Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Ecumenicalism is a dirty word to many who remember the errors and excesses of the World Council of Churches. It seems to stand for all walls, including doctrinal and theological, crumbling for the sake of the one common denominator: professed faith in Jesus. So that any who simply profess that faith, regardless of anything else, are accepted into the communion.

All too often such faith has been bereft of a commitment to what the faith is said to mean in Scripture and in the ancient creeds. There was good done by this body in social justice along with political statements thought to reflect their profession of faith. Thankfully, in many of those churches the importance of the creeds has more or less been resurrected. Yet there lingers the fear that unity short of the unity found in the faith could trump all else among such bodies in Christendom. (Are any Christian bodies guiltless here?)

There is another ecumenicalism which is in the air today, which refuses to water down at all the basic tenents of the faith. Such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atoning death of Jesus, the Resurrection of Jesus, Jesus' ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers, Jesus coming back. This is an ecumenicalism that refuses to let secondary matters that Christians disagree on squelch Christian unity. Such matters could be the practice of water baptism and its mode, belief regarding eucharist/communion, what Bible a communion uses- including those who carry Bibles containing "deuterocanonical" books, etc.

As the Jesus community, we need to see a communion that is bigger than our own communion. This is a strength within emergent/emerging churches. There is not a one size fits all, or even this is the shoe we must wear kind of mentality. But there is a willingness to be different, at least in practice. Even if, too often, emergents seem slow to want to take a specific theological stance. I think their motives in doing so are good. They don't want to create unnecessary division nor hamper an enculturated demonstration and proclamation of the good news of God's kingdom in Jesus.

God is at work in all kinds of Christian communions today. Jesus by the Spirit seems to come to move on hearts and into lives without paying attention to what church or denomination it is in which he is at work. May we be those who like Barnabas of old are glad to see the grace of God in Christ, wherever it may be. And may we long for a unity that finds its foundation in Jesus and in the Spirit's revelation to us from Scripture. In spite of all other differences. Amen.

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