Ecumenicism, Attack Dogs and Curious Cats

This morning I read David Aikman’s interesting article on Christianity Today called Attack Dogs of Christendom. Of course the emerging church movement is quite blatantly on the firing line as you well know. Pastor Ken Silva gets a mention from David as the man “leading the charge against alleged ecumenicists”, which might actually be true -Ken’s daily postings have gained him a lot of search engine cred and authority for his bark. I don’t believe Ken is the nastiest or the meanest. In fact, we have exchanged emails on occasion and I find him quite approachable and accountable. If he is critical that the emerging church re-appraises Reformation assumptions then he is correct. Many of us no longer believe the Roman Catholic Church is the most accurate representation of the Whore of Babylon. For that, we start by looking inside ourselves, which btw is a lot more dangerous than sticking with the anti-Catholic view of 17th Century Reformers under threat of losing their land and their power to Rome. Maybe there is a bit of Babylon in all of us.


Take the “Which Theologian Are You?” quiz recommended by Andrew Kenny. I took it this morning and came out as John Calvin – which shows you a little of my theological background.

Regarding criticism of the emerging church, I think I was one of the earliest or perhaps the first [Dennis MacCallum was actively critical but had not yet published anything] to publish something critical (Postmodern Church Time-Capsule, 1999) but this was written as an insider and probably used too much humor to get a serious reading. And although my tone was satirical, I was presenting it as a correction and tongue-in-cheek encouragement rather than a mean, exaggerated dismissal. But since then, there have been many others. More recently, Don Carson and John MacArthur have written books to criticize the movement and there is a daily list of criticisms that emerge in my RSS reader. In fact, sometimes a search for “emergent” yields mostly critical responses and very few positives. Anyway, I don’t propose to solve the whole thing today . . .

As for ecumenicism, I see the modern ecumenical movement as a viable one as long as it retains its original link the the missiology that birthed it (Edinburgh, 1910) and not a weak theological compromise. The word itself οἰκουμένη (oikoumene) is used in the Bible as “the whole inhabited world” which should be in the sights of every one who claims the name of Christ. Jesus’s desire for oneness among his followers was made very clear and certain (John 17) and is not an option for us. We need to learn to get along, even with those who disagree with us. Ken, who is well-known for his anti-Billy Graham articles, sees the emerging church movement as bringing Protestants back to the Roman Catholic Church, who are somehow behind the ecumenical thrust.

I disagree. [Hi Ken!]
I believe the modern ecumenical movement was initiated by Protestants in the first part of the 20th Century and the Catholics did not warm to it until mid century. I also believe it was the charasmatic movement [thank you Chuck Smith] that achieved much of the present ecumenicism that the RCC now enjoys with Protestants rather than any emerging church attempts. In fact, there is much in the emerging church movement – such as decentralized leadership [priesthood of all believers?] – that Roman Catholic leadership still struggle with. Obviously there is much to do before the world is reconciled with God and itself . ..

How does the word “ecumenical” sit with you?

Related on TallSkinnyKiwi:

The Skinny on Emergent Criticism (2004)

Watchdog sites and emerging church criticism

– Cats and dogs at The Missional Church: Reformed Heritage?

My experience with the Charasmatic Catholics

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • David Malouf says:

    The book Mapping Postmodernism by Robert Greer gave me, for the first time, a pleasant “taste” of ecumenicism by way of George Lindbeck (whom I he studied under, I think). It was a more Evangelical way to see it – necessary for me in my journey.
    I don’t really like the idea of dismissing something I hold valuable (some set of ‘theologies’) for the sake of something else valuable to me (theology of ecumenicism). Why one over the other when they can both be seen as being equal in weight?
    I think I’d rather talk it out than just drop stuff. Maybe I’m only up for a “local ecumenicism” in that I can be united with my sisters and brothers locally *out of dialogue* instead of out some vague, distant “someone might see and that would be good” approach.
    1 cent worth,

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks David. I like the word “ecumenical” as well as the word “fundamental” and “evangelical”. seems a shame to jettison words because of attached baggage.

  • Ken Silva says:

    *a tip of the hat*
    Hi Andrew,
    Indeed we do disagree on much but, as far as I know, you and I have always done so agreeably.

  • andrew jones says:

    yes. i look forward to the day when we can meet face to face over a drink [beer for me, coffee for you] and chat further on these things.

  • Makeesha says:

    As for ecumenism – as long as it doesn’t become a flavorless version of itself that has no meat on the bones or nutritional value, I think it can be a good thing to move us toward a more “whole Body” Christianity.
    True ecumenism is wholeness of one together with wholeness of the other and that’s something many people aren’t comfortable with – – the tension is something most of us haven’t learned to work with.
    Just reaching everyone’s lowest common denominator is a bad idea.

  • Ken Silva says:

    “yes. i look forward to the day when we can meet face to face over a drink [beer for me, coffee for you] and chat further on these things.”
    Sounds like a plan. And you what, not sure why, but I kinda think it’ll be sooner than we might have expected. You plan to bogart the beer? 🙂

  • chad says:

    I think that looking into church history we find that the best word for ecumenicism is catholic. Note the little c not the big C. Inside of the history of the reformation you see it take a generation or two for the word protestant to take place….
    A good read on this subject by D.H. Williams is “Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism”. He wrote it while on faculty at Loyola (a Roman Catholic school) and serving as a pastor in a Baptist Church.
    Thomas Oden also makes a good case for ecumenicism dividing itself from the WCC and the liberal ecumenical movement in the 20th century and instead founding itself on consensual Christian Doctrine.

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks chad. actually, william’s book has been one of my best reads this year and i highly recommend it.
    and ken silva says the opposite about that book on his site.
    another good book on the subject that i have read this year is the whopping History of the Ecumenical Movement: 1517-1948 by Rouse and Neill. It tracks the ecumenical efforts of the early Reformers and paints quite a different historical picture than the fundamentalists paint.

  • Melody says:

    I took the quiz and though I carry no German blood in my veins, I came out solidly Martin Luther. I’m not surprised. Of course I have a pretty strong sense of what I believe. A confused person might come out as two different people. Wierd.

  • Lloydie says:

    The word “ecumenical” is fine with me. The whole “churches not associating with each other” thing was a real head scratcher for me when I started out in ministry. I didn’t realize that other Christians would actually not associate with me, not worship with me. When I was writing my most recent blog on this very topic, I was surprised to remember how weird the separation was to me then, and how, unfortunately, commonplace it is to me now.
    In my movement (The Restoration Movement), it took me a while to figure out that we have non-instrumental churches, and that only some of those will worship with us instrumental churches. I still really don’t get it, and I’m for working toward unity. Like a previous poster said, I don’t think we have ot give us what we believe is true to do this. But, I am sure, many will disagree with me!

  • LoL guess i’m confused… came out Calvin and Finney… but more Calvin….
    Perhaps it’s more a right and left brain thing…
    To think of Holy Spirit’s influence and the mystical side of things is a bit more right brained. I am more of a mystic at heart… but i usually check in on the balance aspect of the left brain logic side.
    love ya… K8

  • cobus says:

    I came out as Jürgen Moltmann, shouldn’t have been a surprise, I’ve always likes what I heard about the guy, maybe now would be a good time to read his stuff

  • Anselm and I — what a lovely combination

    Inspired by a post on tallskinnykiwi’s site, I headed over to the QuizFarm and let myself be analyzed with the question Which theologian are you? I wasn’t really surprised when Anselm of Canterbury turned up as the closest match. I’ve always

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