Divergent ideas about unity

 — May 24, 199324 mai 1993

from the Western Report 8, no.17 (1993): 44.

Not since the Eastern and Western churches went their separate ways in 1054, with bitter reciprocal excommunications all around, has there been quite so much talk and hope for eventual reunification of the Christian world as there is today. “Ecumenism” has been a focus of much talk between the Orthodox, Rome and the mainline protestants for the past generation. Recent events in Edmonton, however, illustrate that one of the first ecumenical questions to be answered is what the word means. To the established churches it seems to mean talking together, mainly about theology. To evangelical churches it means acting together despite theological differences.

There were no fundamental and evangelical representatives, for example, at the Seventh National Institute on Ecumenism held in Edmonton two weekends ago. The 120 participants came from five of the mainline denominations — Anglican, Lutheran, United, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic. For four days they discussed issues like the “boundaries of ordained ministry” and Orthodox-Catholic relations.

While the mainliners were discussing infant versus adult baptism, the evangelicals of Edmonton were busy preparing for their own interdenominational interaction, the “Jesus Event” on Sunday night. It was billed as a celebration service, and included all the hand-raising worshippers, snappy special music, and enthusiastic Bible-based preaching that a good evangelical celebration should. More than 3,000 Christians gathered in the Agricom to cheer, sing, clap and pray.

Fifty churches from 15 denominations were represented. Alliance, Baptist and Pentecostal Christians were present in abundance, while mainline representation was limited to one Presbyterian, two Anglican and five Lutheran churches. “Everyone was welcome,” says Lyle Johnson, pastor of the Calvary Community Church and president of the Edmonton Ministerial Association. “But this was not planned as a ‘unity in the church’ event. This was like a spontaneous outburst of celebration that came together in six weeks.”

The worshippers were celebrating the completion of their Jesus video saturation campaign. It was a great success in Edmonton, according to David Walker of Campus Crusade for Christ, the muscular evangelistic organization which distributes the video world – wide. In March, 2,300 Christians from 109 churches knocked on 125,000 Edmonton doors offering free copies of the video of Jesus’ life according to the Gospel of St. Luke.

About 26,000 families received the video, 1,000 of them in languages other than English. Mr. Walker estimates that 75,000 Edmontonians have watched it, and preliminary data from follow – up surveys show that 34% of those have come to the faith. “It’s very exciting to watch how things are happening, in Edmonton, and right across Canada,” says Mr. Walker.

Jesus Event organizers also took the opportunity to publicize an upcoming ecumenical event of gigantic proportions. With a trumpet, banners and balloons they announced the June 12 March for Jesus, a worldwide “public praise march.” Last year, more than 600,000 Christians marched in 27 countries. This will be the first such event in Edmonton, but planners are expecting thousands to gather at the legislature grounds, ready to proclaim Christ as they march around the city.

How many Christians of the stand-offish mainline traditions will heed the invitation to join remains to be seen, but like the video project it may turn out to be a primarily evangelical protestant undertaking. “So far, all the planning meetings for Edmonton have been held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church,” points out Pastor Johnson hopefully. “And there’s been a lot of involvement from the Catholic renewal movement.” That movement, however, is not widespread in the Edmonton Catholic Archdiocese.

Rosaleen Zdunich, of Edmonton’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, says that ecumenism is filtering down to parish level. She adds that although only mainliners attended the Seventh Institute on Ecumenism, she hopes evangelical Christians will participate in such conferences in future.

Roman Catholic Father Bernard de Margerie of the Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism says that the evangelicals and fundamentalists often avoid ecumenical discussions because they fear losing their identity. “They’re afraid of Roman imperialists and Protestant liberals gunning for mergers,” he explains. Despite that, he still believes the ecumenical movement is a valuable development and it is moving forward. “More progress has been made in the last 30 years than in any other 30-year period,” he says. “Real ecumenists are not in it for political gain. We should be looking for the unity of the real Christian family, not just being nice to each other but being seen as one Body helping to bring unity to the whole human community.”

Posted: May 24, 1993 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6059
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, Edmonton, Evangelicals, Summer Ecumenical Institute
Transmis : 24 mai 1993 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6059
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, Edmonton, Evangelicals, Summer Ecumenical Institute

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