Tag Archives: ekumenisk

What does the call to unity stand for? Or, down to earth: where does the rubber meets the road?

Dagen reports about an article in the November issue of the Charisma magazine written by Tomas Dixon concerning Ulf Ekman’s involvement with the Catholic Church. Those who know me and the ministries that I have been involved in during the last 25 years know that I have always been an advocate of unity in the body of Christ. Since the beginning of the 80ties I have related and worked for unity across denominational and cultural borders. Even our own church (www.newlife.nu) is an example of that as people from over 40 nations from all kind of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and languages experience “togetherness” in Christ Jesus in the centre of Stockholm.

A foundational value that has characterized our church and which I have taught from the early stages on is found in the history of the Moravian Movement (by the way, my view on what church is to be is grounded in numerous teachings and praxis from the beginning stages of the Salvation Army, the Moravian Movement, the Anabaptists and the Methodist church). The Moravian Movement declared:”In essential beliefs we have unity. In non-essential beliefs we have diversity. In all our beliefs we show charity.”

For me the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament become alive in this quote… It gives me hand and feet to flesh out the unity Christ called for. It helps me understand where the rubber meets the road; with other words how I can implement true unity.

I have always looked for common ground within essential beliefs among those of a Christian tradition and/or background and have made it my core value to speak and live in such way by affirming this common ground. However, if I have to live as I teach there are obvious boundaries or if you will, limitations to what I can stand for.

The Church political climate in Sweden is such that it is hard to step out of line… after many years of divisions, church-cultural and theological misunderstandings and disunity, the ones who consider themselves “Church” have gone into what I would call “survival mode”. Finally we have started to look at the “essentials” but at the same time have overemphasized the “united front outlook” which removes the differences and hot potatoes which still make us different.

I understand Ulf Ekman’s approach after having been isolated from the rest of the “Church” in Sweden in many different ways (isolation, not only because his/their former approach and teachings, but also because of the unwillingness of the rest of us to understand and embrace them).

What do I want to say? I became converted having a non-believing Roman Catholic background with my whole extended network of former friends and family still within that entity (most of them have remained without faith in Christ and the Bible). I worry when I read in the above mentioned article: In April and October evangelicals gathered in Örebro, Sweden’s evangelical center, to caution against the trend and to point out that unity to Catholics always meant, and still means, bowing to the pope. Bishop Arborelius seemed to affirm that view, saying: “We cannot bypass the personal wish of Jesus that all unity must relate to the apostle Peter,” that is to the papal office… Arborelius continued, “I think that [Ekman and others] now see the key role of the pope as a symbol of unity and the importance of the virgin Mary.”

When reading the quotes by Arborelius I react; here we do not speak about unity in regards to the “essentials” of Christian faith as I see it. These statements call me to a hold. Of course we don’t only deal with the Roman Catholic Church; in our nation we are involved with the different Orthodox churches as well which have their uncompromising views on some of these issues also!

I know it is Church Politically incorrect to even dare touch these issues. Honestly speaking, I can have fellowship with friends in the Roman Catholic Church but some of them have views on the essentials of Christian faith that I know would not be endorsed by the Pope. The fact is that if their views would become publically known by the Vatican that they might be asked to leave the church.

So where does your rubber meet the road? I told you some of my journey, what about yours?

That’s the Way I see it (not necessarily the right way!)

John

I am ecumenical in spirit, not in structure!


The latest article in the Christian Daily on Livets Ord addresses the ecumenical endeavors of the movement, in the same newspaper we read “How three can become one”… (this sounds very Biblical: Three in One!”) where a process is started to unite the Mission-, the Baptist and Methodist churches into one denomination.

There is so much to say about being ecumenical, about Christian unity and about the importance to recognize and respect one another. I come from a non-Bible-believing Catholic background where “Church” was part of the cultural life of people living in the Southern part of Holland. In our village and in most of the Southern part of Holland in those days (the 70ties) Catholicism had a cultural rather then a spiritual impact on the society and the people. Under my upbringing I did not know even ONE true believer among the thousands of people I knew. Later on as I had become a Christian through the Jesus People Movement I met a few true believers; they believed in Christ as their Savior and Lord and in the Bible as their authority. Actually some of them were nuns who would come by taxi to a bible study which I held shortly after my conversion, another believer was the responsible priest in the St. Jan cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch who became a close friend to my wife and me. (He, together with an older evangelist performed our wedding ceremony in the chapel of the hospital where I was working as a nurse at the time).

As the articles show and as we all know there is a movement towards ecumenism in our nation, the Jesusmanifestation was a fruit of that.

Ecumenical, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary means: representing the whole of a body of churches b: promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.

However, I need to say that I am not only undivided positive towards this. I identify myself as: “ecumenical in spirit, but not in structure”. With structure I mean the banding of different faiths with different doctrinal statements of truth in form of an organization. I do not believe in that at all, there is a valid reason for organizational separation. I see also an endangering of the absolutes of Scripture. We cannot accommodate everyone and everything. I am totally convinced that Christians who want to accommodate in such ways will soon abandon their beliefs for the sake of unity. Unity is never worth the sacrifice of the authenticity of Scripture! That, in short is my view about structural ecumenism.

In regards to being ecumenical in spirit, I believe that although we are separated denominationally, that there is in fact a “true church” which unites all true believers: Those who have been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of denominational belonging are already one in Christ and are part of the true Church which is hidden to the human eye.

True Christian believers are always united spiritually as brothers and sisters in Christ despite their denominational belonging or identity. But I do not believe that this will ever express itself in structure here on earth. Because of humankind’s falleness I believe that the true kind of unification will take place as Christ will return to meet His bride (the Church).

I believe strongly in the slogan of the Moravian movement which says:”In essential beliefs we have unity. In non-essential beliefs we have diversity. In all our beliefs we show charity.” This slogan has been my motto since I read about this grant movement, it has permeated the way I think and live and has found its place even in the church where I am pastor. I believe we should work together when possible, but there will continue to be a structural separation because we cannot compromise Truth and accept different doctrines simply in order to have some kind of organizational sameness.

So, I will remain “ecumenical in spirit, but not in structure”.

That’s the Way I see it!

John