Well, “that we all may be one,” our Presiding Bishop is in the process of reorganizing the national church center staff — her staff, to be accurate. One part of this is putting the various offices and ministry units together into ministry “centers.” There are four of them — Evangelism and Congregational Life, Mission, Advocacy, and Partnerships.
Ecumenical and interfaith relations are in the Partnership Center along with part of Anglican and Global Relations, Diocesan Services, overseas Covenants, and the United Thank Offering. The idea in the centers is to encourage more collaboration and become ever more familiar with one another’s work. All the units in this Center are involved, in one way or another, in building “partnerships” for mission.
The second piece of the puzzle is the opening of a number of “regional offices” hoping to relate more directly to congregations and dioceses, learning from what’s happening “on the ground” and helping to interpret the national perspective to “the grass roots.” We’ve had a Washington office for years, of course, doing advocacy on Capitol Hill through the Office of Government Relations.
Now, we’ll add Los Angeles (communications and Hispanic ministry), Omaha (ecumenical relations, small churches, and “lay” ministry), Atlanta (African American ministry, some theological education), and Seattle (was to be immigration, but I understand that’s being re-visited).
Of course, whether all this works or not remains to be seen. But my wife and I are now happily ensconced in the home we have owned for years in Iowa and I will relate to the Midwestern office in Omaha as well as some back-and-forth to New York. The Diocese of Nebraska’s Trinity Cathedral has given us the use of three offices and seem quite excited to have some national church staff operating out of there.
Otherwise, my work will remain pretty much unchanged — lots of travel, continuing to relate to the WCC and NCC, staffing bilateral dialogues, and being engaged in interfaith work. I do hope to focus more on “reception” of ecumenical agreements…in other words, trying to help these agreements live and function on the local level.
Crafting ecumenical documents and agreements is important. But if ecumenism is not all about “mission,” it is little more than what Frank Griswold used to call “ecclesiastical joinery!”