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!
Ross Douthat's gotten a lot of pushback for using his soapbox to complain that liberal Christianity lacks "a religious reason for its own existence." And with good reason—it'd be nice if the national paper of record's faithiest columnist could at least spin a fresher argument against us mainliners.
Former Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (August 14), says the liberation of Israel from violence and insecurity lies in the liberation of the Palestinian people from armed occupation. Tutu condemns Hamas for its missile launches against Israelis, but defends Palestinians’ right to struggle for freedom from occupation. “Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence.”