Should evangelicals be engaging in broader dialogue with other Christian traditions in order to impact Canada with the gospel?
That was a key question raised by the Hinge dialogue conference, held Nov. 16–18 by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) in Toronto.
In his closing keynote, EFC president Bruce Clemenger said the loss of “Christendom” in Canada raises new questions about how evangelicals engage with others.
“An increasing number of Canadians have never been to church or understand the basics of Christianity. We can no longer assume basic biblical literacy, and we know that quoting Scripture to support a position on a social issue no longer carries the weight it once did.”
Clemenger says this may spur more cooperation and dialogue with other Christian groups.
“What is essential is that we come to the table with integrity and honesty about who we are and what we believe as evangelicals, just as we expect others to do the same.”
Since the late 1980s, the EFC has been working with non-evangelical groups in a variety of strategic alliances around issues like religious freedom, sanctity of human life, and care of the vulnerable, says Aileen Van Ginkel, vice-president of ministry services for the EFC.
Van Ginkel was an EFC representative on a joint committee with Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) to explore the potential for ongoing conversation between Roman Catholics and evangelicals, leading to the establishment of the EFC/CCCB dialogue.
Strengthening witness together
“We recognized that there is indeed more that we can do together to strengthen one another’s witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Van Ginkel.
David Freeman, co-chair of the EFC/CCCB dialogue and vice president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, sees a “growing urgency” for greater dialogue between faith traditions. “On what basis do we allow differences in other, often secondary, doctrinal areas to separate us when we together are followers of the biblical Jesus?”
Cooperation “is a theological imperative, an act of obedience to Christ, an expression of humility, and a testimony to those who see division instead of unity.”
Van Ginkel adds, “It’s almost as if God reveals only a part of who God is to different traditions so that we will come together in the recognition that we need one another in order to experience a fuller understanding of who God is and what God is saying to the church in Canada.”
She also stresses the need for wisdom and discernment. Rather than talking institutional merger, “we’re focusing on how we can better present the gospel…no matter which church family we come out of.”