Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 24, 2009

Oct 1: Religious Meeting of Minds & Souls

Who knew? The Methodists, ELCA Lutherans and Roman Catholics agreed on something major and theological ten years ago, and still keep talking about it:

You Are Invited to Attend a Special
Ecumenical Anniversary Celebration
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, and The Reverend Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, invite the public to attend the:

10th Anniversary Celebration of the
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
Between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation
and Affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006
Thursday, October 1, 2009
6:30 p.m.
Old St. Patrick’s Church
700 West Adams Street
Chicago, Illinois 60661

Homilist: The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta
Special Guest: The Reverend Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary Lutheran World Federation

Please call 312-534-5325 or e-mail for more information and to reserve a place at the service and reception.


Nice. Now if only the megachurches will catch on and stop pretending they’re the only ones who have God’s ear.

For those of you who have not noticed, there’s a mild resurgence in a number of mainline Christian denominations in this decade. Some are participating in the three mentioned above. Others are part of the Emergent Church movement: not a denomination, but a cross-pollination. It’s a discussion about how to do church in a postmodern context, by reaching back –sometimes hundreds of years– for spiritual practices and core beliefs, and then spicing up or re-thinking how to make them relevant for 21st century folks (especially for that holy grail of demographic groups, the 18-35 year olds). For those curious to know more, a website called Emergent Village is one of the larger hubs of activity.

The Anglicans/Episcopalians are re-friending the Catholics, Rick Warren offers prayers at the inauguration, after working with gays on AIDS and the problems of the African poor, and the hits just keep on coming.

I was also privvy to some news about essential national level discussions the Mennonites were having a couple years ago. Those were with Catholics and Pentecostals (specifically Church of Christ, I believe). The peaceable Mennonites have even had several meetings with Iranian religious clergy and Ahmadinejad himself, while still in good conscience calling them on the carpet for their anti-Semitic tendencies. And Hasidic Jew Matisyahu’s cool combination of reggae and ska with Hebrew mysticism is catching on with Jews, Christians, and even those with no formal religious conviction at all. He  just follows his heart, and the kids keep grooving.

So why do the nations rage? There are rumblings among the extreme conservatives that the liberalizing social climate and government are seeking to press everyone toward “one world religion”, but anyone who thinks this is realistic is a moron. (As are those who believe it is what Obama wants.) We can stand upon what we have in common, and still have our own ways of seeing and doing things. We can learn from each other, so we have even MORE in common, without sweeping our distinctives under the rug. 

For instance, I even spotted a goofy news story this week in which Myron Lowery, interim mayor of Memphis, was able to teach the Dalai Lama the African-American “fist bump” greeting. This is the same Lowery who took heat recently for allowing prayer to open city council meetings, offered by visiting and almost exclusively Christian clergy (given the population of Memphis). A separation of church and state group wrote Lowery a stern letter. He politely told them to mind their own business. Soon after, the Tibetan spiritual leader came there to receive a human rights award, as Memphis is home of the national civil rights museum. Memphis is also sort of a cultural mecca for African Americans, so the image of the mayor fist-bumping the Dalai Lama — much to the Lama’s amusement — is further sign of religion’s role as a unifying force.


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