THE EMERGENT ECUMENISM
Ecumenism in general refers to initiatives aimed at greater religious unity or cooperation.  Ecumenism in a
narrower sense refers to the movement towards cooperation among Christian groups or denominations.  For
some however, it may also refer to the idea of unity: that there should be a single Christian Church, but normally it
refers to Christians of different denominations working together.  For the Catholic Church the ultimate goal of
ecumenism is the full, visible unity of all Christian churches in the one apostolic faith. [termed Universalism] (see
Wiki)
Ecumenical Awakening
Since the mid-1980's, America has been in a state of continual flux and transition from a national post-war (1940's) economy
into a late 20th C. techno-revolution, flattening of the earth (outsourcing), globalization (economic interdependence) and
strategic pursuit of critical energy resources.  Today we are hearing more loudly, "why shouldn't religion" undergo a transitioning
as well?   International banking already operates on a 'global economic exchange' of currency valuation. The European EURO is
boastfully challenging the US dollar for international monitory dominance.  Entering into the 21st C. the specter of a
global-warming debate, greening of manufactured goods and the rise of  "secularism" as a religious substitute are all on the
front burner.  A 2008 presidential candidate characterized "secularism" as being a new contemporary religion. A part of
"mankind" seems to be searching for an opening to turn away from submitting to, and embracing, a higher authority other than
itself, i.e., "God". The emerging ecumenical church appears to be one of the more popular religious alternatives,
"Religion", for an increasing number of skeptics, is an antiquated means for attempting to make sense out of various historical
unknown(s) as well as, vacillating contemporary 'moral/ethical' issues.  Many of the same skeptics embrace Darwinism as
holding the answer to man's existence, 'life's origin' is in the DNA and outer space is the hope for the near-distant future.  As
traditional religious denominations undergo seismic-like shakings, the fallout is coalescing into a collage of semi-recognizable
religious organizations and movements.  Enter the nebulous ecumenical church, which often is known by different names
and/or nondescript labels e.g., 'The Open House', 'Wellspring of Hope', 'The Covenant' etc.
To Be or not To Be, as we were
A denominational moniker is often not apparent in many of the newly established or reconstituted churches, even though they
may follow a type-of traditional liturgy.  In far left-of-center ecumenism: Sin, the Blood, need for repentance, inerrancy in scripture
are not found, and for some, a need for Salvation is not evident either [no sin, ergo, no need for redemption].  The emergent
ecumenism then can become a place that endeavors to offer a setting where "we can celebrate our similarities" and
"deemphasize or disregard our differences".  Endpoint purpose would be "Unity" for the sake of unity and not  "unity in
the faith",
as in Christianity.  Recently we heard two of our highest-ranking national leaders proclaim, "all religions pray to the same God"
and 'embrace a universality of all religions'.  The technical religious term for this coalescing is 'global ethic'.
Whether one holds the belief or not, likes it or not, a global ecumenism is sweeping the 1st world, and parts of the 2nd world
populations. We read in Revelation chapter 13 & 17, the eschatological prophecy of a coming one-world religion. Such a
'religion' would not require a total estrangement from one's religious practices, per se, yet would expect an allegiance to a
singular titular authority.  The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is now conferring with leaders from the Islamic world in an
attempt to identify and cannon their supposed similarities. Strange bedfellows, to say the least. The EU clearly understands the
power of collective bargaining, a unified defense matrix and the cost-effective reduction in duplicative governmental
infrastructures. As "Religion" comes under increasing inspection and taunt from the secular world, it to will merge within itself.  
Oh so sadly, much will be lost and sacrificed in order to gain the perceived safety from 'circling the wagons', as it were.
Civic Religion
'Civic religion' is the blending of various religious traditions and social-works type ministries. Certain newly arisen Mega
Churches have signed-on to the premise: government cannot, or will not do it all; thus, 'religious institutions' need to enter into
'public works' type program ministries The public works orientation may have international aspirations, as well as domestic.
Ministries for the common-good may include; poverty, hunger, homelessness, AIDS, global warming, greening projects, energy
issues, victims of abuse, unjust discrimination, and a host of other contemporary caring concerns. Today, a "Christianized"
psycho-social gospel is running neck and neck with traditional Christian doctrine. The
psychological part of the psychosocial
gospel is an overarching self-improvement and coping skills orientation promoted in many a church and frequently seen
embedded in
popular televised religious programming.
One way to identify suspicious 'ministries' is by the extent of their commodification.  When 'religious-type' paraphernalia
becomes a commodity, something directly or indirectly for sale, then the authenticity of that ministry is suspect.  In certain
religious venues, we are seeing an increase in the fleecing of the flock for purely material and temporal purposes.  The
contemporary packaging of religious appeals, for financial gifts, has become an art form not seen before this generation. 'Civic
Religion' runs on tangible assets over spiritual virtues. Before you guffaw too loudly, take a second look at the financial 'ministry
appeals' which come across you path each month.
