Reflections

The Not Strangers But Pilgrims Inter-Church Process led the Churches in these islands to move from a Council of Churches model of ecumenism to a Churches Together model.

A key foundation of that shift was Reflections -- how twenty-six churches see their life and mission, which can be downloaded here.

We also reproduce its introduction here -- written by Vincent Nichols, the current Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster who was then, as General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, part of the Not Strangers But Pilgrims steering group.

Introduction

On the evening of 8 November 1985 in St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, a ceremony was held to celebrate the launch of the inter-church process Not Strangers But Pilgrims. During that ceremony representatives of the thirty-two participating Churches lit candles and placed them in a tray of earth. The candles burned side by side symbolising the undertaking given by those Churches to work side by side in prayer, study and discussion in this new initiative from that moment until the autumn of 1987.

Not Strangers But Pilgrims is then a process of prayer, study and dialogue between the vast majority of the Christian Churches in England, Scotland and Wales. It represents perhaps the most wide-ranging ecumenical initiative yet, not simply because of the number of participating Churches, but because the process has tried to include not only local level discussions and prayers but also the fruits of the formal international dialogues which have been taking place in recent years. The first results of these local discussions are to be published in a companion volume entitled Views from the Pews; the findings of the international dialogues and of other consultations in Britain and abroad will form the third volume with the title Observations.

This present volume, however, brings together the statements put forward by the participating Churches at national level in response to the question which is central to the whole process Not Strangers But Pilgrims:

 
"In your tradition and experience,
how do you understand the nature and purpose of your Church
(or Churches when the national body is a federation of local Churches)

in relation to other Christian denominations
and as we share in God's mission to the world?"

It was in June 1985 that the participating Churches (listed on page 156) were asked to answer this question in a manner which 'includes the viewpoints of those concerned with mission, ministry and social responsibility as well as those concerned with faith and order'. The responses sought were to be 'provisional responses, drawn up by whatever means each Church chooses for the purpose of this process. It is not intended to seek statements formally approved by general Assemblies and Synods. Nevertheless they should be responses which members of that church would recognise as an expression of its self-understanding'. (Introductory Document, Not Strangers But Pilgrims, p9).

The responses received from the participating Churches are now presented in this volume. It is, I believe, a unique collection: churches confessing to one another, in charity and honesty, their self-understanding and their reflections on their relationships with each other. As such it forms an important part of the first phase of Not Strangers But Pilgrims a phase of gathering together and listening to people's experience at many levels.

The second phase of the process which now lies ahead of us, is that of discernment and reflection. At every level, participants in this process are invited to open themselves to the faith of others and together to address those key issues which can be found in these pages. A series of Conferences have been planned for 1987 in which the experience of these discussions and prayer can be brought together, first of all at the Ievel of each country and then at the level of this island as a whole.

That lies ahead. Not Strangers But Pilgrims is a process and not a pre-determined programme. We pray that we are being led by the Holy Spirit and that we are open to his guidance.

It has been my duty to bring these documents together. It has been a rich and rewarding experience for me. I hope that all who take up this book may find in it both support and challenge as together we seek to be obedient to the will of our one Lord: 'that they all may be one'.

V. Nichols

 
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