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By Dana Allin, ECO Synod Executive
An open and on-going question that we continue to ask as a denomination is, “How do we/should we relate to other Reformed/Presbyterian denominations around the world?” We have often answered this question by articulating how we don’t want to relate to other denominations. For example, we don’t want to be seen as a source of financial aid to those denominations (which is good because we don’t have money to give in that way!). In addition, we don’t want to perpetuate mistakes of the past and impart our version of Christianity and denominationalism in cultural structures that might not be helpful. Finally, we don’t want to have paper relationships that are meaningless but would make us feel good because we have dozens of “partners”…but no actual partnerships.
We know that we in ECO want relationships that are truly mutually encouraging and accelerate what God is doing in all of the involved networks and denominations. For example, we have a wonderful, reciprocal relationship with PARS Theological Centre (though it is not a denomination). Many churches have supported PARS financially as well as being involved in some of their retreats. At the same time, PARS has been hugely helpful in assisting us in how we think about theological education and has been a great influence in the establishment of the Flourish Institute of Theology.
Before COVID, conversations were going well with three denominations that were moving toward official agreements with ECO. COVID, for obvious reasons, slowed down the progression of those conversations. The passion behind the relationships has reignited and I am pleased with how three very different denominations are moving toward relating to ECO. First, you will learn more information in this newsletter about the continued connection with the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB). I love the synergy that our relationship is having. We are finding that we can help provide training and encouragement for the flourishing of the churches in Brazil as well as seeing Brazilian pastors and church planters join God’s work among the Brazilians in the US through ECO. In fact several of these Brazilian pastors and lay leaders are enrolling in Flourish Institute of Theology (FIT).
In addition, Egypt’s Synod of the Nile is seeking to have an official partnership with us. Our relationship started not through intentional national connections, but because of the relationships among churches in ECO’s East Central Presbytery to other churches in the Synod of the Nile. In this situation, forming a denominational partnership is proving to provide an ability to accelerate those already organic church-to-church relationships.
Finally, we have been having “under the radar” conversations with some churches and leaders in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. They are facing similar denominal tensions that many of us experienced in the United States. They have decided to pull the trigger to create their own
Presbyterian/Reformed denomination in Canada. They are using many of our documents as templates for their own formation and desire a similar ethos to what we have in ECO. They too desire to be a sister denomination of ECO and we can imagine this partnership could open opportunities for sharing of resources, a potential pipeline of students for FIT, and easy ability for pastors to transfer across boundaries.
I look forward to the development of these relationships. I believe they can demonstrate both the unity of the church and prove to be mutually uplifting for the kingdom of God. I encourage you to pray for these and other emerging partners and their ministries as they are doing the same for us.