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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Wednesday, February 18 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Ecumenism

Ecumenical - promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation. Ecumenism - the principles and practices of the ecumenical movement.

The ecumenical movement, from virtually the first time I heard of it, around age 17, has always struck me as suspect. Its worldwide superstructure is the World Council of Churches (WCC) which from my observation could as well be called the Council of Worldly Churchmen; I've been watching (admittedly from a distance) for more than 40 years and have seen nothing that strikes me as spiritual or Christian, or even spiritually edifying. Even leaving the WCC out of the discussion, ecumenical organizations and overtures between Protestant denominations and groups of denominations and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox delegations also seem wooden, forced, ineffectual and nowhere near the ideal they keep repeating, that they hope to work in the spirit of Jesus' prayer (John 17) "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." Nor does it seem that such formal ecumenism is getting anywhere and I fear that if it did seem to be making much progress it might be a harbinger of the great babylon church or the apostasy foretold in the Apocalypse (Revelation).

On the other hand, I've always been enthusiastic about the informal ecumenism that knits Christians of all traditions when they get together, either face to face or through channels like publications and projects. When growing up in the Evangelical United Brethren denomination, I greatly enjoyed fellowship and had much affection for believers in any other churches I got to know, like the teenagers I went through vacation Bible school at the Cardiff Road Church of God or the Catholic acquaintances like my cousins, and friends like John Golias and others I met.

Right now I find a particular informal but wide-ranging ecumenical development especially heartening. That's the forthcoming movie made by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, which is opening next Wednesday, the day western Christians call Ash Wednesday (we Orthodox have no Ash Wednesday and begin Lent on Sunday evening, after two weeks of partial fasting, not after a "Fat Tuesday"). I read yesterday that a Southern Baptist pastor is so impressed by the movie that he's going to preach a series of sermons on the passion of Christ in the weeks leading up to Easter. I don't think he called that period "Lent"—I don't remember any references to Lent in my years as a Baptist—but certainly, also, I never heard of a Baptist minister preaching on the passion of Christ; "passion" was a strictly Catholic word shared maybe by far-out Episcopalians and a few Lutherans, but not known in the "low church" environment I grew up in. But I see this as a good thing. There is nothing wrong with putting a general name on the suffering of Christ and paying focused attention on it as part of our Easter preparation and observance. (We Orthodox actually dislike the word "passion" and stress, often, that the passions are the very things we must defeat in our spiritual warfare...but we also know what the western church means by the term and have no objections to what is meant by it...not, of course, that I speak for any Orthodox beyond myself and stand to be corrected even in that endeavor; but this is the sense I get from much reading.) And we are just as enthusiastic about the movie!

The pre-release buzz for the Passion movie is even bigger, I think, than the "I Found It" campaign of the 1970's put on by Campus Crusade for Christ, or any citywide evangelistic crusade like those Billy Graham has been famous for. And the great thing about it is that this is not "organized religion..." Gibson has screened his movie in advance to thousands of Christians and some non-Christians who are interested, answered questions, invited them to support it through pre-release ticket sales and helping publicize it, and they acting on their initiative have responded in their varied ways, seeing in it an unparalleled opportunity to get people talking about Jesus, the crucifixion and suffering, and beyond that, the resurrection and the victory. You find the same enthusiasm at Pat Robertson's 700 Club with commercials for tickets to the movie that you find on the Catholicity website.

That is, to me, is the best example of ecumenism I've ever seen.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Steven Wrightisms

4. Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

— Jane Caminos

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