We caught up with Paul Goodliff recently to ask him a few questions about his new role with Churches Together in England and to share his hopes and prayers. Gather’s vision for unity across the UK includes blessing and partnering with existing organisations that share the same heart for unity. So we are looking forward to collaborating with Paul and CTE in the future.
Tell us about your new role with Churches Together
I am the newly appointed General Secretary, with responsibility for leading the team that delivers what our member churches, all 47 of them, require of us. I have worked at local church, regional and national levels for the Baptists, but never before in a national ecumenical role.
What in your background has prepared you for this role?
Throughout my ministry I have been ecumenically-engaged, from local pastorates in Streatham and Stevenage to General Superintendent of the Baptist Union’s Central Area and Head of Ministry at the Baptist Union. Since 2000 I have been a World Council of Churches’ team member in the Joint Consultative Group conversations with worldwide Pentecostals, and currently its longest serving member. We have seen a real growth in relationships between Pentecostals and WCC member churches over these past years. I grew up an Anglican, served in ministry as a Baptist, (both charismatic and catholic) and so, you could say, my own story is an ecumenical one.
What’s your vision for Churches Together?
A recent report commissioned by Churches Together in England(CTE) and delivered by Theos, identified that our member churches (which include all the major historic churches in England, many of the Pentecostal as well as some of the new churches) want us to focus upon the missional task that faces the Christian community in England. This includes evangelism, social concern and speaking with a united voice into the ‘public space’ where our society speaks together. My vision is that CTE will enable this concern to be realised, and that together we advance in a more coherent and united way in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
What are the biggest strengths and opportunities for Churches Together?
We represent by far the majority of Christians in England — Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed, Anglican, evangelical and Pentecostal, and Black-led and majority churches — among others, and if we can work and pray together in much more united ways, then we have the means to fulfil together the great commission of Jesus Christ in our time and nation. If we can find ways to think ‘mission together’, and imagine what our mission might like look like together at the earliest stage, then we can be much more effective in pursuing the gospel task that every church in every generation should be committed to. Of course, everything is also utterly dependent upon God’s grace and the empowering of his Spirit, but together we place ourselves in a more receptive place to respond to that gracious direction and empowerment.
What are the biggest challenges for Churches Together?
There are major ethical issues that divide the churches — especially those related to human sexuality — and if we do not listen carefully to God and to one another, those divisions can become more significant than the primary call to unity and to work together in the purposes of God to make his love and grace known to every creature. It requires the primacy of ‘love for our brothers and sisters in Christ’ to avoid the ways in which we can be divided on secondary matters, and a great deal of careful and loving listening to find a way through. Nothing would delight those who wish us harm — what St Paul describes as principalities and powers, as well as human forces that want us divided and disempowered — than to see us divided on things that are raised to a disordered significance compared to the one thing necessary: to love God with all of our heart mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves, making the saving purposes of God known to our society.
How do you see Gather and Churches Together relating in the future?
We have much to engage upon together, and I absolutely believe we need one another. Gather has a reach in many of our urban communities that brings to fruition what CTE desires everywhere, and the passion, prayerful commitment and collaborative mission embodied in Gather really puts into practice what CTE desires everywhere. On the other hand, CTE represents communities and churches throughout our nation that is far more comprehensive than Gather can reflect at present. You might call this ‘historic ecumenism’ and ‘the new new ecumenism’ and we can really benefit from working as closely as possible. Christ prayed for it, the Father wills it, and the Spirit enables it, so the least we can do is put our hearts behind it!
What can we pray for you?
The task of leading CTE in a new chapter is challenging and demands from me resources of wisdom and grace that can only come from the Spirit of God. So pray that I might be receptive to God’s leading, open to his empowering and thankful for all of his gracious work in and though me. If I achieve anything, it can only be because of Him.