During the days of September 11-13, 2014, twenty-six people from Catholic and evangelical churches gathered to build relationships for the sake of Christ’s mission. Yesterday I shared the first portion of our report. Today I share the second part of our document.
Relationships for the Sake of the Mission
The 2014 Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation
Nate Bacon suggested the Emmaus Road dialogue as a model of evangelization. In the context of sharing their pain, disappointment, and devastation the two disciples invited Jesus into their conversation, as did the disciples who Jesus sent out two by two, appearing to the townspeople they encounter as homeless people. In touching the wounds of humanity, we touch the wounds of Christ. We say to the poor, “we need you.” We need the poor; we do evangelization because we need to, in order to encounter Christ.
Fr. Barron had previously suggested another way of viewing the church: “the prolongation of the Incarnation through space and time.” Many were intrigued by this notion, but Suzanne McDonald explained how, to Reformed ears, it sounds almost idolatrous. The Incarnation is a phenomenon that cannot be repeated; a more congenial description of the Church, for her, would be “unity in distinction.”
If the goal of our collaboration is to unite in prayer and service, the analogy to the gospels in the early Church works well. But perhaps our goal is, as Wolfhart Pannenberg describes the church, to tarry through the world under the shadow of darkness and sin, but in the end it will be one. The “full, visible unity” that we work toward is eschatological. Before the eschaton, perhaps the “one” consists in collaboration.
That image suggested to Fr. Leo Walsh the model Michael Kinnamon has used: ecumenism moves through stages, from conflict, to coexistence, to cooperation, to communion. If the eschatological goal is full visible unity, perhaps we can establish an intermediate goal of “fuller” visible unity.
The Spirit seems to be saying that co-existence is not sufficient. So our charge is to ask, “How do we enter into cooperation and collaboration while acknowledging our differences?” We have made progress; imperfect but real communion does exist. Nevertheless, we must not use “eschatological unity” as an excuse for not working toward more and more visible unity.
How do we move toward visible unity?
- Fr. Don Rooney: “Prayer and charity is the process of ecumenism. Our work is not to fix the problem, but to leave the door open for the Spirit. Only the Spirit can solve this problem. Our job is to get holy together.”
- David Hickman: “When love has an agenda, it ceases to have power and purpose. Ecumenism needs to have an agenda-less love.”
- Brett Salkeld: “We’re not here to convert one another. We’re all here to be converted closer to Christ. Doctrine will emerge only through the lived experience of Christians. In that way, service does lead to doctrine.”
- Jeff Gokee: “Our common mission, our missional-ecumenism, is to show a generation that came out of a culture of divorce that unity is still possible.”
- John Armstrong: “If the term ‘The Body of Christ’ raises problems, because of our divisions, is ‘The Family of God’ a useful way of naming who we are?”
- Dan Olsen: “’Family’ is a Biblical word. Christians are in a ‘marriage’