Yesterday I shared four personal reflections upon my recent trip to Rome. Today I conclude this extended series on missional-ecumenism with four more reflections, thus my numbering of 5 to 8 below.

IMG_3229 5. Unity is variously understood by different ecumenists but all agree we must make every effort for the peace and unity of all of Christ’s church. This is a bottom line concern for those who are committed to such a process. We know we cannot create unity but we believe we are not entering into the fullness of what Christ intended for his people (John 17). Like the ancient church in homes and buildings that were simple and lacked artistic glory we know that what makes Christ’s bride glorious is her living in unity in the fullness of Jesus.

Nate Bacon again summarized a great deal of what we felt about our time in Rome when he wrote the following to our team:

We then held a de-brief together over a bite of lunch

[on Monday, March 14].  I wish we had all been there together! Nonetheless, I expressed my gratitude there, and I express it here, to each of you for being a part of these very significant meetings, and more than that for being a part of birthing a new John 17 reality into our world “from below.” I do believe we are midwives. If it's all about us (InnerChange, ACT 3, Emmaus, etc.) then we're in real trouble. But what excites me is that I think God is giving us a little glimpse of what's coming, what the Holy Spirit is birthing in unexpected places. Ultimately I believe God is calling our little band to become a part of a new community of witnesses to point out that reality, and help bring springtime hope to the Church. What greater blessing could we ask for?

Amen Nate! What greater blessing could we ask for? I believe I have been afforded a great blessing by being allowed to engage in such a huge paradigm shift at such a time in human history. Christ is drawing people from every nation, tribe and tongue and I want to spend my time on loving Christ and his people and entering into this harvest.

Rome 2011 047 6. Our moment in history cries out for missional-ecumenism. Look at the news. Japan, Libya and Yemen. People are asking ultimate questions. The nations are in turmoil. The world is connected and getting smaller by the day. Christians have been given a new kairos moment. What we did in Rome, in the big picture, has no significance to the world or to church history. What we did in God’s plan might be, and I think likely is, much more important than we know. As hearts were made one in the Spirit and cries for mercy still go up the Triune God who is powerfully at work. The world needs a “New Pentecost” and the church must have it if we are to be peacemakers and true lovers of the weak. How I long for my younger friends to grasp this truth since I see so few among my generation concerned at all about our current divisions. The scandal is accepted too easily and I would like to make people uncomfortable with it until they repent and realize the need.

Again, Nate Bacon speaks for me when he summarized:

I closed our de-brief with a thought and a warning which I will share here as well. I see two archetypal symbols in Scripture of unity: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost. I think it can be all too easy to rely on bricks and mortar in building campaigns. Wind and fire are much more slippery! Our Christian hope though is to run with the wind, to go deeper into prayer and silence, to open our hearts to God's gentle nudges and to check our egos at the door. I truly believe we are onto something, something not our own, but in which we are privileged to be in on God's “ground floor.”

I am in complete agreement with this summary. A New Pentecost is longed for by Christians the world over. It will not be limited to one kind of Christian or movement. This is not simply a charismatic move, a Catholic move or a Protestant move. It is a move of God in awakening us to all that Christ is in his supremacy! I want to be at the front door welcoming this renewal of God.

Rome 2011 052 7. I learned again that we cannot connect all the dots if we are going to be real missional-ecumenists. We must be willing to walk where our fears might stop us and go where we haven’t gone before. We must stop labeling everything that we do not agree with and become open to what God is saying and doing. This does not mean that we sever ourselves from core orthodoxy or classical Christianity. Quite the opposite. Here the ancient faith can come to help us restore sanity where it is missing in the divided church.

I quote again from Nate Bacon’s summary:

Temptations will come as this grows.  Let's continue to pray and walk carefully, yet boldly forward. As my Franciscan friend, Fr. Joe Rozansky points out, whenever there is some measure of success in ecumenism, there are always groups ready to hijack it. We should expect that, and watch for it. Even in our own current associations I would encourage us to be mindful. . . . While focusing on what unites us as Christians, building friendships and coalitions, let us take care to not hitch our wagon too tightly to any particular ideological expression. Let us keep our complete and total allegiance to the Kingdom of God as we pray with Jesus that we may “all be One'” so that the world may truly believe!

That says it so well. I am always in danger of hitching my wagon too tightly to a “particular ideological expression.” I need these reminders Nate. So do most Christians that I know. Americans may be the worst at this with the rise of modern technology and the spread of individual expression. Until we are willing to give up our favorite ideologies and pursue Christ’s kingdom first we will never enter into the unity Christ intends for us relationally.

Rome 2011 033 8. I cannot remember who said this but I think it was Mary Tanner. (It may have been one of two hosts at the Vatican.) Either way it was memorable and stands in my soul very powerfully today. We have written piles and piles of paper about ecumenism in the last one hundred years. Now we need more than ever for the Spirit to come and burn up all our paper with his holy presence.

If missional-ecumenism can be reduced to words and concepts then it is clearly not what we need. What we need is supernatural so it must be given by God. You and I cannot create this. Believe me I know this too well. In America I am looking for a handful of folks who really get it with all their hearts. I know when  a person “sees” this and when they don’t. The person who really “sees” it is like the man who was blind. He was healed by Jesus and saw “trees walking.” He saw but then he looked again and saw even more. A missional-ecumenist sees, and then sees more. A missional-ecumenist takes steps that will lead to a broken heart with a vision lifted toward Jesus for the world.

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  1. Greg Metzger April 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Wonderful reflections Nate Bacon sounds like a true gift. I am with you all in this.

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