Sharing Life with Catholics at Acton University

I love the Acton Institute. I especially love to see over 800 people, from over 75 countries, that gather each year for Acton University in Grand Rapids. Last week was another exceptional Acton University meeting. I hope some of you will try to come in June, 2013.

One of the most valuable parts of an Acton experience is to be with Christians from every part of the world and from every church tradition; i.e. Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. You sit with people from these backgrounds, you share meals together and then you gather at receptions and enjoy a glass of wine and some wonderful food. All in all it is a fantastic week! Even when a presentation is not up to par, at least for my tastes, I enjoy listening to the discussion and interacting with friends, old and new. You attend 12 seminars, four plenary evening sessions and several other unique gatherings, both formal and informal. Students often are subsidized and faculty and presidents can attend on scholarship if they qualify.

During the last year I personally recruited seminary presidents and deans, seminary faculty and board members, graduate and seminary students and business leaders from many backgrounds. This is actually a job that I do as part of our overall ACT 3 contribution to missional-ecumenism. One of the students I recruited is a dear friend named Ryan McGinnis. I have had the joy of teaching Ryan, through a mentoring process, for a course he took at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA. Ryan has a most engaging blog site and is a young man who is finding his “own way” as God teaches him and guides him in following Christ’s way. I believe in Ryan and I believe in his future. I believe that he deeply loves Christ and wants to serve him where God leads. I also know that he is open to learning from the entire Christian Church. He has wrestled with what church to be a part of and why. He has even blogged about this but when he does people show up trying to convert him time and time again. So when Ryan wrote a blog about meeting so many young, devout Catholics at Acton I took a unique interest. These young and zealous Catholics tried to help convert Ryan to Catholicism. (This is very common in such settings. No one employed by Acton has ever tried to convert me or vice versa!) I could not help but think that Ryan’s blog should be read by my own readers, both Catholic and Protestant. Here is a man who asks the really hard questions, but in the end it is the one really important one that truly matters for those who love Jesus, regardless of their church affiliation and ecclesial convictions. Ryan understands my teaching on missional-ecumenism and this blog shows why. You have honored me Ryan but more than this I believe you have listened to your own heart and conscience and the gift of the Holy Spirit is evident here.

Why I Won’t Be Converting–and Neither Should You

Ryan J. McGinnis

I feel like a “Stretch Armstrong” – pulled in directions uncomfortably far. But truth be told, I enjoy this sort of pain. I’m sort of an ideological masochist.

The Acton institute has been a fantastic experience and if you’re concerned about issues such as poverty, the environment, healthcare, and so on, you’ll be surprised at the kind of resource this Catholic institution will provide you.

The conversations shared with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ was enlightening, but I was also exposed to something I thought I left behind: People trying to convert me.

During the course of these exchanges I shared my deep appreciation of the Catholic faith and how it’s contributed to my faith. I was then asked, sometimes in jest and sometimes more seriously;

“Then why aren’t you Catholic?”

For those who then spent hours seeking to persuade me, you provided the answer to your own question.

There is a difference between those who exude Christ when you’re with them, and those who are an ambassador for their institution. In my tradition I am more familiar with the latter. I thought this to be a major flaw with evangelicalism. But alas, it is prominent everywhere.

This is the attitude that we must avoid in striving toward missional ecumenism. That ecumenism is only possible when you just “get with the program and become a part of my denomination.”

Find a place to call home, that affirms and develops your faith and relationship in Christ. Glean from those who contribute to your faith, but do not accept that you, a committed follower of Jesus Christ and member of his body are an illegitimate bastard child because of the tradition from which you come or the tradition in which you do not belong.

Such Christian unity is merely a dog returning to his vomit – ecumenism disguised as unity but perpetuating only of schism.

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