Thursday, May 15, 2008

Armstrong's "New Ecumenism"

John Armstrong's recent blog post spoke immediately to my "heart issue" of love and respect among Christians of ALL traditions -- C.S. Lewis' idea of "Mere Christianity." Few issues are more damaging to the effectiveness of the Church than the divisions, historical and present, that create unnecessary walls of separation among Christian brothers and sisters from the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. How can we expect to reach a hurting world with the Good News of God's forgiveness, grace, peace, and love when we tear each other down consistently with arguments regarding who is really a Christian???? How do those arguments sound to non-Christians? Can we truly model Christ's love while we criticize other traditions and sometimes even exclude them from the name of Christian?

I have been upset by the anti-Catholic sentiments I have heard in the evangelical church we've attended for fifteen years, but at least they rarely come from the pulpit as they used to under our former pastor. Those comments should indeed tear at our hearts, for how else can we effect change if we are so calloused to such comments that we don't care about unity of purpose and peace among Christian brothers and sisters? Just this week on one of my Yahoo loops, someone mentioned praying for some "devout Catholics" to "know Jesus." One Catholic member as well as myself gently corrected the poster, and she apologized immediately to the Catholic member and to the group. It's an easy trap to fall into when we hear so much negativity regarding the "true faith" of other Christian traditions. A "new" ecumenical spirit is greatly needed, especially for evangelical Protestants as most Catholics I know definitely consider Protestants as Christian brothers and sisters. (In fact, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches just that: Protestants are considered brothers and sisters in Christ to Catholics.)

I appreciate Armstrong's delineation between the "old ecumenism" and the "new ecumenism." The following excerpt concludes his blog post:
The point is this—this “new ecumenism” does not center on liberal theological agendas or conservative political affinity, though this has contributed to it in the areas of abortion and stem cell research, to name just two current moral issues. This “new ecumenism” is primarily a response to John Paul II’s call for a “new evangelization” and the respect that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have shown for the recognition of other churches that are seeking to complete this same task of mission. It has also arisen in the hearts of a multitude of evangelicals who, like me, believe that something has happened in our lifetime and fresh wind is now blowing in our churches that will help us all complete the task of evangelizing the world in the coming decades. We have come a long way since the Protestant Reformation. I am not ready, in the least, to jettison the great gains of that renewal of the Church. But I am prepared to seek unity in ways that help us liberate the Church to do its work with greater faithfulness to Jesus. For this to happen we must pursue one another in love and respect.

Amen and amen!

I strongly encourage you to read the entire blog post by clicking right here. We simply can't be effective evangelists to the secular world if we don't "love one another" (Jesus' command to us!) as Christ loves us.

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