The Rise of Ecumenism and Why It Matters

images-3A little over 100 years ago the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh (1910) was a prophetic foretaste of a century-plus renewal of Christian ecumenism, a renewal that has proved to be quite substantial on many different levels. If the truth is told I believe we have made more progress than the participants at the famous Edinburgh Conference imagined at the time. I also believe the last century is a prelude to what is to come in the decades ahead.

We must begin by stating the obvious–full visible unity between the various Christian churches and denominations has not been realized. Nevertheless, Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox have all found ways to reach new levels of understanding and mutual respect. Christians in the global Anglican Communion, to cite but one example, have made significant contributions as a via media (middle way). Even a growing number of voices within the Free Church communions have joined this dialogue. One could say that a rapprochement has been reached that would not have been seriously thought possible at Edinburgh.

The World Council of Churches (WCC),

Max Boot's "Twelve Articles" on Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism

Colonel Roger Trinquier (1961) said, “We . . . attack an enemy who is invisible, fluid, uncatchable.” Perhaps no statement included in Max Boot’s masterful history of guerrilla and terrorist warfare better sums up what we have faced since 9/11.

imagesHistorian Max Boot concludes his massive tome on guerrilla and terrorist warfare with a postscript called: “The Lessons of Five Thousand Years.” In 1917 T. E. Lawrence wrote an essay called “Twenty-Seven Articles” which summed up many of the lessons that he had learned as an insurgent fighter. Boot provides twelve articles that sum up the lessons we can learn from Invisible Armies. I will not develop each one extensively but provide some brief comments.

1. Guerrilla Warfare has been ubiquitous and important throughout history.

Much of the world’s population lives in states whose current boundaries and forms of government were determined by insurgencies waged by or against their ancestors. This is not just true in the two-thirds world. Think of the United Kingdom. It is united because the English defeated the Scottish and Irish insurgencies. America is united because

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

UnknownMax Boot’s new book, Invisible Armies (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), presents an encyclopedic survey of guerrilla warfare in a readable, vivid narrative that has to be the comprehensive work on the subject. I confess that I would never have read a book on modern warfare had it not caught my eye on the “New Non-Fiction” shelf in my public library. But there it was – “speaking to me”– so I decided to give it a go. I did not read it word-for-word, and frankly felt no desire to do so since I did not buy the book @ the list price of $35.00. (This is one of the many advantages of using the library since I do not feel “guilty” when I dip into such a big book and browse only what truly interests me!) End notes and text make the book come to exactly 750 pages!

Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and

Evangelism, Evangelization and Missional-Ecumenism (4)

images-1Over the last three days I have written about evangelism and evangelization, from both a Protestant and Catholic perspective. I have attempted to show the meaning and importance of these respective terms and the theology that lies behind both of them. But what has all of this to do with ecumenism, or with what I call missional-ecumenism?

John Paul II answered my question clearly when he wrote: “How many internal tensions, which weaken and divide certain local churches and institutions, would disappear before the firm conviction that the salvation of local communities is procured through cooperation in work for the spread of the Gospel to the farthest bounds of the earth!” I recognize that the pope was primarily writing about local Catholic parishes but when you see his view fully you will soon realize that he embraced ecumenism as a necessary part of the work of global evangelization.

John Paul II believed that this new evangelization is connected with “entering a new missionary age, [one] which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians, and

FDR's Holocaust Legacy – A Lesson in the Failure of Moral Courage

imagesPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt was, and still is, one of most admired and esteemed presidents in American history. I grew up hearing a lot of good things about FDR. I also heard some bad things from those who felt the “New Deal” created the modern welfare system with all its contested problems. One thing is certain, FDR’s name was esteemed by most scholars and ordinary Americans who lived through the Depression and the Second World War. Rarely could you get a serious taker for a critical debate on FDR’s accomplishments, at least not among those who loved and adored him as a president.

