Ecumenical Dynamic, Living in more than One Place at a Timeecumenical dynamic book cover

Keith Clements Ecumenical Dynamic, Living in more than One Place at a Time, Geneva World Council of Churches Publications 2013

This is a book about the ecumenical movement that only Keith Clements could have written and I am glad he has. He has given himself time to reflect on much that he has previously published about Bell and Bonhoeffer, J.H. Oldham and a group many of us may never have heard of, the Moot, that T S Eliot and the sociologist Karl Mannheim once belonged to. Oldham who played such a formative role in the Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910, and the Oxford Conference on Church and Society in 1937, was the subject of his full-length, 500 page biography, Faith on the Frontier, published in 1999.  Few of us will have access to his skilful editing of The Moot Papers; Faith, Freedom and Society 1938-1944 still available for a mere £175 and first published in 2009 but in this book for a fraction of the price you have his own masterly summary of intense and high level ‘Moot’ discussions between some of the foremost Christian and Jewish thinkers of the day. If like me, you are Keith’s contemporary, you will have heard of Alec Vidler, John Baillie and Daniel Jenkins, best known now as the father of The Guardian columnist, Simon Jenkins, Kathleen Bliss, originally Congregationalist but here labelled as C of E, Eric Fenn and others,  but Clements is aware that there is a whole generation that has never heard of  Barmen or Bonhoeffer, let alone Baker or Neufville,  and never read that one time best-seller, Honest to God, by Bishop John Robinson, best known for telling us, if we did not already know, that ‘God is not a daddy in the sky’.  As a skilled writer and reporter on numerous conferences, and a former General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches, he brings all these people to life so that we too can invest our lives in what he calls ‘the ecumenical dynamic’. We need to draw on the past to live fully in the present and if we are really to live ecumenically we have to inhabit and enjoy more than one place at a time. This is his simple message and he draws on his own experience to make the point. He was born in China but lived in England most of his life, is loyal to his Baptist roots but learned to love Choral Evensong at Cambridge and especially through his work in Geneva and the Conference of European Churches and its lively partnership with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference to appreciate what the Orthodox and Roman Catholics have to give us.

Keith Clements sets out to address three audiences: the ecumenical enthusiasts like me; the diehard opponents many of us will know, and those who have simply lost interest or who find the inter-church discussions frankly boring. Anyone with a social conscience will find this book not only interesting but challenging because the author has been and is so deeply committed to Christ and our life together in Him and with a faith that is big enough to embrace more than one issue and help us live in more than one place at a time. If it has one fault, it is that he covers too much ground but perhaps that is inevitable when you are dynamic and in a hurry to engage us all in such an exciting adventure as meeting friends in other places we never knew we had and enjoying their creative company as God’s loving gift that makes our lives more helpful and ‘our’ world a slightly better space.

Revd Dr Donald W Norwood, Ecumenical Research, Oxford

 

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