The church must be ecumenical

  • Posted on: 8 January 2019
  • By: stan

I've come to understand that the future of the church must be ecumenical.

By ecumenical I mean cooperating, appreciating and learning from a broad range of religious traditions.

Congregations or denominations find unity in an understanding that our chosen spiritual practices are the best way for us to seek connection with God.  This doesn't make practices of other denominations wrong.  Other practices may also be effective.  This statement might sound strange if you are used to a church being based on a set of beliefs about God.  If your standing with God is based on your knowledge of things about God or Jesus, then anyone with a different understanding of God would be considered wrong.  But, Jesus never asked us to believe things about him, he asked us to know him, to believe in his way and to follow him toward God.    

In our search to understand the mind of Christ (to know him and follow his model) , we should not be afraid of the various interpretations of scripture and experiences of other denominations.  Rather, we should be energized by their additional insights.  Once a church puts a stake in the ground and says all members must agree on beliefs in a theological statement, that is the day a church can no longer thrive.  Once the stake is in the ground, growth, both personal and corporate, is not allowed.  That is one reason why Anabaptist have traditionally been non-creedal.  Not that we don't write down what we agree on from time to time.  We just know that whatever we write is not permanent and will be replaced some day with a different agreed upon understanding based on our ongoing experience of the divine, interaction with God's creation and our growing understanding of scripture.

Even if we are dedicated to an Anabaptist way of being church, we can learn from others.  Early Anabaptists, while on trial for heresy, would often say, ”Show me in scripture where I am wrong and I will gladly repent.”  The best way to get an outside perspective is from other religious traditions.

Not only can other religious traditions share their perspectives with us, there response to our way of doing church and to our theology can also be instructive to us.  We can't truly understand our faith until we see it through the eyes of another.

"Whoever knows only one religion is unlikely to understand what religion is about." (Diana Eck)

Anabaptist tradition began 500 years ago.  It was an effort to discover original Christianity.  It brought the world ideas like separation of church and state, a believers church and adult baptism.  All ideas that are now commonplace in society and many branches of Christianity.  Surely, Anabaptism has something more to offer the Christian church that is just now discovering that the teachings and life of Jesus are prescriptive for the church.