When FDR died on April 12, 1945, Americans grieved deeply as a nation. His picture hung in millions of homes. He was lionized by multitudes and is still considered by a large number of people to be one of our five best presidents. Amazingly, he is the only president to have served three full terms in office. He had just been elected to a fourth term less than six months before he died. (Constitutionally no

Understanding our Exilic Missional Context: Evangelicalism and Liberalism in Twentieth Century America

Most historians and religion scholars now agree that by the twentieth century liberal Protestantism had led to a mainstream Protestantism that was vague, theistic and excessively nationalistic. In a profound sense, concludes British Christian Studies scholar Linda Woodhead, “liberal Protestantism’s triumph can be said to lie to some extent in its disappearance; it dissolved into the blood stream of American culture” (An Introduction to Christianity, 261). I think this is one of the most important single sentences in all that I’ve written in my recent posts about the growing unimportance of Christian faith to most Americans, especially the youngest Americans.

In contrast to this shrinking of Protestant faith the evangelicalism of Moody and Sunday gave rise to a more combative counter-cultural movement that was built on opposition, opposition to liberalism. These more conservative and populist movements produced battles over science in the first half of the century and then battles over political control of the nation in the second half, but I get a little ahead of myself.

booksLinda Woodhead begins her chapter on twentieth-century Christianity, in her most

Lincoln on the Big Screen (5)

Since the new film “Lincoln” deals directly with the passage of the 13th Amendment, and the abolition of slavery in the United States, scholars and pundits of all sorts are asking new questions about both Lincoln and slavery. I welcome this dialogue and actually pray that we might see a little more light and a lot less heat. Rhetorical bombs, made out of deep anguish and the pain of our collective story, often begin to fly when we engage profound American tragedy like the slavery, the Civil War and the life of our sixteenth president.

“Lincoln” rightly shows that Abraham Lincoln understood that equality before the law would not easily translate into human equality in 19th century America. Our modern concepts of equality were held by some in Lincoln’s time but held only dimly in contrast to what we believe and understand about the matter today. Lincoln advised Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps the strongest abolitionist in the House, to “avoid the swamps” in making his case. Stevens’ radical allies were appalled at his demeanor during the House

Lincoln on the Big Screen (4)

When producer Steven Spielberg began to talk with script writer Tony Kushner about his project to do the first serious film on Abraham Lincoln in seventy years their ideas began to coalesce when Spielberg asked, “Why don’t we make a movie about passing the 13th Amendment?”

So it is that the new “Lincoln” film came to be about only one month–January, 1865– in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

In January 1865 Lincoln had just been re-elected. The war drug on but was nearly won. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by the president as a special war powers act, abolished slavery but only within the areas of the U.S. that were “in rebellion” against the Union. There was serious question whether this war powers act, an general emancipation, would hold any legal force once the war had ended.

It is worth noting that the intense struggle to pass the 13th Amendment is confined to only five pages of 754 in Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals. So this film may owe something to Goodwin’s great book, certainly in terms of its inspiration,

Lincoln on the Big Screen (3)

The screenplay for the new “Lincoln” film was written by Tony Kushner (photo at left). Kushner began writing for the screen in 2000. He previously co-wrote the screenplay for “Munich” in 2005, a film also directed by Steven Spielberg. Kushner, who is a secular Jew, is widely known for his criticism of religious extremism in Israeli politics, which has created some controversy within American Jewish circles. His written work includes scripts dealing with homosexuality and he legally married his same-sex partner in 2008. For some this is enough to make them suspicious of this film. I assure you there is no logical or palpable reason to draw such a conclusion.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, whose work I have often praised on this blog, wrote a November 29 “Evaluation” in the New York Times about the Lincoln film.

In the wide-ranging online conversation about Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s “Lincoln,” it’s been interesting to watch the movie be praised and criticized for the same artistic choice: Its determinedly narrow focus on the month or so

Lincoln on the Big Screen (1)

In Steven Spielberg’s new movie “Lincoln” we get a powerful glimpse of one small period in the life of President Abraham Lincoln, a period of only a month just before his death and right after his re-election to a second term (November 1864). The film opens in January of 1865 with an appropriate scene of the carnage of the Civil War. This terrible struggle is still being actively pursued by both sides. The south was near the end but would not yet surrender. Negotiations for peace are ongoing in private. Quickly the viewer is brought into the two major struggles that the president faced in early 1865: the end of this long, bloody, bitter war and the permanent end of slavery with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.

As many of you may know by now this movie is based, in small part at least, on the popular book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin. Several other Lincoln scholars, several of whom I have had the privilege of knowing