Monday, May 5, 2008

Cool Posts on Ecumenism

Regular readers of this blog know that God has given me a passion for ecumenism, for if not unity, then at least a willingness for Christians to work together, despite denominations or traditions. As I perused the Internet Monk's site today, I found a great review of a blog post by the "restless reformer" (a.k.a. Travis Prinzi) that Michael was discussing. Several of the quotes he gave rang true to me, plus his own thoughts made me want to get off my chair and dance around the living room. Anyway, go ahead and read them and see what you think. (You can read Travis' entire post at this link and Michael Spencer's Internet Monk post here.)

Travis writes:
This is the Night of Weeping. It’s not a competition. It’s not a battle over who’s got the real church. We can only really discuss those matters when we quit excommunicating each other over them. The real church, the real pillar of truth, is the one that confesses Christ as Paul did. If we don’t weep together during this prolonged Night of Weeping - and weep over our own divisions and schisms and sins against one another - and vow to love one another and uphold the confession of Christ together despite our inability to come to agreement on so many theological questions; if we keep to our own sidelines, pretending we’ve nothing to weep over except the other church’s seeming inability to see how right we are about this or that point of doctrine; if we can’t love one another until everyone who’s “wrong” has repented and signed our confessional document, then the weeping will be greater than it need be.

Jesus is who we confess; He is the truth. Jesus is what holds us together despite our disagreements during the Night of Weeping. Jesus is the one who will return to show us how foolish all of our tightly-reasoned systems of theology were…but when he shows us how foolish we were, graciously and mercifully, there will be little time to weep over it, for the “Morn of Song” will have dawned.

In response, Michael himself wrote:
What’s missing in team-sport evangelicalism is any lament at all over the state of the church. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the primary responses of a follower of Jesus Christ to the current state of the church must be lamentation. Not argumentation. Not ranting polemics. Not denominational apologetics, but lamentation and sorrow that we have made so many things into separators, then exaggerated the importance of those things and insisted that coming to our point of view is the only way to confess Christ.

I think that Michael's response is right-on-the-money. I see little (really, NO) lamenting over the shattered Bride of Christ in evangelical circles. And very little willingness to work with other Christians. The usual response I receive when I mention a certain tradition (usually Catholicism) is that "They're wrong about THIS and THIS and THIS," rather than acknowledgement of our commonalities and a willingness to accept those similarities and view each other as brothers and sisters of Christ and perhaps even work together. I guess I'm a "the glass is half-full" kind of person when it comes to ecumenism. Let's "ac-cen-choo-ate the postive," you know....

At least our evangelical church has put its money and time into service despite (perhaps in spite of) denominational affiliation. Lake Murray is working monthly with a multi-denominational organization, God's Extended Hand, in which we provide an evening meal for the homeless in downtown San Diego, including praise music and a short message before we serve the clients and they eat. Our grilled hamburgers are a huge hit for the homeless population who come to God's Extended Hand, which was started by Anglicans and has churches of many denominations and traditions working together. I just wish that my strength allowed us to serve at GEH; we have helped out a few times, but living 50 miles away from downtown San Diego plus the physicality of the work, combined with my autoimmune challenges, makes it difficult. But my heart is there on the first Friday of each month (Lake Murray's night). One December Father Acker, his wife, and another Alpine Anglican Blessed Trinity member came with us to serve the homeless with Lake Murray. Father took his guitar and jumped right into rehearsing with the worship team while Alice and Martha helped out in the kitchen and with serving the trays to the clients. Ecumenism in action. Pure joy.

But I still see and feel so much resistance in the belief area between evangelicals and other traditions. Even yesterday at our Logos discussion of C.S. Lewis, some of the discussion centered around who believed what rather than how they loved and served God. I was waiting for that notorious evangelical litmus test peep its head around the corner: 1) young earth; 2) rapture of believers; 3) symbolic communion ... you know the rest. Not that these beliefs aren't important, but they are not nearly as important as: 1) loving and serving our risen Christ; 2) having our sins forgiven by His grace and mercy; 3) loving and serving others as a mode of evangelism. It grieves me when the differences rather than the similarities are stressed among Christian traditions. As even the "Bible Answer Man," Hank Hanagraff admits, evanglicals and Catholics who observe the official Roman teachings (the Magisterium) share over 80% of common theology, much more than evangelicals share with more liberal Protestant denominations, in fact.

[Just added a couple of hours later: And after all of this cool stuff on ecumenism, I checked John H. Armstrong's blog and found an excellent article on the "Oneness of Catholics and Protestants." Go read it by clicking right here.(You may have to scroll down to find it.) It's a "DON'T MISS" article, a post right after my own heart. As much as I write about ecumenism, Armstrong is DOING IT! GO, JOHN!]

Well, I had better get off my soapbox and get back to educating my kids. After all, we're just about ready to tackle that "bugaboo" of world history: the Reformation. I want to give the kids a balanced view, both from the perspectives of the Protestants and the Catholics. We'll see how it goes. Time to ring the brass bell mounted on the porch post, call in my squirrely students, and get back to "reality" rather than my hopes and dreams regarding ecumenism....

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