The missional church discussion is alternately exhilarating and mystifying for pastors and church leaders. On the one hand, missional church literature addresses trenchant issues in ministry, offering a new vision that moves congregations beyond inward focus and toward participating in the triune God’s renewal of the whole creation.
In a recent interview with the Century, historian David Hollinger talks about his preference for the phrase “ecumenical Protestants” to describe non-evangelical mid-20th-century American Protestants, instead of the more frequently used terms “liberal” and “mainline.”
“Ecumenical” refers to a specific, vital and largely defining impulse within the groups I am describing. It also provides a more specific and appropriate contrast to evangelical. The term evangelical comes into currency in the mid-century to refer to a combination of fundamentalists and Holiness, Pentecostals and others; ecumenical refers to the consolidation of the ecumenical point of view in the big conferences of 1942 and 1945.
I appreciated this shift in vocabulary because I have long disliked both the terms “liberal” and “mainline” to refer to whatever-kind-of-Protestant it is that I am.
About a year ago my wife bought a gadget that checks all of the Christmas lights on a string and alerts the user to the one that is burned out. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. Then one day, while I was checking lights one by one (like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation), she showed me how the gadget worked. It was wonderful!
A three-day Vatican conference last month called on the Catholic Church to rethink its commitment to just war theory. The theory too often provides a justification for war, the conference’s final document says, arguing that the just war approach gets in the way of exploring nonviolent resolu