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Monday, September 25, 2017
Date Posted:

ECT - Intro
ECT - History
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History of the ECT

Evangelicals and Catholics Together
Dr. Brian Green

The genesis of the meeting seems to go back to a meeting at the De Moss House of the Prison Fellowship. In 1985 Charles Colson, who founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries, as Chairman invited Rev Richard Neuhaus, a former Lutheran, but now a foremost Jesuit priest, and Carl Henry, the long-time editor and founder of Christianity Today, to address a gathering of Christian leaders. At that meeting they sensed "the Holy Spirit was moving them to do more".

There was a common acceptance the Christian culture was no longer an influence on modern society, that envy, greed and hatred rules people's lives and that crime without conscience has caused violence to increase to alarming proportions. To add to this, religion had become an irrelevancy to the majority of people.

Charles Colson in his impressive contribution points out that Christians are losing the battle against the contemptuous media, an unrestrained consumerism, sexual libertinism, a hostile academia and the omnipresent hedonistic entertainment industry. He concludes: "Christians are both surrounded and outnumbered."

In 1986 Neuhaus published his book The Naked Public Square which described a sick society without an answer to its dilemma. George Wiegel, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC, suggests that there are "substantive reasons why the attempt to reclothe the naked public square is a joint task for Evangelicals and Catholics".

Colson published two books - Kingdoms in Conflict in 1987 and in 1992 The Body - Being Light in Darkness, which contributed to the emergence of a historic meeting in New York in September of 1992.

The main concern of the meeting was that "animosities between Evangelicals and Catholics threatened to mar the image of Christ by turning Latin America into a Belfast of religious warfare". At this meeting the seven Roman Catholics and eight Evangelicals who would eventually produce the ECT text were present together with three so-called noted Sociologists of Religion, Peter Berger of Boston University and two British scholars, David and Bernice Martin, authors of the book Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America.

The main concern of the meeting was that "animosities between Evangelicals and Catholics threatened to mar the image of Christ by turning Latin America into a Belfast of religious warfare". It was at this meeting, which lasted two days, that the first drafting committee was appointed to produce a document which contained the aims and objectives of ECT.

The Drafting Committee was made up of George Weigel, the Lay Catholic Theologian; Kent Hill, President of Eastern Nazarene College; Charles Colson; and Richard Neuhaus. The final document was approved in March 1994 and endorsed by a wider number of people a little later on. Besides the leading Catholic participants and endorsers we find the names of so-called Evangelicals:

  • Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship
  • Dr Hill, Nazarene College
  • Dr Land and Dr Lewis from the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Dr Miranda, Assemblies of God
  • Mr Brian O'Connell, World Evangelical Fellowship
  • Dr John White, National Association of Evangelicals
  • Dr Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ
  • Bishop Frey, Trinity Episcopal School
  • Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries
  • Dr Mouw Fuller, Theological Seminary
  • Dr Noll, Wheaton College
  • Dr Packer, Regent College
  • Rev Pat Robertson, Regent University.
There are many more who enthusiastically wished to add their names as endorsers. The main thought of the ECT statement is:
The main thoughts of the ECT statement: (1) The Past must be forgotten.

Colson writes:
"The divisions between us are not the battle of the hour. [...] The controversies that divide us are far less significant than the common threat that confronts us." The divisions and controversies which Colson mentions are those that began at the Reformation and are still the same today. One Catholic contributor says: "Condemnation of the Reformation was based on misconceptions [...] and no longer applies to today's situation."

(2) There is more that unites Evangelicals and Catholics than divides them.

Both believe in the Trinity and therefore the deity of Christ, His virgin birth and bodily resurrection, that He is the only Saviour of men and that the scriptures are divinely inspired. Both affirm together the Apostles' Creed as an accurate statement of Scripture and truth. The vehicle of the World Council of Churches is rejected in Colson's words: "This new ecumenism bears no relationship to new ecumenism which seeks unity by disregarding doctrinal differences"; and again: "The ecumenical movement among liberal Protestants sought to unite various denominations by eliminating doctrinal distinctions."

(3) All Catholics and Evangelicals must be regarded as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is clear from their statement: "All who accept Christ as Lord and Saviour are brothers and sisters in Christ. [...] He has chosen us to be His together.

(4) Together the two groupings have strength. It is estimated that the Catholic Church has 1 billion adherents, whilst the Evangelicals have 300,000, although some would put this figure higher.

(5) A commitment to a common task of evangelising the non-believing world. The ECT statement contains the words: "We hope together that all people will come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour." Believing they preach the same gospel, they propose to work together for the salvation of souls.

You may ask how two seemingly irreconcilable groups have come this far. There have been many previous ventures of co-operation and unity, and these have been the evolution of this present movement. They were:

Previous ventures of co-operation and unity between Protestants and Catholics. (a) The World Council of Churches

In 1960 the Pope sent Catholic observers to the New Delhi Assembly of the WCC, and since that time the Catholic Church has taken an active role as observer in many of the agencies of the WCC.

(b) The Vatican Council II (1962-1965)

Some have concluded that the main purpose of this modern-day council was ecumenism. It was from this council that Rome began speaking about "separated brethren", and in section 3 of the Decree on Ecumenism "men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are brought into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church".

(c) The Picket Lines

Evangelicals have already acted together over many religious and social concerns. The persecuted church in the communist countries, children's rights, anti-abortion, a pro-life ecumenism, euthanasia, embryo experimentation and human rights are some of the issues on which, protesting vigorously, Evangelicals and Catholics have worked together.

(d) The Billy Graham Contribution

In the 1960's, Graham started his co-operative evangelicalism, with Catholics making up a considerable portion of those who attend his meetings and who if they make a response are sent back to the Catholic Church for counselling. A crusade was held in American Catholics' most hallowed location - the football stadium of Notre Dame University, in 1977, where Graham received a doctorate. He was entertained by the Abbot of the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Poland in 1978, and in 1981 Pope John Paul II granted him an audience at the Vatican.

(e) The Charismatic Renewal

Mark Noll of Wheaton College writes in his contribution: "The spread of the Charismatic Movement has done a great deal to reduce the barriers between Catholics and Evangelicals." Dr Packer writes: "Charismatic gatherings, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanishes in a Christ-centred unity of worship, fellowship and joy, are a further example working side by side."

Great names of the past are quoted as if they were in favour of a united front with Rome. These include John Calvin, John Wesley and Gresham Machen. All these have brought into being the position where Catholics and Evangelicals meet with a common belief, attitude and action.

Great names of the past are quoted as if they were in favour of a united front with Rome. These include John Calvin, John Wesley and Gresham Machen. Even Martin Luther is called in a Catholic book, a reformer of the Church. They speak in a derisory manner of Fundamentalism in 1890 as a mainstream, but in the 1990's as marginal.

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