What’s in a name?

In our latest blog, newly appointed vice-chair of ECCR Fr Simon Cuff reflects on what’s in a name and what it really means to be the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. 

These are exciting times for ECCR. Sarah has joined us as Executive Director. We have appointed a new part-time grant-writer. We are blessed with an excellent staff team driving our core purposes of education, action, advocacy, and engagement of individual Christians, churches, denominations, and with the corporations we were founded to hold to account. We are soon to be appointing a new chair to build on the legacy of our outgoing chair, who has overseen a transformative period in the life of ECCR. 

Transitions are a good time to reflect on foundations and core purpose. What does it mean for us to be the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility? ‘Ecumenism’ usually refers to efforts to unite and work across some of the divides that exist between different Christian groups and denominations. 

Towards the end of the twentieth century, the ecumenical movement flourished as traditional denominations sought stronger relationships and closer ties. In the twenty-first, ecumenism has sometimes been regarded outdated or irrelevant to a new Christian landscape which sees the flourishing of independent churches, growth of networks across denominations, and looser ties to traditional denominations on the part of individual Christians. 

In such a landscape, what does it mean for ECCR to be the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility? How do we live out the ecumenical aspect of our ‘charism’, the particular spiritual gift we have been given for the sake of the Church and the world? What does it mean to have a vocation to be ecumenical amidst the range of Christian groups that exist to promote justice so that it might roll down like waters and achieve more than the trickle-down stream currently allows?

We might be tempted to think our ‘ecumenical’ commitment is a sign of our legacy, a sign of our origin at the end of the twentieth century and our long history of holding corporations to account and inspiring Christian involvement in God’s work for justice in the world. 

A look at the roots of the word ‘ecumenical’ helps remind us of the centrality of ecumenism to our vocation. The word ‘ecumenical’ in its modern usage stems from its use to refer to all known Christian peoples, which in turn stems from its original meaning of ‘the whole known world’. It’s in this sense the term is used in Luke’s Gospel when a degree goes out from Caesar Augustus, that the whole known world should be taxed (Luke 2.10). The root of this term is oikos in Greek, meaning ‘house’ or ‘habitation’, so we can say that ecumenical originally meant something like ‘wherever people are known to live’.

The same root, oikos, lies at the heart of another term we use today and is at the heart of our work at ECCR: ‘economy’. From this combination of the Greek words for ‘home’ and ‘management’ or ‘household affairs’, we get our word ‘economy’. It’s used in this sense in Luke 16.2-4 to describe the stewardship of the dishonest steward and elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the ‘economy’ of God which is entrusted to us as servants of the Gospel (e.g. 1 Cor 9.17). 

‘Ecumenism’ and ‘economy’ share this common root: ‘oikos’ or home. These threads point toward our vocation and the next stage of our life as ECCR. To be ‘ecumenical’ means we seek to engage the entire Christian community, individuals and churches from each and every denomination and Christian expression. 

To be ‘ecumenical’ means we recognise the global nature of many of the issues on which we seek to inspire action and encourage advocacy and the capacity to act alongside the poorest and marginalised, recognising that the impact of injustice reaches throughout ‘the whole known world

To be ‘ecumenical’ means we educate Christians to manage their household affairs and everyday finances to build up the common good, to make everyday economic choices contribute to a just global economy and the ‘economy’ of God to which we are called, to encourage corporations to be just stewards of resources and to hold them to account.  

To be ‘ecumenical’ means connecting each and every household of faith to the quest for justice which does not just trickle but runs down like waters across the entire global community and to each and every house and habitation. 

To be ‘ecumenical’ means each and every Christian has a part to play. Join us.

Fr Simon Cuff

Fr Simon Cuff

Fr Simon Cuff is a Tutor and Lecturer in Theology at St Mellitus College. He studied Philosophy and Theology and Jewish Studies at Oxford University. He has recently been appointed vice-chair of ECCR.

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