Sharing in local mission is the best path to unity among Christians - that was the verdict of Rev Terry Tennens, coordinator of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland's (CTBI) Building Bridges of Hope project, after a gathering of Church leaders and enablers in Hertfordshire last weekend. "There is much publicity about disagreement within the Churches at the moment," he said, "but this event shows how Christians of widely differing traditions can recognize the impact of Jesus Christ on each others' lives when they get their priorities right." The theme of the Future Church 2003 conference was 'developing shared leadership for a 21st century Church'. It attracted representatives from many Christian denominations from England, Scotland Ireland and Wales - "a number from backgrounds well beyond the range of the existing ecumenical family," observed CTBI General Secretary Dr David Goodbourn. "The BBH project involves 24 'pilot' missionary initiatives and a network of over a thousand people seeking to discover the pattern of tomorrow's Church," says Mr Simon Barrow, Secretary of the CTBI Churches' Commission on Mission, which sponsors Building Bridges of Hope. "Its aim is to show what a big difference long-term, experienced accompaniment - the regular presence of a trained 'critical friend' - can make on local churches." This is the second of a series of Future Church gatherings to explore the impact of everything from the use of 'cell' and 'house church' models within the traditionally parochial Anglican system right through to the re-modelling of leadership in a Roman Catholic deanery and inter-church community initiatives in Northumbria and Scotland. "What's really significant is that we can bring together people from backgrounds as varied as 'new church' and Catholic," says Rev Terry Tennens. "No other project I know of can do that." "We are not trying to drag people into church buildings, we are looking for the fingerprints of Jesus across the community so that we can 'do church' there," added the Revd David Beales from Colchester. Speakers at Future Church 2003 included Archdeacon Malcolm Grundy (Church of England), Dr Helen Cameron (Salvationist), Dr Stuart Murray-Williams (Anabaptist Network) and Ms Lou Ashworth (Methodist/United Reformed Church). The Sion Community, a lay Catholic movement committed to evangelism and renewal, led worship. "If you want to discover what ecumenism will look like in twenty years time, start here," said Simon Barrow.
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