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The Convergence Movement: What Is It?

The term ?¢‚Ǩ?ìConvergence Movement?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìConvergence of Streams?¢‚Ǩ¬ù) is used by a number of Christians who want to deepen their faith by broadening their perspectives. For some, this has led to the formation of new denominational bodies such as the Charismatic Episcopal Church and the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. Others are content to remain within their current churches, but hope to enrich church life and their personal walk with God by tapping into a broader definition of Christian experience. For example, many church leaders have been influenced by Robert Webber’s books and seminars on worship renewal to embrace a “convergence worship” approach in their otherwise traditional Methodist, Baptist, or whatever setting. Many as well have embraced Richard Foster’s vision of holistic spirituality set forth in Celebration of Discipline and his Renovare resources for spiritual formation groups.

Three Streams of Christian Life and Thought

A basic premise of the Convergence Movement is that there are three broadly defined ?¢‚Ǩ?ìstreams?¢‚Ǩ¬ù of Christian tradition. By letting these streams converge, they hope to experience a Christianity that is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcatholic?¢‚Ǩ¬ù in the original sense of the word?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùwhole, complete, and comprehensive. The three streams are:

The Evangelical Stream, which emphasizes the centrality of the gospel message, deep reverence for the Bible, calls for repentance and life-change.

The Charismatic Stream, which emphasizes the immediacy of the Holy Spirit?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s presence for praise and ministry empowerment.

The Sacramental (or Liturgical) Stream, which focuses on the symbolic or ritual aspects of Christianity, and thus reclaims a positive outlook on the material means (e.g., bread and wine) by which God sometimes touches human lives.

Some Benchmarks in the Convergence Movement

Worship Renewal (1965). All of the liturgical and mainline churches were influenced by the Roman Catholic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1965), a blueprint for modernizing the Roman Mass by restoring its original simplicity. At the same time, Bill Gaither, Calvary Chapel’s Maranatha! Music, and others introduced simple praise choruses to the evangelical churches.

The Chicago Call (1977). A group of evangelical scholars published a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìmanifesto?¢‚Ǩ¬ù decrying the shallowness of conservative Protestant theology and calling for a renewed appreciation for the whole 2,000 year history of Christian thought and practice.

The ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThird Wave?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (1978). Following on the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s, the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThird Wave?¢‚Ǩ¬ù movement sought to bring together charismatic ?¢‚Ǩ?ìpower?¢‚Ǩ¬ù with mainstream evangelical biblical teaching: a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcharismatic movement?¢‚Ǩ¬ù for people who could not bring themselves to embrace charismatic theology.

Renovare (1988). This organization, founded by Richard Foster (of Celebration of Discipline fame) stresses a balanced approach to spiritual formation by highlighting six Christian traditions of spiritual formation: contemplative, charismatic, holiness, evangelical, incarnational (sacramental), and social justice.

The various Christian denominational (or non-denominational) faith traditions all tend to major on one of the three. We can enhance our faith by learning from the other two. In the words of Ecclesiastes, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìA threefold cord is not quickly broken?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (Eccl 4:12).

Next: The Evangelical Stream

technorati tags: charismatic, convergence movement, evangelical, liturgical, sacramental

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Westmoreland-White says:

    3 Streams? Once again, Anabaptists whose emphasis is Nachfolge Christi, living lives of serious discipleship, are left out of “convergences.” I have learned from each of those 3 movements above, but none of them names my primary identity and neither would a “convergence” which would be in danger of losing the distinctives of all 3.

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  2. D. P. says:

    Hey, I don’t make the rules, Michael! 🙂

    Seriously, the “three streams” model is helpful but not infallible. In many ways, I think Foster’s “six traditions” is more helpful, especially since he added the sixth (incarnational/sacramental) to his original five. In that schema I would think Anabaptists would find themselves quite at home in both the holiness and social justice traditions, where they would no doubt offer a salutory witness to the rest of us!

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