Protestantism Today – Trends:
Protestantism today is as multi-faceted as ever. From mass evangelistic crusades to the development of the Alpha course, to explain and introduce Christianity to non-believers – Protestants continue to work in spreading the gospel around the world alongside Christians of other denominations. I have selected two trends which I believe are at the forefront of Protestant thinking today. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but these two areas will, I believe shape the future direction of Christianity in the third Millennium.
As we saw in the section ‘Denominations’, the Pentecostal movement has experienced phenomenal growth over the last 100 years. The idea of the Holy Spirit moving in a powerful way through ‘Speaking in tongues’, divine healings and words of prophecy has spread beyond a single denomination and is now to be found across the whole denominational spectrum. This move of the spirit is called Charismatic, from the Greek: Charis : ‘Grace’. However, the movement has not met with universal agreement; some arguing from Scripture that the gifts were intended only for the early church, to empower and equip it for initial growth. The authenticity of Charismatic experience remains an ongoing issue within the church.
From an denomination-wide perspective, it is clear that Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox alike have all experienced a new form of worship. Time will tell how the movement will develop, but it will suffice to say that it has played an important part in modern Protestant theology and practice.
The word comes from the Greek: Oikoumene, i.e. the whole inhabited earth. Ecumenism really means a movement toward Christian unity or greater co-operation between Christian denominations.
Protestant ecumenism really began in earnest with the 1910 World Missionary conference in Edinburgh. This met to discuss ways of improving co-operation in World missions. This eventually led to the founding of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1948. The council brings together the vast majority of Protestant and Orthodox denominations. The Roman Catholic church has decided not to formally join, but sends observers to nearly all WCC meetings. The WCC’s aim is not to promote organisational unity as much as greater co-operation, and in this it has had a fair degree of success.
Ecumenism in action – The Porvoo Communion
The Porvoo Communion is a fellowship of Anglican and Lutheran churches in Europe. Each church is in full communion with the other, and thus enables (amongst other things), a common sharing of Holy Communion and recognition of each other’s sacraments and ministers.
The following Anglican churches are members of the communion:
- The Church of England
- The Church of Ireland
- The Lusitanian Church in Portugal
- The Scottish Episcopal Church
- The Spanish Episcopal Church
- The Church in Wales
The following Lutheran churches are members of the communion:
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark
- The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania
- The Church of Norway
- The Church of Sweden
The following Lutheran churches have observer status within the communion:
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad
- The Lutheran Church in Great Britain
“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.”
Billy Graham (1918-)