A Conceptual Paper

Throughout the Fall, the Vermont Ecumenical Council has diligently met to council with one another regarding our common life and mission. From the contributions of the Trustees and the Stakeholders emerged at least four vital principles. These principles, drawn from the work reflected in our monthly workbooks, beckon us to live out the mission given to us as a gift and a task in Christ Jesus.

“At the heart of the ecumenical movement is the conviction that there is one church and that its members, however fragmented they may seem, are deeply related to one another thanks to what God had done in Jesus Christ. The ecumenical task, therefore, is not to create unity, but to address divisions of human origin in order that the unity God has given may be visible to the world”

“The Vision of the Ecumenical Movement” Michael Kinnamon


Our reassessment started with three questions: What is the unity we already possess?
What are we in relationship to each other? What can we do together? Each question vibrates with the dynamics of the metaphor of “gathering”.

Our current practice is rooted in gathering: for ‘intentional conversation’ regarding faith and current issues; for prayer and worship; for addressing matters of peace, justice and integrity of creation.

Gathering sustains us in ‘fellowship’ (koinonia). Gathering opens new doors. During this past year, the judicatory heads have met regularly for Bible study and conversation. Recently we became aware of a community where the churches come together for common worship on one Sunday of the month.

The first four goal statements of our reorientation project are:

  • to clarify our ecumenical vision;
  • to assess and strengthen our life as an ecumenical community;
  • to identify and sort through issues that both unite and divide us;
  • to claim an ecumenical model that offers vitality and faithfulness, locally, statewide and globally.

    To these ends, gathering needs to be a critical priority for the life and work of our ecumenical community. This concentration requires us to articulate the meaning of gathering; be alert to existing experiences across the state; to share stories and resources; and to enable as yet unseen possibilities to surface by bringing clergy and laity together.


The Lund Principle states that “given unity in Christ” churches “should do together everything except what irreconcilable difference of sincere conviction compels us to do separately”.
An exercise during our September session [“Formation and Training” and “Local Mission Projects”] reveals that similar patterns tend to be followed by each denomination while, for the most part, planning separately for these ministries.

When asked, “What presently are we doing separately that we could do together but are not?” the Stakeholders [November 17] produced a lengthy list. Asked to select a few top items, and begin to plan, the four groups identified the following: adult spiritual life, family and intergenerational experiences; lay institutes; youth; pooling resources – buildings, supplies, fuel, insurance; joint work on justice issues; communicating a Gospel message through the media. A meeting of judicatory heads or representatives [January 22, 2005] affirmed the inclusion of an agenda focus that opened the way for speaking as one on systemic issues, such as economic justice.

A steadfast focus on the Lund Principle offers many avenues for discovering and witnessing to a visible unity in Christ.


The quest for unity belongs to the entire community. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt. 18:20). This promise is at the heart of our gathering, small group or large. Whatever our tasks or gifts, the pursuit of unity belongs to the entire community.

Within this spirit, every person affiliated with the organization is identified as a member of the Council. Vision, direction and specific projects, among other tasks, become the responsibility of every member of the Council. A job description for Trustees would also include other aspects of governance, personnel and finance.


The principles of gathering, the Lund Principle, and extending the Council require a willingness to be strategic about matching mission with meeting. The session for Stakeholders offers a workable model. Semi-annually, the Council holds a late afternoon meeting [5:00 to 8:00pm]. Carefully designed, the event features prayer, music and worship; small group sessions (committee and/or study); a featured speaker or presentation; a business session; and other elements to serve the needs of the Council. Goals can be framed for six months, a year or longer. This approach allows a process for planning, reporting, and accountability; it will also call for a commitment to and support of staffing needed to achieve these goals.

Trustees hold regularly scheduled meetings between these two gatherings. Standing committees continue their patterns except in the month of the semi-annual meetings (this becomes their meeting for the month).

Telephone (802) 434-3397 ++ PO Box 764 ++Richmond, VT 05477

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