A wonderful step towards true Christian unity over the last thirty years is what has been called the “ecumenism of the trenches” between evangelicals and Catholics. The trenches refers to the culture wars in America, particularly around abortion, and the ecumenism refers to the surprising way that former “enemies” like conservative evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics came to deeper respect and appreciation for each others heritages. Outstanding and enlightening work has flowed from these relationships. In much of the reporting about this welcomed trend, this conservative ecumenism has been contrasted with traditional ecumenical efforts between what are called “liberal Catholics” and “Mainline Protestants”. I found myself ten years ago actively reading work from both these “camps” and I always found these sharp distinctions between ecumenical efforts too simplistic. The liberal/conservative divide seemed like a caricature of the lived reality of America’s religious melting pot. I have been away from these discussions for a number of years and as I reenter it I am glad to see the growing use of the term “missional ecumenism”.
If you have any interest in this at all, a gathering this week in Rome of Protestant and Catholic workers among the poor should be of interest to you. Among the Catholics at the meeting are Deacon John Green of Emmaus Ministries in Chicago and leaders from the fascinating group Sant’Egidio. Among the Protestants attending are the evangelical leader John Armstrong, along with many of the contributors to the IVP book Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars. “Mainline” Christian leaders participating in the gathering include Dame Mary Tanner, European President of the World Council of Churches, and David and Margie Richardson, Director of the Anglican Centre, liaison from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican.
I will be following reports on it closely.