The burgeoning Catholic-evangelical alliance has attracted attention due to both churches’ common activism on “culture war” and pro-life issues, but the partnerships are taking shape on other levels as well, write Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom in Books & Culture (http://www.Christianity today.com/bc/2005/004/1.10.html).
In reviewing evangelical-Catholic relations of the past few decades, the writers note that the evangelical camp is still strongly divided on such an alliance when it comes to reaching accord on matters of doctrine and practice. The documents produced by the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together have gradually touched on such key teachings as salvation, but they are still met with wariness by much of the evangelical rank-and-file,-as well as by scholars.
Noll and Nystrom locate a growing number of evangelical-Catholic partnerships (sponsored by evangelicals) that go beyond theological agreements and political alliances. First, there is the retrieval of ancient Christian practices, forms of prayer such as the lectio divina (a prayerful way of reading scripture) among evangelical spiritual writers, such as Richard Foster.
The notion of “mere Christianity,” that there is a common adherence to orthodox Christian teachings, drives new evangelical-Catholic projects such as the San Diego Christian Forum, drawing speakers from both traditions to address theological issues. The large evangelical campus organization, InterVarsity, has addressed Catholic-evangelical themes at its annual theological conference, holding a joint prayer meeting at its conclusion.
Partnerships on youth ministry, with the evangelical Young Life adapting its programs to Catholic settings, are more common. While missions have long been resistant to the evangelical-Catholic alliance, that is now changing. Such international parachurch ministries as Campus Crusade, Youth With A Mission, and World Vision have Catholic personnel and joint programs.
The phenomenon of evangelical missionaries teaming up with local Catholic churches may not be the norm, “but it has become so common in so many places as to demand deliberation, not on whether it should take place but on the protocols to govern such activity as it occurs,” the writers conclude.