The prosperity gospel, self-actualization regimens, and numerous step programs are ostensibly "self-centered", self-reliant and
self-actualizing in their purpose and intent.  Certainly nothing wrong with personal improvement as such, yet when the
self
replaces Christ as the
improver and prosperity becomes the endpoint and ultimate goal of one's existence, then the Gospel has
been truncated and abridged [Rom. 1:25].  As well, certainly nothing wrong with 'good works', yet again, when works become the
pathway to salvation, righteousness and/or forgiveness, then we believe ourselves to be the singular facilitator and master of
our own destiny.
Hybrid Assemblies
Religious-type organizations and coalitions, which may or may not be 'church' affiliated, are rising up in many communities.
These organizations have identified gaps in social services and/or deficiencies in the community service delivery system that go
begging for lack of fulltime personnel and adequate financial resources. Victim services for law enforcement, hospital
patient-support visitations, establishment of clearinghouses for religious services and ministries are points of entry for hybrid
religious entities. Not that these type service-based organizations have not been around since Noah's time, but they are
experiencing a significant resurgence often under a
religious 501-(c)(3) designation.
Some traditional churches have morphed into social service delivery systems and there are secular caregivers that now term
themselves to be offering 'religious-type' services.  Whichever the case, they are becoming a part of the new ecumenism of
social works under a religious banner.  As various denominations begin to fragment and many local churches move away from
their 'orthodoxy', the calling to belong to something new and different is an almost irresistible beckoning. The forming New
Baptist Covenant (organization) of disgruntled Southern Baptist Convention members is a striking example of the effort to divide
and conquer.  It will become the seat of the evangelical
liberal religious left.
More often than not, political correctness and single-minded social/civic works, for the greater good, progressively infringed
upon the solidarity of denominational
orthodoxy. A label such as re-unification, blendedness, and/or hybrid to describe a newly
formed church can signify a type of ecumenism and a departure from fundamental Christendom.  'Unity in and of the community'
is not the same as "Unity of the faith", no matter how it is packaged.  Hybrid by definition requires the grafting-in of that which is
foreign to that which is, in order to achieve a believed better whole.  Non-denominational churches can be as solidly orthodox in
their Christian tenants as are traditional denominational houses of worship, yet the less oversight authority the greater the
temptation to customize a church to the inclinations of the flock.  On the other hand, we have seen in recent times, atrocious
personal failings in churches that have obtuse top-down structures of authority followed by egregious cover-ups and deflections
of responsibility.
Bottom line, Religion today is under great inspection and transition from what it used to be to whatever it believes it must
become, just to survive. Then there are those religious factions that are fighting to maintain their status-quo, some even to the
extent of unconscionable fanaticism and unbelievable violence.  Christ foretold of the endtimes when false Christ's would
appear, along with false prophets, teacher, preachers and counterfeit religions ... believe we are about there!
Emergent Whatever
The emergent church, pluralistic church, interfaith collectives, postmodern feigned religiosity, experiential relativism vs.
absolutes, syncretistic vs. spirituality can all fit under the rubric of contemporary emergent ecumenism.  Modern-day ecumenism
is a reactionary religious colloquia formed by those falling away from fundamental Christian doctrine and tenants.  Now that is a
stern definition!  However, scripture foretells of such events in the endtimes e.g., " ... as though the day of Christ had come. Let
no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away {rebellion/apostasy} comes first, and the
man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition ... " [2 Th. 2:2-3]  The falling away (from The Truth) is by professed Christian
believer's and not just unbelievers.  The beginning of that falling away is observable in the contemporary emerging ecumenical
movement.  A second event foretold in scripture is also operating in a parallel manner i.e., "For the time will come when men will
not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths". [2 Tim. 4:3-4]
The emergent ecumenical movement is the precursor to the amalgamation of world religions, prophesied in scripture, for the
very endtimes. [See Rev. Chps. 13 & 17]  The World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches are
longstanding organizations committed to the furtherance of ecumenical religious orders and movements.  Both of these
organizations are well positioned to be integral to the global syncretism of worldwide religions.  The stage is set; the
falling
away
already appears to be in its initial stages.  Next significant event is the onset of a global conflagration of terror which will
frighten the unsuspecting into disparate religious enclaves in search for meaning and understanding of the
times.  It does not
have to be that way, for Christ has made provision for His own and will not allow them to be appointed to the time of wrath.[1 Th.
5:9]  This promise of Christ is one of the strongest assurances He will come for His Church, just prior to the beginning of
Tribulation Period. Now would be a most excellent time to bring one's self into alignment with God's precepts, commandments
and decrees.  God has given us the choice and means whereby we will not consumed by the endtimes and their tragedies.  
That choice and means are in Jesus Christ, and He alone!
Jon D. Hannum, Ph.D.
Amen Ministries of Austin