The roots of the ECT movement date back to a meeting in 1985 of Christian
leaders. Charles Colson of the Prison Fellowship Ministries organized the
meeting.Rev. Richard Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public
Life, and Carl Henry, editor and founder of Christianity Today addressed the group. "There was a common acceptance the Christian culture was
no longer an influence on modern society, that envy, greed and hatred rules
people's lives and that crime without conscience has caused violence to increase
to alarming proportions. To add to this, religion had become an irrelevancy to
the majority of people." Many at the
meeting felt that a cooperative effort by the two largest and most conservative wings of Christianity
in North America --
Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity -- was needed. 8
A group of leading American Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants joined together
in 1992-SEP to seek unity between their two groups. They decided this step as "essential for continued missionary expansion into the third
millennium." They acknowledged that past conflicts were seen as crippling the progress of the Gospel. "Involving,
as it did, both evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders, it was truly a monumental
statement...it was an ecumenical document of supreme importance since it represented a
combined effort by leading spokesmen to 'bury the hatchet'...and work together as
'teammates' instead of antagonists...It laments the division between them and proposes a
moratorium on Catholic / evangelical conflict." 1
There were 21 Evangelicals and 20 Roman Catholic
participants. The group included:
Mr. Charles Colson Prison Fellowship;
Fr. Juan Diaz-Vilar S.J. Catholic Hispanic Ministries;
Fr. Avery Dulles S.J. Fordham University;
Bishop Francis George OMI Diocese of Yakima, Washington;
Dr. Kent Hill Eastern Nazarene College;
Dr. Richard Land Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention;
Dr. Larry Lewis Home Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention;
Dr. Jesse Miranda Assemblies of God;
Msgr. William Murphy Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston;
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus Institute on Religion and Public Life;
Mr. Brian O’Connell World Evangelical Fellowship;
Mr. Herbert Schlossberg Fieldstead Foundation;
Archbishop Francis Stafford Archdiocese of Denver;
Mr. George Wiegel Ethics and Public Policy Center;
Dr. John White Geneva College and the National Association of Evangelicals
First ECT document: 1994:
They issued a their first joint statement, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The
Christian Mission in the Third Millennium," on 1994-MAR-29. 2,11 It included the following main points. [We have added some comments of our own between
Christianity includes a large number of faith groups, including Evangelicals, Roman
Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, mainline Protestants and liberal Protestants. [This is a
significant development, because conservative Protestants often do not recognize faith
groups different from themselves as real Christians.]
Their eventual goal is a reuniting all of Christianity. However, their
immediate effort targets only cooperation among those communities which are the "most
evangelistically assertive:" Evangelicals and Roman Catholics.
They believe that salvation is possible only within
Christianity, and that the entire population of the world will eventually be converted to Christianity. " The raging of the principalities and powers may increase as the
End Time nears, but the outcome of the contest is assured." [This
would seem to imply that non-Christians who have died in the past or will die in
the future before the world is created to Christianity will spend eternity
being tortured in Hell.]
Catholic and Evangelicals agreed on a common statement, that individuals are "justified
by grace through faith." However, they are liable to interpret this statement in
different ways: "For the Catholic,...salvation by grace refers to that divine
grace whichis mediated through the Roman Catholic sacraments administered by a
duly ordained priest of Rome. The evangelical...concept of grace is that it is
unmerited favor which is received by faith alone. There is a vast difference between the
two concepts." 1
They recognize that their divisions are deep, long standing,
and may not be resolved "short of the Kingdom Come."
The church has a "responsibility for the right ordering of civil society...politics,
law, and culture must be secured by moral truth...only a
virtuous people can be free and just, and that virtue is secured by religion...securing
civil virtue is a benefit of religion." [This statement is somewhat ambiguous.
It might be interpreting as implying that absolute moral truth exists, that it can only be
determined unilaterally by Christians, and that persons who are not Christians cannot be
virtuous. On the other hand, it might imply that people of all
religions may be led to virtue through their various faiths.]
They are strongly committed to religious freedom and to the
principle of separation of church and state. But they see religion as an integral part of
public life - something that should not be excluded from the public square.
An unborn child is a human being and has a right of
protection. [They do not precisely define when
human personhood begins. Their statement could be interpreted that this transition occurs at the instant of
Education must include the role that religion has played in
history. "We reject the claim that, in any or all of these areas, 'tolerance'
requires the promotion of moral equivalence between the normative and the deviant."
[It is unclear what they mean by "normative" and "deviant" beliefs
are. This is a worrisome statement, because many conservative Christians consider liberal
Christian beliefs to be "deviant." They may mean that liberal beliefs are not to
be tolerated. Their use of terms is distressing -- what one person regards
as "normative," another might regard as "deviant."
And vice-versa. One person's orthodoxy is another's heresy.]
