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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Catholics and Evangelicals Unite:
2010 New Mexico Biblical Worldview Summit

By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- I love trains. They are historical, powerful, and lots of fun to ride. I try to travel on them every chance I get. So when a train rode through town by the name of the “2010 New Mexico Biblical Worldview Summit,” I was ready to board with 2,000 plus other people.

Charles Colson

Of course, the train I am referring to is figurative. There really isn’t a train by that name. But let me say, the conference -- traveling by the above-mentioned name -- was analogous to a train: it was historical, powerful, and provided a fun and challenging ride.

How this historical conference garnered steam is interesting in and of itself. It began with an article that Dr. Joseph Bottum wrote entitled “21st Century—Catholics and Evangelicals Together.” Former Congressman Bill Redmond read the article. In turn, Redmond showed the article to Archbishop Michael Sheehan. Sheehan called Charles Colson, Colson called his folks, and his people called other people. The end result was a conference of unique proportions stationed in New Mexico.

The summit revolved around a manuscript promoted by Charles Colson called the “Manhattan Declaration.” The foundation of the Manhattan document is the support of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Also, as expected from Colson, the declaration is heavy on developing a distinctly historic Christian worldview.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect. So I met five of my friends, co-passengers if you will, and boarded the train with an open mind and expectant heart. The end result was, well, worth the journey.
 

Fernando Ortega

The summit began with worship by Dove award-winning singer, Fernando Ortega. Ortega, a New Mexico native, led the 2,000 plus congregation in five songs, all with the sole purpose of glorifying Christ and developing unity among the wide assortment of people gathered.

As I looked around, I saw collared clergy, suit-wearing Protestants, and casual evangelicals, all worshiping the same Lord. When Ortega sang the two final songs, “In Christ Alone” and “Be Thou My Vision,” I sensed God’s presence as hands were raised and eyes fixed upward.

Three local clergymen, Pastor Steve Smothermon, Pastor Wayne Barber, and Monsignor Richard Olona read from John 17: 1-26, giving clear Scriptural direction of our unity in Christ.

Former Congressman Bill Redmond gave an introduction to the summit, proclaiming that "Jesus is Lord of all." Then he introduced Charles Colson.

As a transition, Chinese Christians Chung Gao and Kevin Shi performed a riveting version of “Amazing Grace” on violin and piano.

Before Colson began his message, he recognized the historic nature of this summit, calling attention to all the speakers and musicians participating in the days event. Then he asked for forgiveness for standing during “Amazing Grace,” stating, “In prison, this is our motto.” The congregation erupted in applause!

Colson, the former Richard Nixon aide, author, and founder of Prison Fellowship, gave a stirring message entitled, “The Manhattan Declaration: A Biblical Worldview Document.” In his presentation he covered a wide range of topics: from relativism, moral collapse, and the changing nature of America’s political landscape. It was a challenging and stirring message, causing one to think and imparting a yearning to act.

The next speaker was Michael Novak. Novak is an American philosopher, writer, and diplomat, penning many books on capitalism, religion, and democracy. In addition, he is a Catholic scholar and former Ambassador to the United Nations on Human Rights.

Novak’s message was entitled “America upon Two Wings.”

Using the image on the back of the dollar bill as a guide, Novak conducted the passengers on our "train" through economic, political, and moral truth, with the underlining idea that America was built on a humble faith and common sense—the two wings of his message.
 

Os Guinness

The next speaker was Os Guinness, an England-born evangelical Christian author and social critic. As the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Guinness (founder of Guinness beer), Os was the only non-American born passenger on board the summit.

Guinness spoke on the topic of “impossible people.” Like Colson, Guinness’ message was stirring and even somewhat controversial. Whereas the other speakers discussed what was occurring outside of the church, Guinness spoke on what was occurring within the church.

As an example of what was occurring within the church, Guinness discussed the lax attitude many within the church have against biblical, orthodox belief. Here, Guinness pointed out that some denominations -- such as the Episcopal Church USA -- are leaving their orthodox roots, heading toward, as Guinness stated, “heresy.” Guinness gave five challenges for the church as his conclusion, all penetrating and right on target.

The final main session speaker, Joseph Bottum, who is a Catholic writer, essayist, and editor of First Things magazine. His message was entitled “21st Century: Catholics and Evangelicals Together.” As mentioned above, it was Bottum’s article that sparked and fueled the train of this summit. Like Novak, Bottum discussed the common moral and social alliance held between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholic Christians, calling for further dialogue and shared goals.

The lunch sessions included Pastor Boli Zhang and Pastor Jian Zhu, both leaders of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Afterwards, Michael Novak gave a short message asking “Where Do We Go from Here?” The conference concluded with a panel discussion and closing remarks by Archbishop Michael Sheehan on “New Mexico Evangelicals and Catholics Together”.

As one can sense from this overview, the ride on this figurative train was all that I expected: historic, powerful, fun, and challenging. I was both blessed and motivated.

I was also thankful for all the sponsors: The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico Assemblies of God, The Baptist Convention, Calvary Chapel Rio Rancho, the North American Mainline Chinese Mission, New Mexico Christian Churches, the Traditional Values Action Committee, and various other individual churches.

Together, we were on the same train -- at least for a day—discussing our common heritage, our common concerns, and our common hope. We were proclaiming the message sang by Fernando Ortega in the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision”.

“Be Thou my vision, O, Lord, of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

As we gathered in the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center, our message was clear: life, marriage, and religious freedom are essential to our country and our faith. It was a call for unity among all Christians.

In other words, in train-speak, we loudly proclaimed, “All aboard fellow Christians, all aboard!”

To learn more about the Manhattan Declaration, visit www.manhattandeclaration.org or the Traditional Values Coalition at http://tvacnm.com.


Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, minister, and family man. You may contact him at www.briannixon.com

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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.