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Pentecostalism and Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future (Part 5 of 5) by Amos Yong

And, of course, neighborhood ecumenism also includes many of these same features. On this level, the lines between Pentecostalism and the mainline churches have all but disintegrated. Many Pentecostals now feel right at home—in fact, they are, in these situations, at home, in their back or front yards—not only talking with their evangelical, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and even Catholic and Orthodox neighbors, but also without questioning the status of their relationship with Jesus, the latter being self-evident. Not infrequently, these conversations turn toward specifically religious matters, sometimes including theological and doctrinal themes. And, insofar as neighbors often work together in neighborhood projects, these grassroots kind of relationships demonstrate the ecumenical fellowship in the body of Christ rather unintentionally!

This raises the question of what institutional or denominational ecumenism looks like. I have previously mentioned Billy Graham and other kinds of evangelistic crusades. Christian musicians and performers also hold concerts that attract members of very different churches. More recently, events like Promise Keepers have filled stadiums with tens of thousands of people. These kinds of activities are valuable in and of themselves. But the kind of planning that is needed to pull them off is necessarily of the ecumenical type. What usually happens is that persons from various denominations have to not only pledge their support, but also be actively involved in organizing, administrating, financing, praying for—both individually and together—and following-up such events. I would argue that the relationships forged in these background activities—stuff that goes on behind the main stage, so to speak—is equally powerful in transforming lives and bringing the body of Christ together.

These kinds of overtly ministerial events, however, by no means represent the only kinds of institutional and denominational ecumenism. Other events focused on social issues are equally ecumenical. March for Jesus rallies against abortion, for example, are powerful demonstrations of the unity of the Church. And, other kinds of societal changes necessarily require Christians to put aside their differences regarding inessentials in order to work together. Individual groups or churches are, by themselves, generally ineffective in bringing about large-scale transformations of socio-economic and political structures. These can only be accomplished by prolonged engagement and strategically organized efforts motivated by Christian faith.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Winter 2002

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. Facebook

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