That’s right. I’m a swivel-eyed extremist. I’m a close-minded fool. A totally un-modern man whose quest in life is to encourage hatred among people. At least that seems to be the claim of a mailing I received this week for an up-coming conference.
The conference is run by Free to Believe the liberal equivalent of the Group for Evangelism and Renewal. Their conference title is: ‘Interfaith – The New Ecumenism?’
Here’s where my fanaticism is named and shamed:
There have always been two definitions of ecumenism. In the narrow definition, ecumenism is simply another word for Christian Unity. In practice for the last 100 years the ecumenical movement has essentially been a movement for Christian unity and a huge amount has been achieved. Attitudes have been largely transformed. Denominational differences matter infinitely less than they used to. Apart from a few fanatics, most people no longer care about the labels anymore.
I bolded out the relevant section. I think that classical, Reformed theology and ecclesiology is closest to the Bible. I have serious issues with Baptists (on baptism), Methodism (on the role of man in salvation and perfectionism) and Anglicanism (prayer book, bishops, Roman accretions). Therefore, I am not those things. I believe they are my Christian brothers and sisters but there are important things that separate us. I’ll happily be called a fanatic.
However, it goes on:
At the same time it is now self-evident that some of the hopes invested in Christian unity were misplaced. Many people believed that if denominations united this would lead to a missionary break-through. In fact whatever was keeping people out of churches, it clearly was not the existence of separate denominations. All united churches have declined faster than the divided churches they replaced! No-one can now believe that the Anglican-Methodist Covenant or the creation of the United Reformed Church were decisive events in the remaking of faith. As a result, the movement for Christian unity, while still part of our commitment, has unmistakably lost drive and enthusiasm.
So, those churches who pursued unity have declined. Why? Could it be that in trying to bring about unity we’ve compromised so much that we no longer have anything worth believing or preaching? Notice my objections to other denominations above. They’re all objections to classic forms of those denominations’ practices. Would the average Methodist have any idea what perfectionism is nowadays? That makes my point, I think.
But rather than see the ecumenical project come to an end, Free to Believe want to see the project expanded to include other faiths. I think Private Eye have that project summed up pretty well in their satirical organisation Drawing All Faiths Together (DAFT).
So here I stand. A fanatical Reformed Protestant who believes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can save sinners like me. It’s not cool. It doesn’t make me look clever in the world’s eyes but here I am anyway. Thank God for his wonderful grace in drawing me out of the liberal quagmire and into glorious freedom. And may God bring Reformation to his church.