The other day I read this fascinating article that articulated some of my own opinions regarding the value of ecumenical meetings. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is apparently questioning the value of ARCIC and similar ecumenical schemes because no one in the church seems to know or care about what they do or discuss! They are irrelevant and no one listens to what these groups have to say about anything. The goal of ARCIC - to help bring about visible unity in the Church - has, after 45 years, run into the sand, he says.
In this article he is noticeably silent about how his own actions as Archbishop of Canterbury in ordaining women to the priesthood of the Church of England helped contribute to the breakdown of ARCIC. How serious can the Anglican Communion really be about bringing about the visible unity of the Church by on one hand trying to bridge some theological gaps with the Roman Church, yet on the other hand taking steps to widen the gulf between the two jurisdictions?
In any case, he does raise a good point about the cost of all of this ecumenical stuff. The Church of England spends almost one million dollars a year on ecumenical projects like ARCIC which produce little to nothing in the way of results. Wouldn't the money be better spent somewhere else? Isn't it better to put ecumenism on the back burner right? In the case of ARCIC I think he has a point. It is a lost cause for the foreseeable future. So why spend money flying folk all over the place for these meetings that will not result in anything? He has a point.
I have often wondered if the continuing churches do not spend more money than necessary flying senior clergy around to different meetings, synods, and organizational conferences. What does all of this result in? Interestingly some of the groups and para church organizations that we send representatives to are lead by laity and clergy who are part of other groups that we send representatives to! There seems to be lots of overlap in terms of who is in each group... and yet each group has its own meeting.
It seems to me we should consider asking the same questions as Lord Carey regarding these ecumenical meetings and endeavors. Are we getting our moneys worth? Do they result in anything positive for the life of the church? More important, do the laity who pay for all of this know what these meetings and groups are for or about? One has to wonder.