The modern concept of The Convergence Movement was inspired by the spiritual pilgrimages of modern Evangelical writers like Thomas Howard, Robert E. Webber, Peter E. Gillquist and others. It refers primarily to a move among evangelical and charismatic churches in the United States to blend charismatic worship with liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical sources.
This blending is the subject of great debate. What is really meant by convergence and what are the definitions of the major components? The Convergence Movement is not the Ecumenical Movement. Christian unity has been termed “ecumenical” from the Greek ‘oikumenikos’, ‘of the inhabited earth. This term means universal, worldwide in a common sense. So to have ecumenical interests is to have the interest of the worldwide church at heart. But for many in the three main divisions of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, the word is associated with the idea of compromise. It is assumed that ecumenism means finding the lowest common denominator of the Christian faith and having to give up the rest. It will continue to be, necessary for the various factions and denominations of God’s church to dialog and commence tearing down the walls of division and hopefully finding – “Christ” at the core of Christianity and daily becoming “Like Him” and not making Christ like us!
But convergence seeks a different path. The three major components of this particular blending are Evangelical, Liturgical, and Charismatic worship styles and practices. It is believed that each of these expressions of the Church serve some useful purpose in uniting the Church of Jesus Christ to an authentic Faith.
Let’s define the terms before we blend the concepts.
Evangelical refers to relating or belonging to any Protestant Christian church that emphasizes the authority of the Bible and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Evangelicals believe that each individual has a need for spiritual rebirth and personal commitment to Jesus Christ as savior, through faith in his atoning death on the cross (commonly, although not necessarily, through a specific conversion experience). They emphasize strict orthodoxy (following of established rules or traditions) on cardinal doctrines, morals, and especially on the authority of the Bible. Many Evangelicals follow a traditional, interpretation of the Bible and insist on its inerrancy (freedom from error in history as well as in faith and morals). The term Evangelicalism has been a source of controversy, and the precise relationship or distinction between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism has been disputed.
The Charismatic Movement refers to that body of Christians seeking direct spiritual experiences. It describes worship characterized by a quest for inspired and ecstatic experiences such as healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. The individuals who make up the movement believe that they have been “filled” or “baptized” with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. The signs of this baptism include such spiritual gifts as speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, prophecy, healing, interpretation of tongues, and discernment of spirits.
Liturgy is a body of rites (or system of ceremonial procedures) prescribed for formal public worship. Although the term is sometimes applied to Jewish worship, it is especially associated with the prayers and ceremonies used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, also known as Holy Eucharist. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, the rite of the church was comparatively fluid (or very likely changing), based on various accounts of the Last Supper. By the 4th century the various traditions crystallized into four liturgies, the Antiochene, or Greek, the Alexandrian, the Roman, and the Gallican, from which all others have been derived.
Christianity is a many layered Faith and many components have been introduced and battled over historically and biblically. We are always faced with tradition and revelation. The Convergence Movement though not new in concept is new in acceptance. I believe like everything, there is a time and season. If we accept that the concept of merging worship practices as a reality, then we can begin a new era in the Church.
A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and cliffs. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights were mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly aligned and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger.
Maybe there is a need to align these streams to prepare for a united church and maybe this is the beginning of more confusion. Whatever the flow we must reclaim historical Christianity and maintain scriptural integrity. I maintain that balance is the word that must be embraced. Like that harbor which needs all the lights to align to give direction, hopefully the Church can discern the majesty of the Glory to be revealed through combined worship.