The Ecumenism of Pope Francis

As president of a confessional, Christian graduate school serving a large urban demographic, I have the opportunity to join other believers in gatherings that are deliberately ecumenical: interdenominational, multi-ethnic, even cross-linguistic, and always with a mind for Christian unity. I have . . . . Continue Reading »

A Guide Through the Thicket

For some time now, First Things has sought to bring Catholics and evangelicals together. Richard John Neuhaus, Charles Colson, and their fellow travelers have engaged in an fruitful ecumenism of the trenches, discovering as they went along that they had more in common than they knew, particularly with respect to Christian ethics and the church’s public witness. And much though not all of First Things’ work has been in the service of a religiously informed “public philosophy,” seeking to find a common language for perennial truths about marriage, life, freedom, and other issues in the public square. Continue Reading »

Catholicism Unriddled

I first read Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Riddle of Roman Catholicism: Its History, Its Beliefs, Its Future (1959) while doing my pastoral residency in Detroit, 1978–79. I just finished it for the second time. It is still a book with value. Pelikan says one thing in particular that struck me: Any . . . . Continue Reading »

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Evangelicalism

Sometime in the mid-1990s, sickened by what I perceived as the shallowness of evangelical culture in suburban Wheaton, Illinois, I launched into the post-hippie, proto-hipster nightlife of Chicago. I roamed not yet fully gentrified streets with dropouts and homeless people, under the L-tracks and along the wind-battered shores of the third coast. The counter-culture then radiated from Belmont Avenue, which I imagined to be something like what Haight-Ashbury (since colonized by Ben & Jerry’s) must have been in 1969.Following one such night of seeking suburban Wheaton’s opposite, I experienced a moment of transfixing beauty. I wandered into Lincoln Park Zoo at dawn and had it all to myself—a solitary Adam among the animals. Then, as I watched sea lions frolic in the shallows of their tank I braced myself for a return to Wheaton College where I would reluctantly (and barely) finish my undergraduate degree. In my arrogance, I may have even thought to myself that I was returning to splash in the shallows with evangelicals like the animals before me. Continue Reading »

Receptive Ecumenism

If the Church is going to face the challenges of this new century, she will have to face them as a united Church. Nothing has so weakened our witness as our tragic divisions. Nothing has made the Gospel so implausible, if not preposterous. Division has deprived us of the weapons we need for the spiritual battles that are on the horizon. Continue Reading »

Engaging John Together

Not long ago I participated in a conference, “Engaging the Gospel of John, Engaging One Another: Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelicals.” This conference was sponsored by Paradosis Center, a fellowship of Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelicals committed to theology and Scripture within the Great Tradition.  Continue Reading »

The Word and the Rule of Faith

Evangelicalism is awash in the 3Rs: retrieval, renewal, and ressourcement. As Michael Allen and Scott Swain explain in Reformed Catholicity, recently published by Baker Academic press, various movements have emerged sharing the conviction that “the path to theological renewal lies in retrieving resources from the Christian tradition.” In their view, these efforts have been haphazard, and their book sketches a “programmatic assessment of what it means to retrieve the catholic tradition . . . on the basis of Protestant theological and ecclesiological principles.” Continue Reading »

Kowtowing to Moscow = Bad Ecumenism

In his tireless work for Christian unity, St. John Paul II often expressed the hope that Christianity in its third millennium might “breathe again” with its “two lungs”: West and East, Latin and Byzantine. It was a noble aspiration. And when he first visited Orthodoxy’s ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople in 1979, perhaps the successor of Peter imagined that his heartfelt desire to concelebrate the Eucharist with the successor of Andrew would be realized in his lifetime. Continue Reading »

Ecumenism After 50 Years

On 21 November 1964, the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, was approved by the Second Vatican Council. Although this document had been much debated and revised through several drafts, the final vote by the Council fathers was overwhelming: 2,137 in support and only eleven in opposition. This confirmed what everyone knew as the Council approached the close of its third session, namely, that one of the principal concerns of only the second ecumenical council convened since the Protestant Reformation was “the restoration (or reintegration) of unity among all Christians.” Continue Reading »

Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg. There he nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the Church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is not a day for the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween but a time to remember the Reformation, especially what Luther wrote in thesis sixty-two: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” Continue Reading »