Monday, February 2, 2009

Another Take on Ecumenism

John H. Armstrong has done it again. He's given me more ideas to ponder regarding ecumenism, or what he calls "the new ecumenism." What's "new" about his ideas regarding ecumenism? For him and others in the most recent stages of the movement, ecumenism isn't about compromising doctrine the way is was in the 1970's and 80's. Ecumenisn now is about celebrating what we have in common with each other and not attempting persuasion about those (minor) items on which we don't agree. As I've mentioned on this blog before, even the conservation "Bible Answer Man" states that evangelical Christians and Catholics who follow the Magisterium (official Church teachings) share 80% theology in common. 80%! Or, as is often heard in evangelical circles, we need to "major on the majors" and focus on what we hold in common.

During the month of January, I noticed several of the Catholic blogs I follow posting thoughts and prayers on ecumenism. John Armstrong noticed this as well while listening to Catholic radio last Saturday on a long drive. He states on his blog:

"One priest I heard last Sunday noted that we are in the same family. He served a small parish in Kentucky, in and among a predominantly Southern Baptist context for decades. He observed that you can't be the family of God and remain isolated from one another. But how can this happen, given our real and serious differences that still remain? He said: 1. We can worship together. (Much of what we do can be done except for the Mass he correctly observed.) 2. We can find and form deep relationships. This has proven to be the very best way that I have found that I can be a part of the whole family of God. I cannot change the big picture but I can make a small contribution to the family in small and faithful ways. I have many deep relationships with Catholics who love Christ as much or more than I do. This includes both priests and laity."

For the entire post, you can click here: John H. Armstrong.

On my friend Sister Spitfire's blog, I also read several posts that prayed for ecumenism as the Catholic Church celebrated an Octave of Church Unity. (An octave is eight days of prayer for a certain cause or celebration.) Here's the link to one of her posts: Christians Faced with a Plurality of Religions If you go to her general blog, not just this page, you can read other posts written during the octave. Pretty cool, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I'm going to be seeing Brian McLaren on Friday night at Point Loma Nazarene University's Writers Symposium by the Sea. His views on ecumenism are quite "new" along with his views on the postmodern Christian. I haven't read any of his books, just an article or two here and there. But I look forward to what he has to say to challenge Christians of the 21st century to band together, to realize that despite some theological differences, we really are on the same side. The one we should be fighting against is the Enemy who delights in sowing discord and separation wherever he roams.

In my opinion, we need to be united against his wiles, prepared to "fight the good fight" side by side with Catholic Christians, Eastern Orthodox Christians, "mainline" Protestant Christians, Pentecostal Christians, Anglican Christians. As long as we worship Jesus, the Son of the Living God who died and rose again to save us from our sinful natures, as along as we agree on the truth of the Nicene Creed, then we're on the same side, no matter how strongly Satan tries to tear us apart and destroy what Jesus prayed for in John 17.

I have good friends who are Catholic, and they teach me a great deal about loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I have friends who are Orthodox, and I love learning how to truly worship and listen at his feet like Mary did. I have many Anglican friends, especially at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, plus Father Acker himself, who are teaching me how to submit my will to God, to worship in spirit and in truth, and to pray His Word for myself, for others, and for the world. And I have evangelical friends who teach me to value His Word, to pray for one another, and who offer sweet fellowship. I have Pentecostal friends who teach me to surrender all I am and all I have to Christ.

We need to be open to other traditional within Christianity, willing to listen and to learn, willing to pray and to fellowship. Just because other Christians may worship in ways that seem foreign to us doesn't mean that they aren't worshiping Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Only God truly knows if each of us is pleasing Him with our prayer and worship. The other traditions of Christianity have spurred me on to love and good deeds, and we know them by their fruit. I am blessed in having fruitful friends of differing Christian traditions who show me through their words and actions that they are ambassadors of Christ to a world sorely and sadly in need of Him.

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