Though evangelicals and Catholics share a mixed and varied history of relating to one another, in the April Evangelical Leaders Survey, U.S. evangelical leaders unanimously supported cooperation between evangelicals and Catholics on social and public policy issues of mutual concern.
“Catholics and evangelicals together make up a majority of our country’s population. We welcome opportunities to join hands on priorities including pro-life values, marriage, religious freedom and loving our neighbors,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “In a fast changing and often polarized culture, we can speak together on biblical teaching.”
Clyde Hughes, General Overseer of the International Pentecostal Church of Christ, expressed the sentiment of many others when he said, “Evangelicals can get little of what they need alone. On single issues or a grouping of common concerns, we should cooperate with others.”
Some leaders, like Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, noted the importance of maintaining evangelical theological distinctives when collaborating with others. We should cooperate with Catholics “provided that in co-belligerency on social issues we do not compromise on real and fundamental areas of theological disagreement,” he said. Another leader said that a strong relationship with Catholics provides an opportunity to discuss areas of disagreement.
Carl Nelson, President of Transform Minnesota, said, “We have more values and beliefs in common with Catholic leaders than with liberal Protestant leaders who question biblical authority or the saving work of Christ. While there are clear doctrinal differences between evangelicals and Catholics, increasingly I find a kindred spirit in the need to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, an appreciation for the Bible as the guide for life and faith, and our common values surrounding the sanctity of life, religious freedom and biblical marriage.”
“We have to build greater collaboration between Catholics and evangelicals for the common good,” said Johnnie Moore, Senior Vice President of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “I’m optimistic about this type of engagement among millennials, because we are less inclined toward the denominational silos that have often stood as impenetrable barriers for collaboration.”
In the history of the Evangelical Leaders Survey, which started in 2007, evangelical leaders have only answered the survey unanimously three other times — affirming that Jesus is the only way to salvation, expressing that Christians should share the gospel with everyone, and stating that they would vote in the 2008 presidential election.
“Catholics can still be Catholics, and evangelicals can still be evangelicals while we leverage our common concerns and beliefs,” Anderson said.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.