What About the Ecumenical Movement?HOT TOPICS #4: WHAT ABOUT THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT?
The following question comes from Shawn in Houston, Texas. He posted it on the “Ask Pastor Ray” question board on Calvary’s website. “Do you believe that the ecumenical movement is a good thing?” Here is an abbreviated version of my answer: It depends. I am in favor of people from different religions getting to know each other on a personal friendship basis. And I see nothing to lose and much to gain from asking Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, secularists, etc. to explain what they believe and how they approach the great questions such as, Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? And I don’t think we should listen simply as an excuse to share Christ later. We ought to listen to others because we are truly interested in who they are and what they believe. And out of that, as God opens the door, we will find many opportunities to explain what we believe and thus to share Christ in a natural way. What I’ve described is really more “interfaith” than “ecumenical.” The term “ecumenical” generally refers to cooperation between various groups within Christianity. In general, I think we can and should have friendly personal relationships with all sorts of people who call themselves Christians. It does no good to wall ourselves off from the rest of the world. I also think we can work together with conservative Catholics on many issues of moral concern, such as abortion, the moral decline of our nation, and so on. But I do not think we should have institutional ties or official church fellowship with organizations or groups with whom we have significant disagreements on fundamental Bible doctrine. Can two walk together unless they be agreed? It’s easier to state the principle than to apply it in every situation. Several years ago I was asked to give the invocation for a pro-life group that is organized mainly (though not exclusively) by women in the Catholic Church. The speaker that night was Francis Cardinal George. Marlene and I sat at his table and enjoyed getting to know him. I felt right at home that night and did not think I was compromising my evangelical convictions. My own personal feeling is that evangelicals have more in common with conservative Catholics than we do with liberal Protestants. I see no value in joining with people who do not accept the Bible as the Word of God. In those cases, I can and will be friendly on a personal basis, but there is no spiritual foundation for working together. To come to the bottom line. I’m much in favor of personal friendships, discussion, dialogue and even debate across a broad spectrum of life. And I am happy to work together for the common good with a wide variety of people. But I am quite skeptical of attempts to promote organizational unity among groups that have very little or nothing in common.