In our Catholic-Evangelical Conversation at Mundelein Seminary last week Doug Birdsall, the former chairman of the Lausanne Movement, helped us to focus our attention on the major purpose of our gathering by reiterating the six core principles of the Lausanne Movement that came out of the global Cape Town gathering in October, 2010. These six are:

  1. The uniqueness of Christ and the Holy Scripture in a growing global context of pluralism.
  2. Seeking Christ’s way of reconciliation in a broken world.
  3. Unity and partnership between all Christians.
  4. The great need for Christian humility, integrity and simplicity (H.I. S.)
  5. The reality and power of globalization.
  6. Our response to other faiths as faithful witnesses to Christ as Lord.

Doug reminded us that when these six principles were shared with Catholics, and leaders from the Orthodox Church, at Cape Town again and again they spoke of their agreement. Cardinal Kasper made it clear these were his priorities as a Catholic leader.

One of the major things we discussed in Mundelein was what we called “The Christian Moment.” We believe that the church faces a series of challenges like never before yet we also believe the opportunities we have are, perhaps, the greatest in Christian history. We eschewed both optimism and pessimism, preferring to talk about the power and reality of Christian hope, a hope rooted in the resurrection and the power of Christ to remake a new world; Colossians 1:15-20. We are neither relativists not absolutists. We believe utopia offers nothing but more heartache but people the world over are searching deeply for a center and Christ is that center.

We also talked a great deal about the failures of evangelicals to accomplish Christ’s mission in the world because we became focused on faith and politics when the real focus needed to be on Christian faith and public life/culture. The next generation is rapidly falling away from the churches of North America but we believe there is a profound evidence of hunger and searching that makes this new mission to this generation a great challenge that has incredible potential if the church can be made aware of how to do mission again.

One of the ways we see this happening is in gaining a new understanding of service as the entryway to the millennial generation. This generation wants to deal with big, harry audacious goals; e.g. global hunger and poverty, the sex slave trade and freedom and justice for the oppressed. If Christians will learn to serve alongside of this generation we will find that they are increasingly open to hear our message of good news. If this pathway is followed then discipleship must be understood not as a point, or a one-time decision for Christ, but as a journey, a transformative process. It is not a singular moment but a series of steps toward a goal, the goal of new life through faith in Christ alone.

What surprised us, again and again, was just how much evangelicals, especially younger evangelicals, really share with their young Catholic peers. Walls created by five centuries of hostility and war are now falling in many parts of the world. (There is so much more to be done but we do not doubt that walls are truly falling, both informally and formally!) Toward this end we asked, “Can Catholics be an active part of the Lausanne Movement?” The answer, given that Lausanne is a movement not an ecclesial organization, is that there is no reason we can see why this can not, and should not, happen. Such a movement for global evangelization rings true with the goals of the last three popes who have all promoted the “new evangelization.” The consistency of this vision with the legacy of the founders of Lausanne, Billy Graham and John R. Stott, is striking to us all.

We also asked, “Should we use the word evangelical in the way we are using it?” Given the Catholic commitment to evangelization, and the core principles of the Lausanne Movement as I have summarized them above, are we not all “evangelicals” in the fullest and best sense of that word? One of our Catholic participants directs a mission to students called Evangelical Catholic! That says it all. What we might better say is that we are evangelical Catholics and evangelical Protestants and we are now in deeper conversation than ever, working for unity in Christ’s mission. We have not given up on the goals of the older, legacy ecumenism of the last one hundred years but we believe the gateway to seeing many of those noble goals accomplished will likely come as we share life together doing Christ’s mission in partnership and collaboration. This is nothing more or less than what I have called missional-ecumenism.

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