Ecumenism and an apology


Firstly and before I go on to write about what I want to write about today I want to apologise for being so tardy in publicising the comments everyone made on Foo Fighters and the comment from LettyandDollyin our continued argument about what it means to be Christian (check it out as there are some really good points coming up and we all need to be clear where we stand). I have no good excuses I have just been rather busy!

And now to my main thoughts today. Today I have mostly been thinking about….

Ecumenism – Or why what the Pope said matters

I have lived a slightly unorthodox religious life. I am aware of that. I have worshipped in more churches in my short life than most people even visit. Because my father was in the forces we moved on average every 3 years. Some churches we went to were lively with large congregations, some churches were tiny, my family was the congregation. Some churches used guitars, some had statues of the Virgin and some even used incense. I have been confirmed as a Methodist and an Anglican ( in the same ceremony) I have married a Catholic and I visit a Catholic nun for spiritual direction and take retreats at a Catholic monastery.

With a background like this it is easy for me to see the common ground that we all have as Christians. Everywhere I have been accepted and loved by the Christians I have met – whether we hold the same beliefs about prayer, intercession and communion or not. Almost all liturgies are the same, down to the very words. (In fact our words and structure of worship as Christians are even incredibly close to the structure of a Jewish service I have been too – which shouldn’t surprise any of us.)

The point I am making is that our differences – our liturgies, our approaches, the physical things we hold so closely to that we think make us different from other denominations are really not that different. This is why what the Pope has done recently – allowing a kind of Anglican enclave to be grafted onto the Catholic Church while retaining many of the more distinctive Anglican prayers, liturgy etc to remain – is of great interest to me. It opens the doors to more Anglicans joining the Catholic Church in a kind of half way house move that means they can retain their Anglicanism but take communion with Catholics. And this issue of communion has always been the cause of most emotional worry and concern to me – specifically the refusal of the Catholic Church to allow Anglicans to take communion. The very point where we as Christians are supposed to be united, the unifying meal that springs out of the Jewish statement of identity in the Passover feast, the common action that distinguishes Christians from any other faith group- is restricted We can worship together, we can’t eat together. I feel a bit like the Samaritan woman whenever I go to a Catholic service (which I do quite a bit with my husband).

Why is this important? Well, maybe it will help to start to break down barriers between us. Maybe the stuck in the mud attitude of Forward in Faith to women priests and homosexuals will become the Trojan Horse by which we as Catholics and Protestants begin to discover our common language, instead of focusing on what divides us.

God does what he wants despite us, that is one thing I do know and anything that can draw us closer together should be celebrated. I watch with interest and with hope because when we finally leave this earth I can’t believe the first thing God is going to ask any of us is

“And what denomination are you?”

 

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2 responses to “Ecumenism and an apology

  1. Christians in Agreement

    I am a cradle Catholic with a passion for God and a passion to see Christians worldwide unite together in our battle against our common enemy the devil. Paul says, “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.” (Romans 12:12-13).

    My dream is for all Christians to be in unity as the Lord desires. As the Second Vatican Council pointed out: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Ephesians 4:4-5). For “all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ … for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).

    We know there are obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants in terms of church leadership and theology. However, if we focus on our common beliefs, we would be in a much better position to deal with our common problem…the devil. Simply because we (Christians) attend different churches and have different preachers, priests and pastors does not mean any particular denomination has a more secure path to Heaven than any other true believer in Christ. Unity does not mean uniformity.

    My passion for many years has been Ecumenism (Christian Unity). I am currently working on developing a ministry dedicated to that goal. With the proper motivation, “All things are possible for God.” We are God’s servants and all we have to do is answer His call and begin moving forward…one step at time.

    “Genuine ecumenism is not about convincing non-Catholics to become Catholics, or convincing Catholics to become Protestant – or to pretend that we are not Catholic or Protestant. Ecumenism is an attempt for mutual respect and understanding, a quest for members of different traditions and denominations to honor everything that unites them, even as they discuss respectfully the things that divide them. True ecumenism starts with mutual love and respect.” Archdiocese of Santa Fe

    I see an incredible opportunity to “bridge the gap”, not in a spirit to convert each other but in a spirit of cooperating with each other to present a solid witness for unbelievers and to energize the “lukewarm” (maybe the largest group in need).

    It occurs to me that now, in this climate of social, political and economic turmoil, is the time for all Christians to come together in prayer: “If My people, upon whom My name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

    Unless we come together in great numbers to get the media and politicians’ attention necessary to reverse this Country’s self – inflicted death spiral, we Christians are going to have another accountability issue with God on the day of our judgment. It’s not only what we do, but what we fail to do, that God will be reviewing with us.

    We are facing a “911” situation in the real estate and financial markets. This follows years of moral and spiritual deterioration beginning with the attack on man’s fellowship with God in the 60’s with respect to the erroneous interpretation of “Separation of Church and State”, and the sexual revolution.

    In 1973, the biggest assault by satan on mankind occurred: Roe v. Wade. Since then over 50 million babies have been killed in the United States alone…hundreds of millions worldwide. There has never been a greater violation of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence than this satanic law.

    The Bible says there will be no tears in Heaven. I suspect however they are flowing every day in Heaven as thousands of God’s little precious ones are being killed each and every day in the United States. “You knit me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

    The National Day of Prayer instituted by Congress in 1952 and The Week of Prayer For Christian Unity begun in 1908 by an Episcopal Priest and Anglican Vicar…and today sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church are two popular initiatives. However after one day in May or one week in January, momentum fades and is often lost. As many motivational speakers have said, “Success is not a one day event or a destination but rather a journey.” Ecumenism has to be embraced by the masses in order to be successful. We need to have an “ecumenical movement.”

