Convergence. Coming together.
The word is a good one… but it needs some qualification. What does it mean in the context of the Church? The word itself seems to imply some sort of initial separateness or isolation; that the things coming togetherhave nothing to do with one another. To the contrary, what we mean to bring together initially wastogether. The elements convergingbelongtogether. Though, the term may be a little too… clunky, what we mean by convergence might be better thought of as reunification.
The Church, which existed in a state of unbroken visible unity for over a thousand years, has been subjected to unimaginable levels of division. While all continue to cling steadfastly to Christ himself, our grasp on one another has waned. At times it seems that the things which are unique about each strand of Christian expression have gained higher importance than the things which hold us together.
But that is not the case.
That which unites us – he who unites us – is greater than anything which divides.
While we work towards the reunification of the Church, we must not overlook the beauty that has been deposited throughout the diverse members of Christ’s Body. Christ has distributed gifts to his Church that are well worth preserving. Convergence is not a matter of becoming identical in every way, or of ‘converting’ other Christians to a particular expression of the Christian faith. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn from and express our deep love for one another. No one expression contains all that Christ has for his Church. We need each other. Truly, we are not whole without one another.
So what are these three strands?
The Historic Church. By this label we refer to those churches which have visible, traceable roots to the Church born on the day of Pentecost. From this expression we learn faithfulness and orthodoxy. We learn ritual, we learn discipline, and we learn the value of the Great Apostolic Tradition. We learn that liturgy is full of life and meaning; that our faith has firm intellectual and historic foundations; and we learn to love the means of grace called the sacraments.
The Evangelical Church. By this label we refer to those churches which were born or derived from the Protestant Reformation. From this expression we have been given a fresh revelation of the grace of God – a firm conviction that justification is not something that can be earned. We learn a deep love and respect for the Scriptures, a desire for sound teaching, and we learn to not only receive the message of Christ but to proclaim his Good News to all creation.
The Charismatic Church. By this label we refer to those churches impacted by the Pentecostal Revivals and Charismatic Renewal movements which place a high emphasis on the active work of the Holy Spirit. From this expression we learn of a God who is deeply personal and active in his Church today. We receive afresh the gifts of the Spirit and actively look for his fruit. We learn to interact with God on a relational level and to daily experience the gospel that we have learned.
These labels are not perfect… the lines, perhaps, are a little blurry. That’s alright. The intention is not to draw up boundaries that might serve as a further means of isolation; but rather to recognize the general state that the Church is in and to appreciate that Jesus is at work across the entire spectrum of the Body of Christ.
Convergence aims to embody the desire of Jesus “that they may all be one.”