Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholic Christians in Dialogue
Here are some of the tension points that arise in such a dialogue between divergent theological streams and traditions:
- The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as a communal consequence of the Gospel.
- The church as visible communion or invisible fellowship of true believers.
- The sole authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) or Scripture as authoritatively interpreted in the church.
- The "soul freedom" of the individual Christian or the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the community.
- The church as local congregation or universal communion.
- Ministry ordered in apostolic succession or the priesthood of all believers.
- Sacraments and ordinances as symbols of grace or means of grace.
- The Lord's Supper as eucharistic sacrifice or memorial meal.
- Remembrance of Mary and the saints or devotion to Mary and the saints.
- Baptism as sacrament of regeneration or testimony to regeneration.
I realize that Anabaptism would not fit tightly into the theological contours of Protestant Evangelicals. However, there is significant overlap, Anabaptist distinctives notwithstanding. I would observe that while there is much that is good in this statement, I miss the voice and perspective of Eastern Orthodoxy in the dialogue. I realize that participation in ecumenical dialogue is somewhat problematic for the Orthodox church. My heart grieves for expressions of division that do not enter into the fullness of Jesus' high priestly prayer.
During class (Conversations With Anabaptist Theology Today) last night, Brinton Rutherford referenced Myron Augsburger's perspective that one should be committed to a particular theological system in order to engage with other traditions across the body of Christ. I guess that is one of the tension points in my journey. How can I be enriched by that which is True (or central to the Gospel) in other theological traditions? How can I enter into the unity that Jesus prayed would be expressed in the Church. In each of the tension points named above...must I choose between one side or the other? Is that what Augsburger means by being committed to a particular theological stream?
I had a thought while singing a particular worship song on Sunday morning at SMC. The song was "You are Worthy" sung by Michael W. Smith. The song is unique in that men sing one set of lyrics and notes and women sing another set of lyrics and notes. Both sing at the same time. The result is both musical harmony and lyrical harmony (complementarity). I wondered if that might be what unity in the Church might be like. We do not see unity that is expressed institutionally across theological traditions. But is it possible that we are singing divergent words in our worship and witness that are complementary and producing a greater harmony?
Am I being unfaithful to my own tradition (Anabaptist) if I embrace practices that are not a part of my theological stream? What is acceptable and what goes to far in the view of my own ecclesial community? Many in the Mennonite Church have embraced much from other streams that is not at the core of (and one could argue at points is a departure from) core Anabaptist theology. We see this in the embrace of everything from worship music, to ministry models, to curriculum for Christian Education, to popular teachers from the broader stream of contemporary Evangelicalism. I don't think I need to give specific examples.
So it is okay to put a fish on our vehicles--a symbol from the early church, but we are uncomfortable with the practice of making the sign of the cross--also a symbol from the early church.
PRAYER FOR RECONCILIATION
Lord, let our memory provide no shelter for grievance against each other.
Lord, let our heart provide no harbour for hatred of each other.
Lord, let our tongue be no accomplice in the judgement of each other.