Last Thursday morning Pastor Andrew and I attended the gathering of the Christian Leaders Network (CLN) here in Toowoomba. It’s a weekly gathering of pastors and para-church leaders for worship and prayer. There are generally some forty people that come every Thursday morning although I’ve been to some meetings where there have been more than seventy Christian leaders present.
It was great to be able to introduce Pastor Andrew to the other church leaders in Toowoomba and for him to meet some people with whom some from our church have had good fellowship over the years, such as David and Hazel Blair who are now retired.
In our city CLN is just one of several forums for ecumenical contacts. Here in Glenvale we have an active Ministers’ Association. It’s a very small gathering of just half dozen of us representing the churches that are located in the Glenvale area. Out of that came the Combined Churches’ Glenvale Carols event that has run every December for the past six or seven years. Then there is also a the larger Toowoomba Ministers’ Association which oversees the work of Scripture classes in state schools, the Thursday Sermon in The Chronicle and various other events such the involvement of Pastors in Anzac Day services and the services run during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
I mention this here because many of us are not aware of this aspect of a Pastor’s work – his involvement in the wider community.
In many ways Toowoomba is rather unique. In two previous places I have served as a pastor there was no existing network of Christian leaders. That made it difficult for the churches to have any kind of combined impact on society. Here in Toowoomba our very good networks have made possible a number of ecumenical events. I think for example of the visit of John Smith and God Squad to the schools of our city back in the early 90s. It also led to the present Easterfest and its precursor The Christian Gospel Music Festival.
In all of this it is natural that one has some reservations. I could mention many concerns that I have and yet… for me the positives outweigh the negatives.
There are those churches who decline any involvement with other churches and pastors who refuse to fellowship with other pastors. There is something sectarian about that. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a catholic church – and that word catholic simply means universal. When we as ministers involve ourselves (and sometimes our congregations) in ecumenical activities we are giving expression to the catholicity of the church.
There are also those who want to push the ecumenical agenda too far. They want to make our ecumenism an inter-faith activity that includes Buddhist and Muslim clergy. I’m thankful that by and large our ecumenical interactions in this city are unapologetically Christian. On a personal level I find that my unity with my inter-church colleagues is a unity based on the gospel. We wish to see Jesus honoured and His saving work proclaimed. In a fallen world that goal will always be imperfectly realised but it’s an ecumenical goal worth continuing to strive for.