Friday, March 30, 2012

What's Essential?

The New Oxford American dictionary defines "ecumenical" this way:

  • representing a number of different Christian churches
  • promoting or relating to unity among the world's Christian churches 

OK, seems simple and straightforward. But what does it mean to be ecumenical? To find common ground amog denominations and stay to Christ at the same time, we really need to define what it means to be a Christian. What's essential?

I work for a group called CYC (check it out here) We are ecumenical and had cause a few years ago to look hard at who we are and how we define ourselves. We decided that we are a missional group focused on introducing teenagers to Jesus Christ and helping them to become leaders in their churches. We developed this statement of faith:

We believe in God the Father, who created all things. We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord and Savior. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was fully human and fully God. Jesus lived a sinless life, speaking God’s word to all who would hear; we affirm the eternal truth and relevance of his teachings. He suffered for the sins of humanity, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again, and he later ascended into Heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, which Jesus sent for our comfort and edification. This same Spirit assists our program in its highest purpose, which is to enable and assist others to develop a relationship with God in Christ. We believe in the holy and universal Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life

This statement is heavily influenced by the Apostle's Creed, but we do not considered it a creed out of deference to those among us who are non-creedal. It forms the nucleus of our worship, teaching and programming. 

Actually, we don't stray to far from it in our classes and services. Focusing on these central beliefs, and on building a Christ-like community, keeps us from getting into conflicts over matters on which the wider church does not speak with one voice. The Bible speaks of "disputable matters." We agree to peacably disagree on such things. We strive for humility, gentleness and respect in all things.

I wish we were a perfect ecumenical conference, but of course we aren't. Tensions do surface as we learn to work, live and worship together. We look forward to Heaven and the perfection we will find there. In the meantime, we keep trying.

What's your ecumenical experience?


  1. Since you happen to bring up the topic of ecumenical practice, I wanted to share this with you Melinda...

    Since I owe so much of my development as a Christian to CYC and the protestant community I grew up in (something I, in all honesty, will be eternally grateful for) I thought I might as well confess that it was partially through my life experiences at CYC that I came to understand that Truth is found in unity, not division.

    The main reason why is because of this very idea of diversity in Truth. Truth by its very nature is not subjective, but definitive. I came to realize (again, what I personally came to understand) that Christ knew that this would be a problem since man was inherently fallible; His prayer in Gethsemane is evidence of that notion (Jn 17). This is the very reason why He established a Tradition, His Church that would be the pillar and foundation of Truth because it was promised from Christ Himself to be forever immune from doctrinal corruption by the will of satan [i.e heresy] upon the teaching of Truth.
    (Mt 16:18,19 - 1Tim 3:15 - Col 1:18 - 1Chro 17)

    Throughout the Bible, there is a constant theme of Tradition in an established order, the purpose for which was so Truth could be taught consistently through the generations. It started with the Jews, and it continued with the Apostles (2Thes 2:15 2Tim 3). The reason why Paul wrote all those letters was to keep the newly estsblished Churches in-line with the teachings of the Apostles [i.e His Church]. Upon reading the writings of the early Church, such a glaring emphasis on the necessity of an established traditional order solely bearing the teaching of Truth was clearly evident to me.

    I sincerely apologize if I come off as offensive, that was not my honest intention, and for rambling, but such things are difficult to write in breif, esp for me. However I thought this was a good topic by which to share with you the fundamental reasoning behind the beliefs that I now hold. Also as a CYC alum, I wanted to share with the community as a whole where I am spiritually today and the reasoning behind it, since it was from this community that so much of my spiritual practice were initially developed.

  2. You don't come off as offensive at all, Mitch. I very much welcome your comments and am glad to see you in such a good place spiritually.

    Traditional order does help to teach and preserve truth. I think to some degree God has created us to want consistency in our lives and traditional practices help fill that need. Some ..the Passover celebration, for instance...was clearly instituted by God. And CYC uses traditions such as the Time of Reconciation and Commitment night that way.

    CYC is not a church, though, and doesn't attach itself to anyone denomination, As we reach out to teens, to introduce them to Christ, we have to keep that in mind. I know I have worshipped in Catholic churches and seen in the missalette that comminicants are encouraged to pray for an eventual unity so that we may all partake of the eucharist together without hindrance. I look forward to that level of unity in Christ.