Parents should be free to choose the type of schooling that
they wish for their children. [This might refer to government subsidies for religious
schools. It might refer to parents having the right to deny their children access to
information in such areas as contraception, STD prevention, homosexuality,
They oppose the portrayal of pornography, violence, sexual
depravity and antireligious bigotry in the media. [It is
unclear what they mean by sexual depravity. They may include, for
example, sexual activity within a committed, same-sex relationship. They may advocate censorship of religious criticism.]
They promote acceptance and understanding "across
lines of religion, race, ethnicity, sex, and class." [Acceptance
and understanding of persons with
a minority sexual orientation is notably absence.]
They support a free economy.
They support multiculturalism in the sense of "respectful
attention to human differences...[not] "affirming all cultures but our
Laws and social policies should support the family. [They
do not define the term "family"; however, they presumably refer to
units headed by
opposite-sex couples only.]
"U.S. foreign policy should reflect a concern for
the defense of democracy and, wherever prudent and possible, the protection and
advancement of human rights, including religious freedom."
Attempts by Evangelicals and Catholics to win converts from
each other's membership weakens the Christian mission. They differentiate between
evangelizing and proselytizing. The former seeks converts from among non-Christians, and
is to be encouraged. The latter is often referred to as "sheep stealing" -
raiding of members from other Christian denominations, and is "neither
theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources..."
There should continue to be diversity "of worship,
piety and catechisis" within Christianity. Unity does not require homogeneity.
"...physical, psychological, legal, economic"
coercion has no place within evangelizing efforts.
"...bearing false witness against other persons
and communities, or casting unjust and uncharitable suspicions upon them, is incompatible
with the Gospel."
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times wrote: "The
document shook the evangelical world. 'Friendships and institutions were blown
apart,' Father Neuhaus recalled in an interview. One hundred evangelical leaders
signed a statement denouncing it. Mr. Colson said his organization, Prison
Fellowship Ministries, lost about a million dollars in contributions. He
received more than a dozen letters a week from angry evangelicals."
Some indication of the firestorm of negative responses from
Evangelicals can be seen :
Author Kevin Reed, 3 commented:
"...the ect document represents a colossal compromise with Rome..."
ECT "...demonstrates that most evangelicals have departed from the doctrines
and practices of the Protestant Reformation."
Reed criticized those active in ECT for their beliefs on salvation, worship
"...the ECT document contains false theological presuppositions and blatant
compromises..." with Roman Catholic belief:
"To any evangelicals who have signed or supported the ECT accord, we have but
one thing to say: Repent!"
The administration of the Dallas Theological Seminary - one of the most influential Fundamentalist Protestant educational institutions in the United States,
"Our society is under assault by the forces of
secularism, humanism, and false religions." [It is unclear whether
the false religions that they are
referring to are other world religions, new emerging faith groups, or Christian groups which
deviate from historical traditions.]
Evangelicals and Roman Catholics share many social policies
and can cooperate in the areas of "political, moral, and social action."
Theological differences between the two groups remain, and
"must not be minimized."
The Seminary cannot endorse the ECT statement
The statement represents the views of a handful of
individuals; it did not speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church or Evangelical communities.
Evangelical Christian leaders John Ankerberg, James Kennedy, John MacArthur, and R.C.
Sproul later took part in a roundtable discussion on the ECT document. John Ankerberg was the
R.C. Sproul criticized the ECT's statement "That
we are justified by grace, through faith, because of Christ." Protestants have
traditionally asserted that justification is through faith alone; i.e.
without any human contribution. Roman Catholics believe that faith is a necessary but not
a sufficient condition for salvation; baptism, avoidance of sin, confession, attendance at
mass, participation in church sacraments, etc. are also needed.
John MacArthur commented on the statement that "We together, Evangelicals and
Catholics, confess our sins against the unity, that Christ intends for all His disciples."
His objection is that Catholics should not be counted among Christ's disciples. He
recommends that Evangelicals and Catholics work independently of each other, and avoid
They criticized the assumption in the ECT document that members of Eastern Orthodox,
Mainline and Liberal Christian churches should also be considered as Christians.
They also disagreed with the
prohibition against "sheep stealing." John MacArthur said that "the
Catholic Church...is the single most fertile ground for evangelism that exists in this
community in which I minister."
ECT meeting 1996:
They met in the fall of 1996, and decided that future progress depended
upon the two groups reaching a consensus on two matters: the meaning of salvation and the doctrine of justification.
Second ECT statement 1997:
Their 1997 statement, titled "The Gift of Salvation," noted a number of beliefs on which they had reached
"In justification, God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness
alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his
The process of sanctification progressively refines a Christian to
be more Christ-like.
Christians are to "evangelize everyone everywhere."
The defense of religious freedom.
They also listed many differences of belief:
The meaning of baptismal regeneration.
"...The historic uses of the language of justification as it
relates to imputed and transformative righteousness; the normative
status of justification in relation to all Christian doctrine; the
assertion that while justification is by faith alone, the faith that
receives salvation is never alone..."
