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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies

Receptive Ecumenism and the Local Church: Methodology and Phases

Along with the input from each denomination, our researchers have identified some strengths and weaknesses in each denomination and we have made recommendations for that denomination so that they could find enrichment by drawing upon the ecumenical learning of the other available groups. The central conviction of Receptive Ecumenism is counter-intuitive: we do not set up one example for all the other groups to imitate, but rather we ask each group to identify what kind of organizational enrichment they seek to obtain and investigate whether that can be provided by learning from the good practices of the other groups. In other words, it is a move away from consultancy and a move towards genuine conversation—what theologians call ‘communion’.

Taking the respective mission priorities and commitments of each denominational tradition at a local level, our research mapped the particular cultures and practices of each denomination in relation to three trajectories, which took the form of research groups: 1) Governance and Finance; 2) Learning and Formation; 3) Ministry and Leadership. Our research identified how each tradition may have useful things to learn from another participant tradition to help realise their mission more fruitfully, both independently and together. This research was disseminated through several events that it had stimulated.

The progress of our research went through six basic phases:

  • First, we had to provide a detailed mapping of what is happening ‘on the ground’ in each denomination. To accomplish this, we drew up formal documents and regulations and held initial interviews to identify the processes and structures of each denomination across regional (diocese, district, synod), local (parish, congregation, corps), and intermediate (deanery, circuit, division) levels.
  • Second, we had to empirically test our denominational map through structured interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, in order to identify the strengths and open questions of each denomination.
  • Third, we conducted congregational studies to assess how each denomination responds to declining numbers and the need for fresh structures, new patterns of ministry, and spiritual formation.
  • Fourth, we produced an integrated report of our empirical findings that identified the strengths and weaknesses of each denomination, recommended areas for ecumenical learning, and consulted with each denomination to ensure accuracy and gauge their reactions to our research.
  • Fifth, we tested our recommendations from the integrated reports for theological, juridical, pastoral, and practical integrity, by using the knowledge and methods from non-theological disciplines. This allowed us to measure whether there was sufficient time, resource, and willpower to enact the recommendations from our findings.
  • Sixth, and finally, we disseminated our findings and proposals both nationally and internationally.

To access the data please click here. The page should be password protected, please email Dr Pound at m.j.p.pound@durham for access.