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by Denise Marie Siino on July 29, 2015

Recently I had a conversation with a friend over an article she found online that described some beliefs C.S. Lewis held that are contrary to standard evangelical beliefs. (The article mentioned that as an Anglican, Lewis believed in purgatory and praying for the dead, among other things.) I responded to my friend in a way that might have concerned her, saying that I have long held an ecumenical attitude toward other Christian traditions. She replied:

“I am not concerned that you are interested in ecumenical progress. My bigger concern is the erosion of the foundations of faith that can occur when in pursuit of solidarity. Some things, I feel, are just not negotiable.”

Right-on! Unfortunately ecumenicalism has earned a bad name these days, and justifiably so. Rather than concentrating on the group of Christian traditions that were the focus of its original meaning and usage, the term has come to include Universalism, which promotes the “universal” fatherhood of God and the eventual salvation of all souls regardless of belief system.

That is not what I meant when I used the term ecumenical. Still, so as not to cause any confusion when using a term that has lost its original meaning, I’ve decided to create my own term to describe the promotion of unity among Christian faith traditions: “Christumenical.”

I define Christumenical this way: of or relating to the movement among Christian (Christ-centered) churches and denominations (including Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox) to achieve unity through authentic mutual respect and warmth, following Jesus’ observation in John 13:35 that the world will “know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” The key to this kind of love, I believe, is two-fold:

  • accepting each other as brothers and sisters in Christ based on our common beliefs in the essential Christian tenets of faith—that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified as a substitutionary atonement for all humanity, died and was buried, was resurrected from the dead on the third day, and that He is coming again at some point in the future to bring final judgment upon sin and death; and
  • maintaining a non-judgmental attitude toward the unknowable issues – matters subject to interpretation where the Bible is not crystal clear – that we tend to disagree on. As early Church father Augustine of Hippo wrote, “…in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

When I read C.S. Lewis (among other non-evangelical Christian writers), I bear in mind that I do not have to believe in everything he believed (purgatory for instance) in order to find valuable Christian insight in the rest of what he wrote. (In fact, while Lewis did not shy away from mentioning his “non-essential” beliefs, he never promoted them.) Additionally, I should not judge Lewis because he believed in purgatory and thus prayed for the dead. Why? Because I do not personally know that purgatory does not exist, and I don’t know of a single person who does. Believing in something, or not believing in something, does not make it so.

What I do know is this—the Bible makes it very clear that the area of judgment belongs to God alone, and I’d best keep my nose out of God’s business. The same can be said about other non-essential issues (outside of the basic tenets of faith). Let’s let God decide, in the long run, what’s important and what’s not, and simply follow Christ’s teaching to His disciples to love one another as Christ loved us.

So here’s my Christumenical word for the day: While many Protestant, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox practices may look different, even foreign to us who have been worshiping a certain way or with a particular church or denomination for a long time, let’s remember that the core beliefs of these Christ followers are the same as our own. In this age of Christian persecution (a growing problem worldwide, even here in the U.S.), we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from other brothers and sisters in Christ.


Bread of Presence, Bread of Life—Part 3

June 1, 2015
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It’s very important when talking about God’s provision to have the right perspective. That is why I ended last week’s blog post by saying that according to both Old and New Testament “rules,” we as a race of people deserve nothing from God’s hand. So biblically speaking, that is our starting point. Where does the […]

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Bread of Presence, Bread of Life—Part 2

May 26, 2015
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I have never painted myself into a corner, but I have unwittingly mopped myself into one. When that happens, you have to very carefully pick your way across the wet floor and hope you don’t track footprints. That’s the way I feel about my last blog post, knowing that I would have to gingerly make […]

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Bread of Presence, Bread of Life—Part 1

May 16, 2015
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I know a lot of people who are struggling financially right now.  They say the recession is lifting but it hasn’t lifted for my friends, or truth be told, for me.  Or maybe I should say for the entities I write for.  As a freelance writer I depend on businesses, newspapers and magazines with money […]

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And God Said: Listen Up!

March 27, 2015
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Every year at Lent I pray about what I need to do, not do, give up or take on.  Of course a person can do a bit of soul-searching any time of year, but given Lent’s significance in Church history, there is something special about participating with other Christians around the world, past and present, […]

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Standing for Christ

February 23, 2015
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I listened with great sadness to last week’s news about the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya.  While I have not tracked all of the “public” murders ISIS has performed in the past, it seems that – besides punishment for unpaid ransoms – they often target journalists and unsuspecting aid workers, and […]

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Farewell to General Don Crowley

January 28, 2015
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If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you know I write about people who have impacted my life and recently died.  Don Crowley (1932-2015) is one of these individuals. I met Don, a retired Army chaplain (who achieved the rank of colonel with the Army and brigadier general with […]

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