Dr. Randy White
It seems that ecumenical movement has swooned the whole of evangelicalism, and I think it is time to reject both evangelicalism and the ecumenical movement entirely.
Evangelicals are the “softer, gentler” form of fundamentalism. The movement, from its beginning, was open to ecumenical movements (such as Billy Graham crusades), but was mostly largely suspicious and its churches independent. In the past decade, however, evangelicals have fully removed any remains of convictions of separation and have thrown themselves fully into the ecumenical movement.
For the sake of this post, I’ll spare you the examples. My purpose is not to prove my point but rather to convince evangelicals that the ecumenicism amongst them is utterly absurd. My belief is that evangelicals cannot and will not reform and that evangelicalism itself must be rejected (thus my forthcoming book, “Why I Am a Fundamentalist…and You Should Be Too”).
One issue with ecumenicalism is it has a great “curb appeal.” After all, churches working together to fulfill the church’s mission sounds fantastic. So many proof texts (which are texts with no context) can be used to support ecumenical programs; Scriptures about love and unity and peace abound, after all.
In spite of the curb appeal, the ecumenical house is far from appealing.
Here are five reasons why ecumenicalism doesn’t work and should be rejected.
Ecumenicalism Ignores History
Ignoring history is always an ill-fated path. It is no more profitable to ignore church history than to ignore political or secular history. Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is the history of division and schism. One can either be appalled that Christians have not been unified over the past 2,000 years or can read deeper into the history and thank God that men of God have been willing to stand, call out, and separate themselves from unbiblical teaching. Should Baptists and Campbellites ignore the divisions that arose in the 1860s, for the sake of unity? Or would it be better for Baptists to worship the Baptist way and Churches of Christ to worship the Campbellite way? Should Protestants and Catholics ignore the divisions that arose in the 1500s, for the sake of unity? The exact same theological divisions exist today. Are they no longer important? Anytime church history speaks of a schism, it is revealing a theological issue which should not be ignored.
Ecumenicalism Ignores Doctrine
Doctrine should be the driving factor of a church. (Please forever dump the purpose-driven garbage and become a doctrine-driven church.) There was a time when churches of all varieties taught the unique doctrines of their church. But as the ecumenical movement arose, churches quit teaching doctrine. It is hard to tell which came first in this scenario, but the decline in doctrinal teaching and the rise of ecumenicism are undoubtedly related. If your church doesn’t have a clear doctrinal position on the major (and most of the minor) issues of the faith, then I would question that church’s adherence to the Bible. How can a local church not have a position on how to be saved, who can be saved, how the church should be governed, who is allowed to be in church leadership, who can/should be baptized, etc.?
Ecumenicalism Lessens the Value of the Local Congregation and Its Work
When churches join together with other churches, it promotes the idea that the local congregation is not equipped to reach its community for Christ and is so desperate that it must partner with other churches of differing doctrine in order to carry out its mission. And while some may say, “But we are unable to carry out our mission on our own!”, I would have them study their personal sufficiency in Christ and the manner in which the Holy Spirit equips the church for its ministry.
If a larger body is truly required, then by-all-means give up your autonomy and join that body! Of course, I fully reject that idea because I believe that every church is fully equipped to carry out its ministry. Furthermore, I don’t think that any progress will be made to strengthen your local congregation’s effectiveness by joining forces with other doctrinally-different local churches. In fact, you would likely do your local congregation far more harm than good.
Ecumenicalism Creates Confusion
There is no clear trumpet in an ecumenical movement. When younger believers in your local church go to ecumenical movements, they quickly become confused. “In my church, they teach against ‘name it and claim it,’ but in this event, they ‘name it and claim it.'” Or, “In my church, they do not allow women to serve as pastors, but in the ecumenical event there is a woman pastor.” The examples could go on forever. Why bring confusion to that younger believer?
But it is not just younger believers. Mature believers say, “If it is good enough to preach, it is good enough to practice!” The same issues become confusing for mature believers, who are rightly concluding, “We don’t really believe the doctrines we have been teaching.”
Ecumenicalism Costs Multi-millions of Dollars
There is a billion dollar industry called the Evangelical Industrial Complex (EIC), and the EIC loves the ecumenical movement. Why? Because it thrives financially off the money that is put into ecumenical programs. Big money. Much bigger than if local churches were operating independently.
Let’s take one example. The National Day of Prayer is a recent movement. The first Thursday in May was set aside for prayer in 1988. Originally, Christians prayed for their nation on that day. Later, churches had prayer meetings in their church on that day. And later still, churches joined together with other churches for prayer on that day. The ecumenical aspect of this movement is now a multi-million dollar annual venture. Yes…MULTIPLE MILLIONS is spent on the National Day of Prayer, for a short service that takes place one day a year. It is a waste of church funds. People make their salary off the National Day of Prayer. Advertising agencies and printing companies and local venues, etc., all LOVE the National Day of Prayer cash-cow.
Let’s Reject Ecumenical Initiatives
I think it is time for Christians to reject ecumenical initiatives. My own local church prohibits ecumenical involvement where any doctrine, worship, or evangelism is involved. However, to reject ecumenical initiatives will be costly to you and your church. My own experience is that you will be vilified, misunderstood, or just considered a fundamentalist loon. But, in the end, I see no reason to further progress down the evangelical primrose path.
Dr. Randy White is founder and CEO of Dispensational Publishing House. He teaches Bible online through Randy White Ministries. This article is one of a four-part series based on a presentation called Four Fundamental Adjustments to Fundamentalism. For more on the topic of evangelicalism, watch for Dr. White’s forthcoming booklet, “Why I am a Fundamentalist…and You Should Be Too.”