I'm left wondering how we keep the essentials of the Reformed faith and engage Pentecostals and Methodists in theology, mission and fellowship. The Reformed doctrine of sanctification is not very Wesley friendly and I would imagine it would carry much weight in discussing theology and mission with Pentecostals and Methodists -- as in being a non-starter. Or have I missed something?This is, of course, the key question that confessional Presbyterians have asked for a long time. It reminds me of the questions that Cornelius Van Til raised in the 1950s as the OPC debated whether to join the International Council of Christian Churches. To Van Til's line of thinking, because Arminians believed a defective gospel, it was essentially no gospel at all; as a result, there was no common ground over which to cooperate missionally (see, for this, my essay, "J. Gresham Machen, Ned B. Stonehouse, and the Quandary of Reformed Ecumenicity," WTJ 62 : 197-222).
While Van Til's position has the value of logical consistency, perhaps, it doesn't do a whole lot for either ecumencity or charity. I guess I'd want to say that in the end, the most important thing is not that one's identity is "Reformed," but that one's identity is shaped by Jesus Christ. If someone puts their whole-hearted faith in Jesus, regardless of whether they are Lutheran, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian, that person is united to him and receives all the benefits of salvation: she is declared right with God, adopted into his family, set apart and made holy in God’s sight, and glorified. And where my native catholicity kicks in is by recognizing that this is most important--those who name Jesus are my brothers and sisters (otherwise, what ground do Darryl and I have to fellowship ecclesiastically with Independent Baptists in our own families?). I can affirm, wish, and even strategize that these churches might grow for God's glory.
However, in extending charity (through catholicity) to these brothers and sisters, I do so out of my own identity as a Presbyterian. I do believe that the "Reformed faith is grand" (as Machen said on his death bed); I've committed my ministry to teach these doctrines and preach these truths; I'm here training Presbyterian ministers for Presbyterian churches. So, by no means do I want to say that the Reformed faith is unimportant in these conversations--in fact, it is the most biblical approach to the Christian faith out there.
And yet, by living out of a sense of Reformed Catholicity, I have a better chance of sharing the best of "our" biblical, theological, and historical insights with others; as well as meaningfully listening and being encouraged by the genuine faith of others. Our greatest hope is not merely in deconstructing evangelicalism, but in affirming the basic evangelical impulse that animates all true believers: the great necessity for men and women, boys and girls to know the life-giving, world-changing reality of faith in Jesus Christ.