire respectively). These bodies are responsible for co-ordinating and overseeing ecumenical work, and for maintaining and strengthening links with local ‘Churches Together’ groupings and councils of churches (Milton Keynes has its own structures supporting the ecumenical Mission Partnership). The diocesan bishop, or the area bishop concerned, meets regularly with the leaders of other mainstream Churches for fellowship, consultation and prayer.
There are now some 50 areas in the diocese that have been officially designated as Local Ecumenical Partnerships. An LEP is defined as a scheme under which churches of more than one denomination agree to co-operate in matters affecting the ministry, congregational life, buildings and/or mission projects of the participating churches.
Local ecumenical relations are governed by the Ecumenical Relations Measure of 1989, and by Canons B43 and B44. Canon B44 applies only to LEPs. Canon B43 applies to ecumenical relations in every parish and place of worship in England. It sets out what priests, ministers, and laypeople of other denominations may do in Anglican churches, and what clergy and laypeople of the Church of England may do in the churches of other denominations. So long as permission is obtained from the necessary authorities, the canon allows one to do whatever one can do in one’s own church (with the exception of presiding at holy communion, conducting marriages, and ordaining). So, for instance, a Free Church minister may, at the family’s request, and with the incumbent’s permission, conduct a funeral service in the parish church. Also, the canon authorises the holding of joint services, provided that the bishop, the incumbent and the PCC agree.
Other denominations may use a parish church for their own worship. So, if the PCC and bishop approve, a Roman Catholic mass may take place in a parish church.
Information about what is permitted under the ecumenical canons and about what permissions are needed can be found on the Church of England website. Your ecumenical officer will also be glad to provide information and advice.
Two changes to the Church Representation Rules since 1997 have had considerable ecumenical impact. The first relates to the electoral roll, and the second to election to PCCs, deanery and diocesan synods, and General Synod. These changes are of special value to members of other churches who live in areas where there is no congregation of their own church, and who worship regularly in the Church of England, but who wish to remain members in good standing of their own church. They are also helpful to inter-church families.
The electoral roll
These rules and the enrolment form make explicit the right of those baptised people who are members in good standing of churches not in communion with the Church of England, but which subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, to be enrolled on the electoral roll. They are required to declare themselves to be also members of the Church of England, and to have habitually attended public worship in the parish during the previous six months.
PCCs and synods
These rules make it possible for members of other churches who are prepared to call themselves members of the Church of England, and are on the electoral roll, and receive communion under Canon B15A, to be elected to the PCC, to a deanery or diocesan synod, or to the General Synod.
Anglican Methodist Covenant
The Anglican-Methodist Covenant, signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the president of the Methodist Conference on All Saints’ Day, 2003, encourages a greater sharing between Anglican and Methodist congregations where they work alongside each other in mission and ministry. Suggestions for developing life together can be found in the leaflet What can we do now?, obtainable from your ecumenical officer.