A New Digital-World Initiative in Catholic-Evangelical Relations
I suppose I first became interested in ecumenism towards the end of my undergraduate program at Florida State University. When I went off to college, however, I started to drift away from my faith. But since my roommate invited the Navigator’s campus ministry to host a bible study in our room, it saved me from falling completely away and subsequently became part of my adult conversion.
Afterwards, though I was active with the Catholic Student Union, I never ended my involvement with other ministries. The love of my Catholic faith wasn’t dulled by the zeal of Evangelicals or the piety of Methodists I came to know. Rather they inspired me, and I realized that my Church wasn’t complete without them. And while I was grateful for the ministries of the different Churches, I knew our divided witness was partly to blame for the spiritual apathy in the world.
It was in this context that I first discerned God’s call to work for unity. Once I finished my philosophy degree, I studied theology at the Angelicum in Rome. After this, I lived for a time in Portland, OR before moving to DC to pursue a Ph.D. at Catholic University with a concentration in ecumenism. During these years, I’ve been privileged to work for Christian unity both professionally and by volunteering my time.
An Internet-Based Ministry
More recently, when I learned that Glenmary Home Missioners was launching a new position – director of Catholic-Evangelical Relations—I was very excited for a couple of reasons. Theologically I’m most interested in Catholic-Pentecostal relations and I’ve always appreciated the wider Evangelical family. But more than this, I was excited because the position was created as an internet-based ministry.
Given the secular-religious struggle in our society, there is plenty of common ground for Evangelicals and Catholics to share. While there are doctrinal divisions between us, most are not as stark as they once were. And much larger than these are the problems that unite us. Many people today, particularly the under-40 crowd, are spiritually receptive but religiously unaffiliated. More open to ecumenical settings, we’re better able to reach them together than we are alone. And one of the best places to meet them, after all, is online.
To that end, we’ve begun by launching a Facebook fan page. Alluding to the hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our Love,” it’s simply called, They Will Know. Our aim is to increase understanding between Catholics and Evangelicals, support interchurch couples, raise awareness of the topical issues impacting our common faith, and to promote spiritual growth. In addition to launching a website, down the road we hope to develop this ministry in partnership with an Evangelical organization. In this way we’ll be able to expand the reach as well as the credibility of this truly valuable ministry.
Currently we’re planning to expand the spectrum of materials we provide by including short entertaining video clips. The fan page will showcase interviews with married couples of mixed religious background about the joys and challenges they face. Along the same lines, we’ll be hosting panel discussions between three to four representatives from different traditions, i.e. Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and Reformed. Some of the different formats will include pastors, active parishioners, as well as seminarians.
Lastly, there’ll be a ‘Visit Your Friend’s Church’ series of video clips. Two friends, one Catholic and one Evangelical, visit each other’s church one Sunday and then gab about it. These videos are a good example of one of the ways we can bring Catholics and Evangelicals closer together. Our approach is to speak on the issues of faith and religious culture in the places where people live and deliver it in a medium that’s easy to access. If you or someone you know would like to participate, please contact me to make arrangements. Further if there are ecumenical events in your diocese or college campus, by all means, you’re always welcome to post a picture and brag about it on our page.
I hope that after reading this short article you’ll be as excited about what we’re doing as I and the rest of the Glenmarians already are. More importantly, I also hope you’ll take just a minute to “Like” They Will Know on Facebook, as well as help spread the word about it. Lastly, if you have any ideas for this ministry or if I can be a resource to yours, then I am eager to hear from you.