This post is prompted by an interesting post from my friend and fellow mission thinker, Eddie Arthur. When I teach mission theology, I often say that this is a land of three streams: Roman Catholic, Ecumenical and Evangelical. Apart from the glaringly obvious fault that the Eastern Orthodox, with their rich theology, is missed (I put them in with the Ecumenical Movement), the division between Evangelical and Ecumenical is being increasingly blurred–and so it should be.
Firstly, this is not so much because Evangelical Churches and leaders have always been involved in the Ecumenical movement (John Stott, Kirsteen Kim and Rob Hay to mention just three) but because I think it is difficult, or should be difficult to be Evangelical without being Ecumenical. The word “Evangelical” has its roots in the Greek word “euangelion” which means “good news” or “gospel”. The word “Ecumenical” has its roots in the “oikoumene” which means “inhabited”. The Greeks and Romans used it to describe the Greco-Roman civilization. The Early Church used it to speak of their unity in the gospel. In the light of John 13:35 and the evangelistic nature of unity then may be we should be ecumenical.
Secondly, I think, as Eddie expresses that we are rather good at ecumenism; we call it interdenominationalism. I go to many conferences and other gatherings organised by Evangelical groups and it never occurs to me to ask the denomination of the delegates. Recently at the Micah Conference, I talked to a man who I want an article written about. I forgot to ask of which he is a pastor. It didn’t seem relevant.
So to answer my question, yes as Evangelicals we can be Ecumenical; in fact we should be.