FROM THE PULPIT
An Ecumenical Easter?
by Brad Boydston
Turlock Journal, April 26, 1997
Tomorrow morning 250 million Christians around the world will rise early, put on their best clothes, and head off to church to celebrate Easter.
"Easter? Didn't we do that a few weeks ago?"
We did, but they didn't. They are Eastern Orthodox Christians and they determine the date for Easter (or "Pascha," as they prefer) using a different system of calculation than the western portion of the church.
It's been this way since 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII introduced calendar reforms. The Orthodox didn't go along with the reforms and consequently the East and West have been using two different formulas for setting the date of Easter.
There is now, however, a major move afoot to reach an agreement on the Easter date by the year 2001. And given the current momentum generated by the dawn of a new millennium it's entirely possible that it could happen.
"So what difference does this make to the average Turlocker? There's not even an Orthodox church in town."
I suppose it wouldn't make a whole lot of direct difference for most of us. What's interesting and perhaps even more significant is that the church is getting together to talk. This is but one sign of a new ecumenical movement on the horizon.
Many of us had figured that the ecumenical movement all but died in the 70's and 80's, succumbing to Marxism and leadership scandals in some of its institutions. But now, ecumenicalism is reinventing itself in a broader and more grassroots fashion. Many of those involved in the Easter discussion are theological conservatives; Evangelicals, Lutherans, the Vatican, Orthodox, and even the Seventh-day Adventists have been represented at the table.
And it's not just the date of Easter that has become the new focus of cooperation. Transdenominational movements such as Promise Keepers, Community Bible Studies, National Day of Prayer, Habitat for Humanity, and March for Jesus are bringing together at local levels Christians of various doctrinal persuasions.
In Turlock, 30 different congregations are involved in the "Prayer Wall" sponsored by the Turlock Laymen's Community Prayer Ministry. These are diverse groups of Christians; among them Sacred Heart Catholic, Free Will Baptist, and Bethel Temple Assembly of God.
Our congregation, Cornerstone Covenant Church, prays every Sunday morning for different churches in town--the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Bible Baptists, and independent charismatics. And we're not the only one with such a practice!
It's happening in Turlock as it's happening around the world--a new ecumenicalism. Whether the church actually ends up agreeing on a new way of calculating the date for Easter isn't nearly as important as the fact that we're talking together and recognizing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We're making significant strides in responding to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-21, "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father--that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me."
We may have a ways to go but at least we're moving in the right direction. Have a blessed Easter!