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!
José Gabriel Funes, who runs the Vatican’s astronomy program, is not bothered by the idea that there might be intelligent life on some other planet, such as on the recently discovered Kepler 452b which appears to be earthlike. “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God,” Funes said. “This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.” He does not believe that the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life would mean there could be another Jesus. “The incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe,” he said. Pope Francis has already said the church should be open to baptizing extraterrestrials, should they ever be encountered (Washington Post, August 1).