Careful What You Wish For

A woman I know likes to characterize us this way: “We play well with others.” Like me, a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she emphasizes the denomination’s ethos of ecumenism [1 See note below]. Disciples have been at the forefront of the movement for church wholeness throughout its history.

This, despite two Restoration movement splits which resulted in three streams of the Stone-Campbell movement [2]. Initially growing as one at its inception on the American frontier, a primary difference between Disciples and the other two streams is our work with other church bodies (e.g.; Methodists, Catholics, etc.) wherever possible. Disciples tend to interpret the Restoration principle that “We are Christians only but not the only Christians” as a mandate for ecumenism.

Juxtapose this with the Disciples’ traditional laments that,

  1. We have an identity problem.
  2. Disciples who move from one community to another often change denomination becoming Baptists, Presbyterians, or UCCers.

While I recognize that some of these laments are shared by other Christian denominations, as a multigenerational Disciple, I wonder. Why should we be surprised – or disturbed – that folks who relocate do not necessarily end up in another Disciple church? Do we or do we not believe that “We are Christians only but not the only Christians”? Perhaps, our ecumenism and work for wholeness of the church has been at least partially successful. Maybe the Holy Spirit moves in the world, nudging you, encouraging me, and whispering in someone else’s ear that denominations need to fall?

Careful what you wish for, you might find it coming to pass.

***

[1] Ecumenism refers to cooperation and collaboration within Christianity. Ecumenism is sometimes confused with interfaith, which refers to cooperation and collaboration between faiths. For example, a Thanksgiving service  conducted by Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Disciples is an ecumenical gathering. If Reformed Jews and Buddhists joined the Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Disciples at the same Thanksgiving service, it would be interfaith rather than ecumenical. At an ecumenical service it is appropriate to pray “In the Name of Jesus Christ”. This would not be appropriate at an interfaith service.

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