In 1534, Abbot Paul Bachmann published a virulent anti-Protestant booklet entitled “A Punch in the Mouth for the Lutheran Lying Wide-Gaping Throats.” Not to be outdone, the Protestant court chaplain, Jerome Rauscher, responded with a treatise of his own, titled “One Hundred Select, Great, Shameless, Fat, Well-Swilled, Stinking, Papistical Lies.” Such was the tenor of theological discourse among many of the formative shapers of classical Protestantism and resurgent Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century. Such rhetoric was brought from the Old World to the New. Fueled by local prejudice and nativist traditions, it continued to deepen the divide between the heirs of the Reformation debates.
Imagine the surprise, then””in some circles the shock””when on March 29, 1994 the statement “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” was released in New York. Here, the old hostility between Catholics and Evangelicals was replaced by a new awareness of their common Christian identity””a shared life in Jesus Christ. The core affirmation of the first ECT statement, and of the entire project, was this declaration: “All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has chosen us, and He has chosen us to be his together.”
On the following day, the story of the new Evangelical and Catholic initiative was carried on the front page of The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers across the country. The reaction was immediate and explosive. While some saw this new effort as a hopeful sign, others, especially some conservative evangelicals on the right, were disturbed and distraught. Best-selling author Dave Hunt wrote of the ECT statement: “I believe the document represents the most devastating blow against the gospel in at least one thousand years.” For their part, many left-leaning progressives, both Catholics and Protestants, dismissed the statement as a publicity stunt tied to conservative politics.
It seemed to me that both of these narratives had badly misjudged the situation.
Read it all.