"....Diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory, and
Devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Role of the saints in one's religious life
Whether any of those persons who have not been evangelized are saved.
They commit themselves to future effort to resolve their differences. 7
ECT meeting: 2001-OCT-2
"Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail: Evangelical
Conversations" was a two day meeting held at Samford University in
Birmingham, AL. Included were sessions "devoted to conversations among
evangelicals and fundamentalists, Pentecostals and mainline Protestants."
Richard John Neuhaus, president of The
Institute on Religion
and Public Life, commented: "Our Lord intended that there should be one
everyday reality: Christ and his church. The scandal is that we aren't
one. We are brothers and sisters, and we do not live as one." He said
that an important part of the 1994 statement was that conservative
Protestants and Roman Catholics recognized each other as brothers and
sisters in Christ. Neuhaus said "Many evangelicals had not been raised
to think of Catholics in that way." He maintained that Christian unity
is necessary, "because we are one. From the Catholic point of view, the
goal of Christian unity is the full communion of all Christians...ECT has
no great plan for reorganizing any of the major religious institutions,
but seeks to recognize the unity that is ours as brothers and sisters in
Timothy George, dean of Samford's Beeson
Divinity School -- the sponsors of the event -- said that evangelical
Christians have often been defined by their
"contrarian impulse...We've not been as well known for what we are for,
as for what we are against...Evangelicalism is a renewal movement in
historic Christian orthodoxy. Evangelicals accept the apostolic witness
of the early church, as well as the great themes of the Protestant
Reformation, and the many movements of awakening from the Methodist
revival to Pentecostalism. All who truly
believe in Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in the Lord, regardless
of denominational differences." He concluded that Evangelicals and
Catholics can have a common witness that they cannot have with Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and many other sectarian groups. 13
Third ECT document (2002):
The third major ECT statement, titled
"Your Word is Truth," described some progress on "the relation between Scripture and
tradition." 12 The
document was published in a book by the same name which was written by Charles
Colson and Richard John Newhaus. 13 The statement acknowledges that both Evangelicals and Catholics affirm the unity
of Christianity, but "...define the Church and its attributes in distinctive
Evangelicals define the Church as being composed of all people who have
accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior over the past two millennia. "Everyone
who is personally united to Christ, having been justified by faith alone
through his atoning death, belongs to his body and by the Spirit is united
with every other true believer in Jesus."
Catholics believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is the Catholic
Church: a body governed by the bishops in communion with the pope in Rome. "Christ...endowed
the Church with a permanent apostolic structure and an infallible teaching
office that will remain until the Kingdom is fully consummated."
There appears to be no way to resolve this fundamental difference.
Both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics agree that the Bible is the Word of God
in written form. However, they cannot reach a consensus on which books
constitute the official canon.
They agree that God has inspired Christians during the two millennia since
Jesus' ministry "both to counter error and to make explicit what is implicit
in the written Word of God." They "...affirm that Scripture is the
divinely inspired and uniquely authoritative written revelation of God; as such
it is normative for the teaching and life of the Church."
They differ on the matter of interpreting scripture:
Evangelicals believe that the responsibility to interpret the Bible
rests in the congregation of believers or in "a wider synodical or
episcopal connection," with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Catholics see the responsibility as in vested in the church Magisterium:
the pope and bishops of the Catholic church.
Each considers the other group to be in serious error in many areas of
belief. "The theological disagreements that still separate us are serious and
require prayerful reflection and sustained mutual engagement. But in the face of
a society marked by unbelieving ideologies and the culture of death, we deem it
all the more important to affirm together those foundational truths of historic
Christian orthodoxy that we do hold in common."
Their work continues.
Opposition to the ECT among Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Protestants:
Many conservative Protestant para-church organizations have gone on record as
criticizing the goals of the ECT movement. See essays at the following para-church
John Ankerberg.org at: http://www.ankerberg.com/ and http://www.ankerberg.com/ "The more we understand them, the more we
remember why there was a Reformation. Biblically it will be impossible for
Evangelicals or Catholics to reach agreement until one side radically
changes its stance."
There remain major theological and social conflicts within the ECT alliance:
Theological conflicts are massive, and apparently irresolvable. They
involve topics like sacraments, salvation, justification, baptism, church
authority, biblical interpretation, etc.
Capital punishment: The Vatican opposes; most Evangelicals support it.
Political party support: Most Catholics have historically voted
Democrat; Evangelicals - Republican.
Contraception: The Catholic hierarchy, although not the membership
opposes birth control; Evangelicals regard it as a private matter.
However, they share many social goals, particularly those topics related to
human sexuality: reducing access to abortion, reducing rights of gays, lesbians
and bisexuals, prohibiting same-sex marriage, etc.
The greatest accomplishment of the ECT movement may be to get Evangelicals
and Roman Catholics talking to each other comfortably , so that they can more
forces on social programs.
Amazon.com has the following books available on ECT: