Which 'operating system' do we need for the ecumenical movement?

The opening today of the European Christian Internet Conference in Sigtuna, Sweden, seems like the right time to pose the question of what "operating system" is needed for the ecumenical movement.

It might seem superfluous on a blog called 'Open Source Ecumenism' for such a question even to be posed: surely the answer is clear: the Mac/PC dichotomy is to be transcended through a common appeal to Linux, an open source operating system based on a common core to which people in different contexts can contribute or customize for their local situation. Yet, as John Gibaut, the WCC's director of Faith and Order, pointed out in a recent contribution to a meeting of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, churches currently function with a range of operating systems when it comes to how they understand themselves as churches:
To use an imperfect analogy from the world of information technology, ecclesiology is like a church’s operating system. If we are using incompatible operating systems, it will not be possible to share texts, programs, or even to communicate with one another. “Ecclesiology” is such a specialized term, that I tend not to use it outside of an academic or Faith and Order context, because too many people, even those engaged in the ecumenical movement, are frightened off by the very word! And yet, like an operating system, which is as equally frightening to some of us, it is requisite if we are serious about the visible unity of the Church in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship.
The Christian Internet conference has on its agenda a range of issues. These include, "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies: Institutional changes needed to communicate in social networks", "Do-it-Yourself or join existing platforms?", "The Voice of the People versus the Voice of an Institution".

But are these issues simply questions about how the church relates to information technology? Maybe they also raise issues about the future "operating system" for the nature and mission of the church itself.


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