3 things that have helped me be a better bridge builder.

I am speaking in a few hours on a panel that deals with Ecumenicism.

2. ECUMENISM. Friday, 3pm to 6pm

Centre for Encounter: Central and Eastern Europe

Ecumenism – That’s my story too. Experiences which give us courage. Story telling salon.

Andrew Jones, global networker, New Zealand,

Andrzej Korus, Wroclaw, Poland,

Prof. Dr. Konrad Raiser, former general secretary World Council of Churches, Berlin,

Dr. Peter Sajda OP, Bratislava, Slovakia,

Jalil Schwarz, Friedenskoch Abrahamszelt e.V., Bergheim,

Bischop Uland Spahlinger, Odessa, Ukraine,

Mateusz Srodon, icon painter and lecturer in Eastern Christianity, Warsaw, Poland,

Natallia Vasilevich, director of the Ecumena cultural and educational centre, Minsk, Belarus,

Alexej Wassin, Belarussian Orthodox Church, Reutlingen.

Moderation: Michael Kaminski, Munich.

Dreikönigskirche, Haus der Kirche, Festsaal, Hauptstr. 23 (200 /P15)

 

As a networker, I have found some things that have made bridge building in the Christian world a little easier:

–  The web. It is the web, the internet, the blogosphere, chat rooms and email correspondence that have helped to enable leaders from very different corners of the Christian world to interact in a safe online environment, something they probably never would have done in the physical world.

–  A global youth culture. It has been relatively easy to bridge ministries together when they share a common culture. We have had leadership roundtables and training events on every continent and we have seen young people from similar cultures [but foreign countries] come together. We have seen Japanese Christians who love manga relate immediately with Norwegian Christians who love manga, Chilean hard core Christians relate with German hard core Christians. A global emerging church roundtable we are helping to organize next month in USA will bring alt. culture emerging-church leaders from 39 nations. The previous global roundtable (2009) was held in Poland. The first, btw, was held in Germany in 2006.

Story – In Central Europe, which is the focus of this panel discussion, we have seen incredible selfless ecumenism among the sub-cultures –  the Jesus Freaks in Germany have brought resources from their Freakstock Festival to the Slot Arts Festival in Poland. And the Polish have in turn become a source of strength and resources for UpFest in Ukraine as well as to other festivals that are popping up around Europe.  Another interesting development with the Jesus Freaks International is the loss of their festival location in Efurt and the response by the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox church who offered their large ex-military base – which is the new site of the Freakstock Festival.

– A postmodern vocabulary, in particular some names and terms that identified the tendency of modernity to marginalize the “other” and terms that point to the possibility of a post-colonial future for mission and church.

– The charismatic movement of the 80’s and the new-monastic movement of this last decade have both opened doors to renewed conversation and acceptance within Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox worlds. Monastistic structures, in particular, seem more fluid and given to ecumenism than traditional attractional church structures.

3 THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED ME BE A BETTER BRIDGE BUILDER:

1. A missional focus. The modern ecumenical movement had its birth in the 1910 International Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Read my post here.

Picture 13

In Edinburgh there was a missional agenda that brought various streams of the Christian world (but not Catholic until much later) together in a way that transcended theological or denominational barriers. People came together under the missional purpose of God.

The most remembered goal, which is often misunderstood, was to promote unity and co-operation in mission. … It put forward real ways to pursue unity and co-operation in the years ahead and thus prepared the church for the events that would come in World War I and II in a unique way. John Armstrong, Was 1910 a Success?

2. A low visibility. Strong branding looks good but it can also make your organization a threat to the ecumenical process. People are wary of being swamped by a large organization or a charismatic leader. No one wants to support an egomaniac lest they become one of his numbers. I say “his”, not to be sexist, but simply because I cant think of any examples of female Christian leaders on a quest to build mega ministries that outnumber those of their peers.

John the Baptist said he was decreasing so that Jesus might increase. Self-demotion is a crucial part of ecumenical strategy. David drooled to enter the enemy camp where his reputation as a killer of tens of thousands preceded him. If we hope to enter worlds where we bring an already acknowledged strength, we need to humble ourselves and enter lightly with our armor at the door. Like Moses we lay down our stick. Like David we learn the fine art of drooling.

Also, I find it relatively easy as a New Zealander to bridge countries. Last year I was in 25 countries. In many of them I was able to bridge between the various Christian powers, and sometimes political powers, because my home country is not much of a threat to anyone. And the church in NZ is not colonizing the world with its own particular brand. I have also found it helpful NOT to have a significant website or high visibility for our ministry (The Boaz Project) but rather adopt the identities of the networks I work among. Decreasing the ministry to increase the Kingdom impact.

3. A strong identity. If you know who you are and what you believe, you can more easily relate to others who are very different than you and they will find it easier to relate to you. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to enjoy some productive walks to the University of Berlin with liberal scholar Friedrich Schleiermacher, despite enormous differences in their theology, because he was confident in what he believed. A strong grasp on biblical theology, not a weaker one, will enable greater ecumenical efforts. Ecumenicism is not a dumbing down of distinctives but an acknowledgement of the eschatological reality of the New Jerusalem with its colorful, cultural uniqueness. It embraces that reality, celebrates it, and it gives it a prophetic foretaste to a watching world.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

5 Comments

  • I think that is such an important concept there “Decreasing the ministry to increase the Kingdom impact”, one that I feel I can really get a hold of. So often people talk about their ministry or ask what is our ministry in Latvia. We don’t have a ministry, but we do want to be a part of building a Kingdom, but not our own Kingdom.

  • Andrew – to this I would add that you always lift up women leaders. In my travels, I keep noticing that often the most dynamic work is done behind the scenes with women (and in the US often women of color). And I will continue to mention – those who pen the books tend to get an view of the world informed by airplanes, conference centers and hotel rooms. They know what their fans and critics think of them not what’s really happening. For example, I’ve noticed that we’ve moved into a post-secular culture and yet the language being preached by the experts is still postmodern.

  • For example, I’ve noticed that we’ve moved into a post-secular culture and yet the language being preached by the experts is still postmodern.
    Hi Becky. That’s a fascinating observation. I’m in Australia – a different context again – but I’m interested to have that unpacked. Perhaps if I knew what post-secular means :).
    (Now I’m off to your website and will probably find this comment unnecessary after a quick look around there).

  • And you also.
    I should add that the event went really well. Very expertly moderated by Michael Kaminski who introduced all 9 of us to the group. Highlights for me were:
    – meeting the “Peace Cook” from [Palestine?] who ministers through food and raises funds for social enterprise through cooking. Wish I had time to talk to him.
    – having Dr Konrad Raiser in my first group – a very gentle and compassionate man who added some “reality” to the difficulties of bridge building,
    -and having some young Egyptians in my group to discuss ecumenical relations in the post-revolution Egyptian environment.
    Best quote was from Natallia Vasilevich, Russian Orthodox, director of the Ecumena cultural and educational centre, Minsk, Belarus, who (half jokingly) said:
    “Theology was created to justify why we cannot have communion together.”

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