Agree to disagree

—Sounds like ecumenism to me!

by Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

November 8, 2002

photo of Jaynan Clark Egland

Pr. Jaynan Clark

One week ago I attended the Conference on Christian Sexuality that was held in Kansas City. That same weekend Mark Chavez, director of WordAlone Network, attended the first national conference of the Association of Churches for Renewal (ACR) of which Word Alone Network is a part. Both of us were reinvigorated, refreshed and renewed by our experiences.

Mark, upon return from his travels, shared that the conference was attended by people from every mainline Protestant denomination. Surely, all attended out of concern for the wider church, the Christian witness and the current climate and questions we face as Christians. It was a truly “ecumenical” gathering, for diversity was celebrated and points of disagreement were accepted. It shows that unity in Christ, as we gather in His Word alone, is primary and genuine, unlike the synthetic unity of uniformity.

In a joint effort to engage in reform and renewal, a statement was composed and released for wider distribution amongst concerned Christians. You can find the prepared statement of the ACR by clicking this link.

The Kansas City conference that I attended was sponsored by the American Lutheran Publicity Burea (ALPB) and carried specific endorsements from the Fellowship of Confessional Lutherans and WordAlone Network. More than 250 participants from across the U.S. and Canada gathered to hear a number of very fine speakers address the issues of marriage and sexuality from a classical Biblical/Confessional position. All present seemed pleased with the quality and variety of the presentations. This conference also concluded by issuing a statement entitled, “A Pastoral Statement of Conviction and Concern.” I would encourage individuals and congregations alike to read both of the noted statements and consider what you might do to engage further in reform, renewal and theological reflection within the ELCA and wider Christian church.

As I joined with others at the conference, I was struck by their diversity. Yet, because the conference was sponsored by the ALPB, the majority of those in attendance identified themselves as “evangelical catholics.” Many disagree with the WordAlone Network on ecumenical matters and, especially, on the mandatory imposition of an historical episcopate by Anglican orders as required in the full communion agreement, "Called to Common Mission." However, it was refreshing to observe that though we read the “Confessions” differently. . .we at least are reading them! Also, and more importantly, we read the scriptures differently, especially regarding Christian unity and specifically John 17. . .but we all are reading them.

Gathered together with other people of the Word, Mark and I both were relieved and rejoiced in the fact that we never felt we needed to apologize for our interpretations and positions on the hard questions and big issues. There was a true unity of Spirit that Christ alone can create and which opens up conversation rather than closes down debate.

Let us read differently the Word if that is how God opens it to us, but let us all continue to read it, to hear it and to share it. For it is only the Word that will properly engage us in all the questions, concerns and issues looming ahead for Christ’s church and His world.