As I write this article, I have just returned from a meeting with our local clergy group called “Clergy of the Green Corners.” It is a group of Christian clergy from the various branches of the Christian Church in our Greenfield, Greendale and Hales Corners community, and our meeting was to plan for the Churches Caring Together event on October 1st.
Churches Caring Together is the first of many more ecumenical (meaning inter-denominational) events in the months and years to come as the Christian Church draws closer together in the faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ our Lord. The word “ecumenical” (oikoumene in Greek) literally means “the whole inhabitable earth,” and it refers to the entire Christian Church on earth. Like the Ark of Noah, all the denominations of the Christian Faith are together the holy refuge for all believers and disciples of Jesus Christ in a world deluged with the floodwaters of hopelessness and spiritual death. In fact, the Christian ecumenical movement is often symbolized by a boat, representing that all the people of the One, Holy, Trinitarian, Apostolic Christian Church are together in the same boat of Christ. Thanks be to God!
So, all the branches of the Christian Church have UNITY IN THE ESSENTIALS of our Christian Faith: 1) The Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 2) The Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, 3) The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our sins, 4) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 5) The coming Second Advent of Jesus Christ, 6) The Communion of Saints on earth and in heaven, 7) The Forgiveness of Sins through the Word and Sacraments of Jesus Christ, 8) Everlasting Resurrection Life in, with and through Jesus Christ, 9) The Faith, Hope, Love and Joy of Jesus Christ, 10) Lovingkindness and Charitable Service to all in need from the womb to old age.
However, we also have DIVERSITY IN THE NON-ESSENTIALS of our Christian Life. For instance, the various branches of the Christian Church may disagree about particular practices related to the Sacraments, Ordained Ministry, Sexuality, and even Ecumenicalism itself. To be specific, we who are of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have particular practices regarding these things (Sacraments, Ordained Ministry, Sexuality, Ecumenicalism) that are similar to some Church denominations but different than others. The ELCA is a U.S. Lutheran denomination of the Christian Church that practices the following: 1) Open Holy Communion, 2) Both male and female leadership and clergy, 3) Inclusive of homosexual Christians, 4) A strong ecumenical orientation. So, while our ELCA is Ecumenical, we are also Reformational. With these four practices, we believe that we are being Reformational according to the Spirit of Christ revealed in Holy Scripture.
Therefore, while the various branches of the Christian Church have diversity in the non-essentials and unity in the essentials, we should also have CHARITY IN ALL THINGS. We can have a joyful charitable spirit with one another as we agree to disagree regarding the non-essentials, because we as members of the One Trinitarian Christian Faith share together in the ten absolute Christian essentials I listed above.
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God… For if while we were enemies [of God], we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” — (ROMANS 5: 1-2, 10-11)
Together in Christ, Pastor Tim