Ecumenism (2)

According to a Disciples of Christ webpage:

The ecumenical partnership rests on five pillars of acceptance and cooperation: a common confession of Christ; mutual recognition of members; common celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion; mutual recognition and reconciliation of ordained ministries; and common commitment to mission.

I’d like to make some brief comments on these “pillars.”

  1. Common confession of Christ—I don’t know what this means and therefore am not sure if I would be included in this aspect of ecumenicity.  Insofar as it means “a profession of faith in Jesus as Messiah,” I’m all for it.
  2. Mutual recognition of members — I take this to mean that a member of one church can, without question, be recognized as a member of another one in this ecumenical model.  If this is the case, it seems biblically untenable, as some churches require signing of creeds, and others require baptism or sprinkling or some other ceremony in order to be on the membership rolls.  In the scriptures, almost without exception, new believers were immersed, and that action sealed a covenant with God.  “Church membership” and membership “rolls” as we think of them weren’t even considerations — which is, incidentally, why I haven’t put my name on a membership card or form for years.
  3. Common celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion — I don’t think I’d take much exception to this one, because “open communion” is fine with me.  I figure that if someone else communing with me doesn’t get it, or isn’t one of Christ’s, there is no metaphysical foul.  The Lord’s Supper is meaningful to believers in various ways and at various intervals.  It is also understood and experienced in various ways.  While I think most churches share in communion too infrequently, I am hard-pressed to enjoin a timetable on anyone, because there isn’t one in scripture.  The witness of many early Christians is to be considered here, so I would encourage a frequent, if not weekly, observance.
  4. Mutual recognition and reconciliation of ordained ministries — oh, boy.  What in the world is an “ordained ministry”?  In a limited sense, a person might be ordained for a task, but inasmuch as “ordination” means official sanction by a denomination, said sanction is more or less meaningless to me.  Incidentally, I see no specific mention here of recognition of “ordained clergy,” which is probably no mistake.  Ordination of specifically trained or gifted ministers is conceptually not all bad, but it leads to all sorts of bad, and ordination is not a particularly scriptural practice.  Practices of local congregations may be just fine, but the ordinations that come via seminaries and denominational headquarters are culpable.  Ever notice that Peter wasn’t called “Priest,” and the NC letters don’t begin “from Rev. Dr. Paul to the Galatians”?
  5. Common commitment to mission — good for the ecumenists on this point!  If ever there were activities upon which various Christian-types (and here I use the adjective “Christian” loosely) could agree, it would seem to be in some mission efforts.  Teaching developing nations about Jesus (keeping a-scriptural and anti-scriptural denominational doctrine out of it, of course), feeding the world’s hungry, clothing and sheltering homeless people, etc. — these mission areas are some in which we can probably all unite.

Next:  Uniting congregations or uniting Christians?


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