Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Unloving Ecumenism

A Presbyterian pastor, an Episcopalian priest, and a Jewish rabbi are holding public meetings together in Georgia:

"There's no lecturing, just discussion centered around a novel or a movie facilitated by the preacher, priest and rabbi. There's no debating denominations, beliefs or theologies. 'One thing we share in common: We're clear that God is much bigger than any of us and bigger than our theologies, than we can conceive,' Clifford said. 'Because we approach faith with that stance, we don't feel threatened by each other and our differences.'"

And we read at the web site for the priest's church:

"'This will not be a lecture, but rather a conversation about a novel or a movie, facilitated by a preacher, a priest and a rabbi- no joke.' said Father Wood. The first gathering will be Tuesday, September 6th at 7:00 PM, at The Village Veranda Coffee Shop in Alpharetta. The topic of discussion will be Yann Martel’s best selling novel, Life of Pi. Pi Patel is a precocious sixteen-year old son of a zoo keeper in Pondicherry, India who passionately practices three world religions at the same time, because he loves God. After a tragic shipwreck, he finds himself in a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded Zebra, a lovable orangutan, a crazed hyena, and a 450 lb. Bengal tiger named, Richard Parker. 'This is a story that will make you believe in God,' says one character in the book. Join a preacher, a priest and a rabbi to discuss whether that is true."

I imagine that the majority of religious leaders in our nation today (and in Canada, Europe, and other places) would have little or no objection to what the religious leaders described above are doing. And that's one of the reasons why many pastors shouldn't be pastors.

I am aware that it's possible that at least some of these pastors are doing other things not mentioned in news stories like the one quoted above. A pastor who attends a meeting such as this one in Georgia might use it as an opportunity for holding further meetings in which the truth would be proclaimed more fully. But given our societal context and what I've seen happen in so many of these circumstances over the years, the number of pastors who are using this sort of event responsibly probably are few and far between. Most are carelessly ecumenical, to differing degrees.

The apostle Paul debated people and tried to persuade them to change their beliefs (Acts 15:2, 17:2). He wanted to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). If you love God, you want people to perceive Him correctly. And if you love other people, you want them to know more than just the most basic of truths about God.

No reasonable person is going to think that all of your time with people should be spent in debate. But some of the time should be spent in debate, far more than we're seeing in a lot of places today. The same church of Acts that was concerned for the poor and the weak also was concerned with debating and changing people's beliefs. Stonings, beatings, accusations, anger, imprisonment, and executions resulted. I doubt that we'll see much of that after these meetings in Georgia.