When evangelicals and Catholics set aside centuries of mutual suspicion 20 years ago, the idea was fairly simple: Even if we can’t always work together, at least let’s not work against each other.
Now, two decades after the launch of the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together, relations between the two groups appear stronger than ever, forged by shared battles over abortion, same-sex marriage, religious freedom and immigration. A new pope is finding crossover appeal among evangelicals who share Pope Francis’ emphasis on evangelism and his distaste for the fancier trappings and authoritarianism of the papacy.
“The first affirmation of Evangelicals and Catholics Together is that Jesus Christ is Lord, and there’s the source of our hope,” Catholic theologian Matthew Levering of Mundelein Seminary outside Chicago told the recent Q conference of evangelical movers and shakers in Nashville, Tenn.
“This was an anchor for when they began to discover that we share the same gospel.”
The movement was spearheaded by former Nixon aide Charles Colson and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of the ecumenical magazine First Things. Together, the two men — who have since died — held out the promise that there was more that united the two groups than divided them.
Evangelicals and Catholics teamed up in fights against abortion and gay marriage. While the U.S. Catholic bishops led the public opposition to a contraception mandate included in President Obama’s health care law, the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby chain took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders combined efforts to pressure the House to pass immigration reform measures this year. ECT officials are hoping to finalize a new statement on marriage by June, said First Things editor R.R. Reno.
Even as both sides have had strained relationships with the Obama White House, they came together under George W. Bush, a United Methodist with a strong evangelical following. Bush looked to Catholic theologians to undergird his invasion of Iraq and opposition to embryonic stem cell research. His knelt at the casket of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and welcomed Pope Benedict XVI into the Oval Office in 2008.
To be sure, there are still sectors within evangelicalism that see Catholics as people who need to be “saved,” and within Catholicism where evangelicals and other Protestants are seen as something akin to heretics. Yet 50 years after the Second Vatican Council revolutionized the Catholic approach to other churches, relations couldn’t be much better.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Headlines
Sarah Pulliam Bailey