Monday, February 11, 2008

good ecumenicalism

Ecumenical was a dirty word in my theological vocabulary for many of my Christian years. It still conjures up a little concern as I know I'm not going to agree with any tradition of the Christian faith, across the board. And while my core beliefs won't essentially change, many of the peripheral ones have, over time. And we may have to pray, question and speak truth in grace at times to various segments of Christ's church (Revelation 2, 3).

But I now see ecumenism basically as a strength, if viewed and acted on according to what we're called to do as Christians. Of course we're called to keep the unity of the Spirit together. And to hold steadfastly to the truth of Scripture and as revealed in Jesus. I believe in God's work in Christian orthodoxy, in giving us the great creeds of the faith. And Jesus prayed that all Christians might be one as he and the Father are One.

The truth of Scripture and the grace and truth in Jesus must be our goal. And a priority in that is that all of God's people in Jesus will love each other in spite of our differences, and will fulfill what God calls us to be, to one another. Of course this must start on a local level. And for me, anymore, it pretty much ends up there. But at the same time, I want to hope and pray for the best for all professing Christians worldwide.

I'm not a Calvinist, but I much appreciate Calvin College and Seminary here in Grand Rapids where I live. It holds to a Calvinist theology (and that's not all bad, in my book), but it does so with a generous ecumenical spirit, open to the best from the Church through the centuries to this day. We see more and more of this spirit and practice among Christian institutions today. Many churches no longer see themselves as the church, and all others inferiors. But instead we're recognizing the richness of Christ's Body in its many varieties worldwide, and right in our own cities and towns.

I know we have our differences, but let's underscore the fact that we are Christians. Not this, nor that. But Christians. Those who belong both to Christ and to each other in Christ (and in his Body) by the Spirit.

What has held you back from embracing a healthy ecumenicalism? What might you add here?


Dave J. said...

Ted--Did you see the story about in yesterday's paper, titled Jimmy Carter's mission still that of peace?

It talks about his efforts to reunite the Baptist denominations, in mission at least. Should be inspiring to your thoughts of ecumenicism.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Ecumenicalism - perhaps, if truly applied to the non-essentials of the gospel, it makes the body of Christ look like an ediface made up of the most beautiful mosaics - each with its own pattern and form, yet woven together to make a bigger picture as the theme of Christ is woven thoughout the many subthemes of our demoninationalism

Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting, Dave. Thanks.

I do admire Jimmy Carter, and was impressed with what I read in a book of his in which the saving gospel, as I recall, was given. And I think his passion for promoting peace and other concerns are all good, and Scripturally based.

I neither like the right wing or left wing of Christian activity, politically speaking. They both ignore important things, and I can't feel at home on either side.

I do have to say that based on what I understand now, I'm much more in agreement with the work to unite denominations than not, and than in the past. I do think, though, that a number have united who no longer see the Bible really, as the word of God, but maybe more like just another good religious book.

Thanks, Dave, again- for sharing that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, Susan. I agree. Sometimes ecumenicalism has been dirty, no doubt. And not something we want to be a part of.

But I like your words, very well put. And so true. It is wonderful, the beauty of the Lord shown in so much diversity throughout the world, like you say it! And Christianity is said to be unique in how its message and faith fits well into all human cultures, of course bringing out the good of those cultures, and getting rid of what is not good. Otherwise we see some of the syncretism that is out there, as you know.


Ted M. Gossard said...

And I want to add to that, the beauty of the Lord comes out in different ways in these differing cultural contexts through churches. Showing many facets of his beauty.

Andrew said...

Ha - you might find it funny, with a post on ecumenism and all, that I'll be attending an Orthodox divine liturgy this Sunday.

It's sad today that "ecumenical" often means "liberal".

Ted M. Gossard said...

That sounds quite interesting and even fascinating.

Yes, I know. We just don't appreciate the richness of all that's out there. But along with that are problems. But isn't that true everywhere! Not to water down what each of us believe. I do like to listen and seek to learn from others of other schools of Christianity,or the Church at large.