At first glance the very mention of ecumenism, in the same sentence with the word evangelical, seems oxymoronic. Modern evangelicals have a well-deserved reputation for being less than excited about serious, modern ecumenical dialogue. I know this because I have lived my entire Christian life inside evangelical Protestantism, expressed in several different varieties or outward forms.
I have come to see that I am the adult child of a dysfunctional ecclesial culture. My evangelical subculture historically prided itself on being truly faithful to the gospel of Christ, thus entirely separated from those Christians and churches who compromised the gospel that we preached and defended.
I lived, and even preached, among people who loved to quote Galatians 1:6-9 as a kind of war cry:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! (NRSV).
This text was quoted to draw a clear line of demarcation between what we believed and what everybody else believed who was not one of “us.” Sometimes we said this and sometimes we didn’t but in almost every case we believed that we alone preached the true, pure, biblical gospel. We used a quote attributed to Luther that says: justificatio est articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae—”justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.” Though Luther did not precisely say this it is quite close to what he did say. We tie this kind of thinking to the Galatian heresy and then we can say, “We stand on the gospel. They