Posts Tagged ‘ecumenism’

Will Pope Francis recognize essential unity between Catholics and evangelicals?

August 4, 2015

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina waves as he leaves after praying at basilica in RomeIs this true? If so, that will make the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation more interesting. The fact that it appears in a Catholic publication lends credence to it.

If the Catholic Church will recognize our essential unity in the Spirit in spite of important differences over biblical and ecclesial authority, the Marian dogmas, and the meaning of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, then I’m all for it.

Somewhere in Pope Francis’s office is a document that could alter the course of Christian history. It declares an end to hostilities between Catholics and Evangelicals and says the two traditions are now “united in mission because we are declaring the same Gospel”. The Holy Father is thinking of signing the text in 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, alongside Evangelical leaders representing roughly one in four Christians in the world today.

Is Protestantism still a good idea? (Part 3)

March 23, 2011

Following up on a couple of posts, here and here, I point you to Kevin Hargaden’s post about the “cool kids” switching churches. In the comments section of that post, yours truly said something that will be my final word on the subject, before I return to my happy ecumenical self. I wanted to say this in my earlier posts…

If someone were thinking about abandoning one church tradition for another, how can they be certain of their motives? Have they exhausted the wellspring of their own tradition, such that it no longer offers them any spiritual nourishment? Or are they bored? Here’s my comment.

Well said! I’ve known a few people who’ve crossed the Tiber, and that EWTN show makes me want to puke. The best reason to stay in the tradition in which we find ourselves is the hubris required to leave: “I’m better and smarter and holier than those dumb Methodists [or fill in the blank] who don’t understand how impoverished their tradition is.” Give me a break! Besides, the novelty wears off, right? At some point, in order to grow as a disciple of Jesus, one must still do the hard work of discipleship. Everyone is looking for a shortcut for that, but there is no shortcut.

Open Communion is a matter of “biblical and Christian obedience”

October 22, 2010

So says New Testament scholar and Anglican clergyman N.T. Wright in his book For All God’s Worth. Open Communion is what Methodists, Anglicans, and some other denominations practice when they invite all Christians, regardless of denominational or confessional stripe, to come to the Lord’s Table for Holy Communion. He writes:

The differences between us, as twentieth-century Christians, all too often reflect cultural, philosophical and tribal divides, rather than anything that should keep us apart from full and glad eucharistic fellowship. I believe the church should recognize, as a matter of biblical and Christian obedience, that it is time to put the horse back before the cart, and that we are far, far more likely to reach doctrinal agreement between our different churches if we do so within the context of that common meal which belongs equally to us all because it is the meal of the Lord whom we all worship. Intercommunion, in other words, is not something we should regard as the prize to be gained at the end of the ecumenical road; it is the very paving of the road itself. If we wonder why we haven’t been travelling very fast down the road of late, maybe it’s because, without the proper paving, we’ve got stuck in the mud.

N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 109-10.

About us Meth-heads

October 21, 2010

Not long ago, a young church member asked me specific questions for a school assignment about our Wesleyan tradition, and how we Methodists differ from some other Christian traditions and denominations. He found my answers helpful, and maybe you will, too. (You may also find my discussion of Protestantism and Catholicism, part 1 and part 2, interesting.)

“1. Some Protestant churches don’t celebrate Lent. Does the Methodist church? If so, for how many days do you celebrate it?”

Just to be clear, our church is part of the United Methodist Church (UMC), which is the largest Methodist church in America (and the world). What I’m going to say about the UMC is generally true of any Methodist denomination.

The UMC, along with most of the universal Christian church, observes Lent. It’s a season of spiritual preparation for Easter, which emphasizes penitence (repenting from sin). It lasts 40 days (not counting Sundays). Read the rest of this entry »

Is Protestantism still a good idea? (Part 2)

July 22, 2010

[Click here for Part 1 of this discussion.]

It began as a simple digression. I was teaching a Sunday school class on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.1 I asked the class what they thought about Paul’s devil language in Ephesians 2 (which he returns to elsewhere). Who is this “ruler of the power of the air,” and what does it mean? I asked the class if we—sophisticated 21st-century people that we are—really believe in Satan.

I enjoy asking this question because it generates interesting discussion. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I do believe that demonic forces exist—although I try to treat the subject with the same circumspection with which scripture treats it. The New Testament assumes the existence of demonic forces, but doesn’t say much about how they manifest themselves in the world—not nearly as much as some Christians want it to say. So I don’t try to, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Protestantism still a good idea? (Part 1)

July 9, 2010

My short answer is “yes.”

For a variety of reasons, personal and professional, I have followed with interest what I perceive to be a trend of adult Protestants who are “crossing the Tiber” (as they say) and confirming as Roman Catholics. (I refuse to say “converting” to Catholicism because in my view that implies that Catholicism is a different religion.) Here’s one recent article from the Christian Century on the trend.

Let me hasten to add the obvious: traffic between the two traditions flows in both directions—as the success of Alpharetta Methodist bears witness. We welcome a large number of new members from Catholicism. And we do so with little fuss or fanfare. We Methodists are a pretty laid-back bunch who don’t divide easily over doctrinal differences. Please note: we have plenty of doctrinal differences between and among us, but we don’t easily let them stand in the way of doing the work of Christ, which is far more important than the sign in front of the church building. Read the rest of this entry »