Ecumenical, progressive and universal

The Brazilian ecumenical movement, under the National Council of Brazilian Christian Churches, held an inter-religious breakfast Aug. 4 in Brasilia with non-Christian religious groups, including Wiccan and spiritist groups. The council includes among its members the Roman Catholic Church, plus some Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Syrian Orthodox denominations, one of each, for a total of five. The object of the breakfast was to create a work agenda toward establishing a forum for religious diversity in the Federal District.

• Wonder why they didn’t invite the local atheist association? Inclusivism draws no lines. Many of these people have little core belief. Many of them are probably universalists who believe that God will save everyone. Such people are among us as well and teaching in Christian universities. They probably edit out references to hell and Jesus’ diatribes and condemnations. Except for those who would draw lines and build walls. There’s probably a hell for them (us).

• Reminds me of something I read last week. One of our (should I put that in quotes?) universalists doesn’t like liberal and conservative labels, and, for vastly different reasons, I agree with him. His choice of terms: ecumenical and sectarian. As if those were an improvement, neutral tags to avoid pejorative jabs. Nope, these terms are as loaded as can be. Does “sectarian” ever, in any sense, carry a positive connotation? But ecumenical mean being open, willing to dialogue, accepting of others, the positive, warm-fuzzies religious term for postmodern man.

• To be charged with being a sect isn’t new. What is new is that the accusation comes from within our midst as well as without. That’s why, in spite of the heartbreak of losing friends and connections and the sorrow at seeing people abandon the true grace of God, it is a good that they separate themselves from the fellowship of the saints. They are removing themselves from our midst, and to avoid them having a wider influence, we pray this movement away may accelerate.

• John the apostle recalls similar movement of those who went out from us because they did not belong to us (1 John 2:19). Those who abandon us are those who fail to retain what was heard in the beginning (verse 24). These are simple yet powerful truths. The original message (yes, there is a pattern, Margaret) must remain, and we with it.

• Such a message, however it may be packaged, will never make anybody’s bestseller’s list. As a political example for you, The New York Times has even reshuffled its list to keep books from appearing with which its owners and editors disagree. Liberals and progressives don’t have to be honest; they just have to keep those who don’t buy into their philosophy locked out of the room. But they want to invade our spaces to shout down the truth. Witness the Occupy movement as a good example, again from the political realm.

• But back to our own spiritual spaces. Let us keep our homes and congregations and ministries free of progressive intrusion. Let our message be clear and simple, unaffected, free of bitterness and ambition. Let our attitudes be humble yet firm, merciful but true to the gospel of Christ. Who knows but God may allow us to save some from the fire, “coupled with a fear of God, hating even the clothes stained by the flesh” (Jude 23).

#church-of-christ, #ecumenism, #religious-progressivism, #universalism