Professor Bruce Shelley notes that “the decline in denominational loyalties is apparent on every hand.… We are living in days when a kindly little old Roman Catholic lady will light up at the mention of Billy Graham’s name and promise to attend his meetings faithfully, and when a Greek Orthodox priest will use Scripture Press literature for Vacation Bible School.”
Shelley, who teaches church history at Denver’s Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, makes the observations in the opening article of a two-part series on ecumenism in United Evangelical Action, official monthly magazine of the National Association of Evangelicals. The series comes, appropriately enough, on the threshold of NAE’s twenty-fifth anniversary, when the organization can be expected to look soberly at itself and ponder its own future in today’s ecumenical drift.
NAE claims two million members among its affiliated churches and a “service constituency” of some ten million. The eight-million gap represents people who are in sympathy with the organization and draw from its services but whose denominations do not officially belong. There are additional millions of American evangelicals who have no tie with NAE whatsoever; many belong to denominations within the broader conciliar movement and are disillusioned over Neo-Protestantism’s neglect of evangelical and evangelistic priorities and its growing interest in Roman Catholic rapprochement. Several staunch evangelical denominations remain aloof.
These non-aligned evangelicals are the cause of more and more discussion. There is a growing feeling that the time may have come for a revitalized NAE that would be found appealing to evangelicals with no present interdenominational connections. Some feel the present ...1
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