Christians All Together
Touchstone’s Twenty Years of Friendship & Proclamation
Touchstone turns twenty this month. When it began in 1986 as a newsletter, no one planned to publish it for twenty years, but only to follow God’s leading in the particular ministry we believed he had given us. The magazine met a need, and grew quickly from a newsletter to a quarterly, then to a bimonthly, and finally to a monthly. All along we have tried to use wisely our limited resources to publish what we think needs to be said.
Touchstone’s rise is due in part to the changing religious and cultural landscape. Just where did we find ourselves in 1986? Close to twenty years out from the end of the Second Vatican Council, the beginning of the Charismatic movement and the Jesus Movement, and a decade or so after the end of the Vietnam War, the end of “the Sixties,” and the first Baby Boomers reaching adulthood.
Catholics had endured twenty years of post-Vatican II syndrome; many Protestant mainliners were unsure about how far down the slippery slope of theological liberalism their churches had gone; Evangelicals were still reacting to the summer of love, finding the Canterbury trail, or discovering seeker-sensitivity; and the mostly invisible Orthodox had barely begun to emerge from their ethnic preoccupations.
Turmoil & Unity
Yet an unexpected effect of the turmoil was a new unity among faithful Christians that extended across established denominational and confessional lines. The Second Vatican Council had encouraged Catholics to a new ecumenical engagement, and other Christians had responded. The Charismatic movement had brought together Catholic, Protestant, and even Orthodox Christians looking for a deeper experience of their faith. The Jesus Movement brought together many young adult Christians outside of their denominational homes, while increasing numbers of Evangelical Christians identified with various parachurch organizations.
These and other movements—pro-life activism after Roe v. Wade, the increasing secularism of much public education, and the rise of the homeschooling movement, for example—brought together divided Christians in a shared work and gave them a new sense of identity. The movement came to be known as “the new ecumenism” and “the ecumenism of the trenches.” It was a movement distinct from, and in crucial ways far more effective than, the official ecumenical efforts.
The effects were obvious. The popular Allies for Faith and Renewal conferences, for example, presented Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox trios, such as Chuck Colson, James Hitchcock, and Thomas Hopko, to speak on issues of common concern. Conservative Christians within the increasingly liberalizing mainline churches met across denominational lines for mutual support and encouragement.
The first Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement would be published just a few years later. Catholics began learning Bible study from Evangelicals, and Evangelicals began learning about spiritual disciplines and worship from Catholics. Both Catholics and Protestants began to engage their Orthodox brethren and draw the Eastern tradition into the conversation.
Contribution & Calling
Touchstone made its own contribution to the new ecumenism at the 1995 conference at Rose Hill in Aiken, South Carolina, which to everyone’s surprise attracted 200 people. We offered a similar conference in 2001. InterVarsity Press published a book of papers from the first ( Reclaiming the Great Tradition), and the special issue of Touchstone (July/August 2003) in which we published the papers of the second proved to be one of our most popular issues.
James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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