The Iona Community and the ecumenical movement: External influences and internal changes

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Victoria Turner
William Gibson


This article teases out the relationship between the Iona Community (founded 1938) and the ecumenical movement (both nationally – Scotland and the UK – and internationally), and the steps the Community took to enable itself internally to be more ecumenical. The first part of the article reviews the original brief of the Community – a missional ‘brotherhood’ that would work for the Church of Scotland’s Church Extension Scheme, using the base of the Iona Abbey as a training ground. Yet the Community quickly caught international missionary and ecumenical attention and the project was drawn beyond this original framework, becoming engaged in missional and ecumenical endeavours in and beyond Scotland. The second part of the article reflects on how these alternative engagements questioned the internal diversity of the Community, and how young people, lay people, ministers from other denominations and finally women pushed for their involvement in the originally male, clerical body. The article ends by drawing upon the work of Aruna Gnanadason who argues for a new paradigm of ecumenism that shakes the patriarchal, clerical powers of church boundaries and embraces realistic, messy, diversity in church bodies as the starting place for ecumenical endeavours.

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