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This article was published in the Summer 2004 issue of The Journal.

Problems and Passion

The usual response to problems is practical and pastoral. If you have a personal problem, you need care, perhaps even counselling. If the organisation has problems, you need review, reform, re-organisation. A lot of ecumenism falls into this pattern.

But an alternative approach begins not with problems but with passion. It is a passion that is lit by the experience of being together across the divides and realising, hey this is how it should be! It is a passion fired by the awareness that so much in the church, let alone the world, is not right, and God wants to change it. It is a passion – to use the word in a particular sense - that draws us into the passion of Christ. We have to ask: are we finding here a new way out of our crisis, or simply adding to his sufferings?

Now in ecumenism I am committed to dealing with the problems. As Convenor of the Enabling Group of Churches Together in England, and as chair of the Church of England’s Local Unity Panel, I spend a lot of my time trying to find a way through the problems of disunity to a more ecumenical way of doing things. Not least: why do we have separate national departments for areas of church life, like youth work, or social responsibility, or international affairs? Why aren’t we doing these together?

But this is not enough. It is not enough just to increase cooperation between churches. We need a passion for that visible unity of the Church that is the gift of God and the prayer of Christ himself.

In the world of interchurch families, I suggest that these two approaches may also have something to say. In one sense, what brings you together are the problems and you seek a response that is pastoral and leads to new rules. But what also brings you together is passion: a passion for the renewal and unity of the Church, a passion for justice and, to use the word in another specific sense – your own passion for each other.

The church has never been very good at passion, whether the passionate love between two people, or the passion for change of the prophets, or the passion of Christ, challenging most of what we usually hail as success.

How can you, interchurch families, out of your problems and your passion help the rest of us to move from a problemsolving approach to ecumenism to a renewed passion for the visible unity of the Church?

From an address by Michael Doe, Anglican Bishop of Swindon, to the annual conference of the Association of Interchurch Families, Swanwick 2002