    Irrespective of our differences let’s focus on three things we can absolutely agree on: 1. Pro-Life 2. Marriage according to God’s will (one man/one woman) 3. Biblical Stewardship (Time, Talent and Treasure)

    If tackling 3 issues at once is a little too much, my suggestion is let’s have Pro-life as the pivot point of our unifying efforts.

    Let’s begin with the basic tenets of our Christian faith – where there is no disagreement…

    1. We are all on a team with Jesus Christ as our Captain. He is the Son of the Living God who came down from Heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit and became man. The Holy Trinity is One God in Three Persons…God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God has no beginning and no end.

    He is omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present. This is a mystery which as Christians we believe with all our heart and may be explained to us one day after our earthly life is complete.

    2. The Bible is God’s instruction manual to His children, inspired by Him and absolutely infallible, written by His chosen servants. “All scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching – for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

    3. Jesus Christ suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent us a Helper, the Holy Spirit…to guide and protect us and to be with us always. Christ will come to earth again…at God’s appointed time. “The exact time is not yours to know. The Father has reserved that to Himself.” (Acts 1:7).

    Christ sacrificed Himself for the atonement of mankind’s sins…past, present, and future. His supreme sacrifice singularly opened the door to Heaven…allowing every human being, though sinners, through free will, the opportunity to enter into the presence of God and be with Him forever in our next life.

    4. The entire Gospel teachings of Christ can be summed up in two commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus said this sums up the entire law, and the prophets as well.

    5. Paul follows in his letter to the Ephesians which to me is the essence of a Christian’s life: “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity (love) be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God Himself.” (3:17-19).

    6. Jesus taught us how to pray: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

    7. As Christians we can all agree on the wisdom in this nugget of truth: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all things be mindful of Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Now let’s examine the root of all our problems…

    We must recognize that there is an active, powerful enemy of God at work in our midst. In fact he used to be on God’s Team. However, he became prideful and haughty, and because of the status he held and the nature of his rebellion, God irrevocably kicked him off the Team. Earth happens to be his current residence.

    We know him by many names…satan, lucifer, devil, prince of the world, the tempter, the evil one, the enemy, father of lies, thief, and many other similar references. Since he knows what his ultimate fate will be, his only goal is to destroy the lives of as many human beings as possible, before God finally says…We are done.

    I think the father of lies and thief may be the best descriptions for satan, given to us by John in his Gospel. As John says, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.” (10:10).

    One of the most effective weapons he uses is divisiveness. Just look at how many Christians so often vehemently argue with each other over differences of opinion.

    Mahatma Gandhi is said to have studied Christianity intensely but declined to become a follower of Christ because he, “knew so many Christians who were so unlike Christ.”

    Christians spend so much time and energy debating the differences among Catholics and Protestants that the common focus and beliefs are somehow diminished and marginalized. We then become a vulnerable target for the enemy.

    Matthew quotes Jesus in his Gospel, “A kingdom torn by strife is headed for its downfall. A household split into factions cannot last for long.” (12:25), and later, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (12:30).

    This is how we fight the enemy…

    Paul says we are engaged in Christian warfare and we must, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires and hold your ground.” (Ephesians 6:11-13).

    Every evil in this world is the result of satan’s activities. We must pray constantly to our Lord that He will prevent the liar from corrupting our lives and the lives of all people around the world. “In all circumstances hold faith up before you as your shield; it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:16).

    Once we allow the Holy Spirit to indwell in our hearts, we can then have the confidence of knowing that, ” Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) and ,”No weapon formed against you shall prevail.” (Isaiah 54:17).

    We know who wins…

    God’s Word says, “The devil who led them astray was hurled into the pool of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had also been thrown. There they will be tortured day and night, forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10).

    But let’s keep him from winning so many battles. “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

    And finally…

    As noted in the agreed upon Evangelicals and Catholics Together “ECT” statement in 1994, “Evangelicals must speak the Gospel to Catholics and Catholics to Evangelicals, always speaking the truth in love, so that ‘working hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . . the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God'” (Ephesians 4:3, 12-13).

    “All who truly believe in Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in the Lord and must not allow their differences, however important, to undermine this great truth, or to deflect them from bearing witness together to God’s gift of salvation in Christ.”

    Pope John Paul II tells us in his 1995 Encyclical on Ecumenism: “In the eyes of the world, cooperation among Christians becomes a form of common Christian witness and a means of evangelization which benefits all involved.”

    When it’s all said and done, “What unites us is much greater than what divides us.” (Pope John XXIII in 1963).

    Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I beg you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree in what you say. Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment.”

    Let us then always reflect Christ’s influence in our lives…at home, at work, at church, and at play.

    Let’s be like Joshua who said, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (24:15). It’s an easy decision.

    As James put it in his letter, “You are a vapor that appears briefly and then vanishes.” (4:14). We need to use what little time we have left in this life to move forward together…in love.

    “I pray for those who believe in Me through their word, that all may be one as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You. I pray that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

    “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:13).

    God bless you.

    Bobby

  2. Thanks for this very detailed response, it means a lot to me that you took the time to write it and be supportive.

    For me the heart of ecumenism rests in the second three points you make about our about fundamental common ground as Christians – God’s intent towards us, the Bible and Jesus’s death and resurrection – and from there to respect each other’s differences. Which as you point out does not mean we will agree with each other. I am sure that some of my liberal views on abortion and homosexuality for instance do not chime with others who are Christians,(mainly because on occasion they have told me so!!)

    But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t able to worship together or learn from each other.

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