Magazine article The Christian Century

An Evangelical Imperative

Magazine article The Christian Century

An Evangelical Imperative

Article excerpt

GEORGE LINDBECK'S thoughtful reflections on the state of ecumenism (page 28) set me to ruminating on my own ecumenical experience. It also reminded me that this journal has been ecumenically minded from its inception. For a time it even described itself as an "ecumenical weekly" (and before that as an "undenominational weekly").

My initial exposure to ecumenism occurred in the fall of my first year in seminary when my wife and I were asked to represent the University of Chicago Divinity School at the Church Federation of Chicago's annual meeting. We dressed up in our best clothes, took the train into the Loop, and found our way to the big hotel ballroom, the poshest space we had ever been in. We joined a huge throng of people festively gathered around tables with white tableclothes, centerpieces and more silverware than seemed necessary.

Seated at the head table were some of the most influential city leaders, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, who spoke about how important the Church Federation was to the city. It was a racially diverse gathering, and a speaker from the National Council of Churches talked about the civil rights movement and the critical role the ecumenical churches were playing in it. I was inspired. I thought I had experienced a little bit of God's kingdom on earth.

Ecumenism has been part of my ministry in each congregation I have served. I found the post-Vatican II openness between Protestants and Catholics bracing and exciting. When a Roman Catholic campus pastor at Purdue and I engaged in a dialogue sermon at an ecumenical service, it made the front page of the local newspaper. …

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