What Conservative Evangelicals Can Learn From The Ecumenical Movement

In my country, a person willing to apply the adjective “conservative” to himself is terribly hard to find. I have the impression, however, that elsewhere people are not intimidated by the word and, indeed, are happy to list themselves as “conservative evangelicals.” Such people, I assume, understand a “conservative evangelical” to be a person zealous for the fundamental truths of Scripture. He wants to “hold fast” to the confessions of the Church, the undoubted and catholic Christian faith which for many has today been watered down or filtered out of their thinking. My hunch is that for the most part “conservative evangelicals” are critical of the ecumenical movement because they suspect that—its basis notwithstanding—the World Council of Churches cannot be trusted to preserve the faith-heritage of the Christian Church. If they are not that negative, they at least doubt whether the movement is possessed by a heroic determination to defend the fundamentals of the historic faith.

However, I have not been asked to make a judgment of the ecumenical movement. The question is what the “conservative evangelicals” can learn from it. One need not approve of a movement to learn something from it; certainly one need not be prepared to join the movement before he can profit from it. As a Reformed person, I can learn a good deal from the Lutheran church—as, perhaps, a Lutheran can from mine—without being obliged to become a Lutheran. Perhaps, therefore, the stoutest holdouts from the ecumenical movement will be ready to pick up a few things from it to their own profit.

There are indeed some things to learn from the ecumenical movement. I shall mention two.

First, the ecumenical ...

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