A group of 32 evangelical Christians gathered in Dallas Oct. 22-25 in what they describe as an “ecumenical summit,” affirming common theological beliefs and promising to work together in mission, although they do not in some cases formally represent their denominations.
The participants said in a telephone news conference Oct. 25 that they hope to work together on projects including church planting and a push against human trafficking. In some cases, they represent groups that have split with mainline denominations in disputes over homosexuality and other controversies – and they are now aligning with each other in an effort to influence the secular world.
Phil Ashley, chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council, described the meeting as a “historic convergence of Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans and Reformed Christians around the historic faith.”
While several participants spoke of their joy at gathering with what one referred to as “kindred spirits,” they said a key difference between this gathering and other renewal movements among evangelicals is that they want to work together and share resources in cooperative ministry, theological education, church planting and training.
The focus is on “what we can do together and not just how we can be together,” said Tom Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, a United Methodist group.
The participants “have found new unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said John Bradosky, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church.” At the meeting’s end, they issued a theological statement with the title “Jesus Christ: Our common ground and common cause.”
Exactly how the new group will work together is still being sorted out. The leaders say they hope to make an impact on the public sphere. They say they will look for opportunities to gather at meetings they would already be attending, such as the Anglican 1000 Church Planting Summit in Wheaton, Ill., March 4-6. They plan to hold a second summit in 2013.
They also will consider who else should be around the table, said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, executive editor of the Layman. “We definitely want to broaden the circle,” Lambrecht said.
Lambecht said the group hoped to have a Roman Catholic representative at this gathering, but “that was not a possibility,” although he did not specify why.
According to a news release from the American Anglican Council, participants at the Dallas meeting included Roy Taylor, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, a representative of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and Dana Allin, president of ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Also attending were LaBerge, representing the Presbyterian Lay Committee, and Alan Wisdom of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.