With Church history and ancient theological understandings telling a vast number of Protestants that the Blessed Virgin Mary is far more integral to the Christian Faith, why have we repeatedly put her in the mold primarily of a very good young woman whose gift to the Faith is simply providing a means for Jesus to enter world history?
A few of us ecumenically-minded Protestants have been seriously asking this now for decades. Perhaps the best internationally circulating story of our dedication was told in the cover story in the March 21, 2005 issue of “Time” magazine. It was as though finally we were finding our way back to the ancient wellsprings of the Christian Faith. A few mainline Protestants, among them myself and Mark Eustler (LIFE Associate-Lacy Institute For Ecumenism), were interviewed briefly to affirm this movement.
The movement has especially gained traction through the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our tireless affirmation of a more integral place in Protestant systems of belief. This is most noticeable in our International Congress held at the University of Pittsburgh in the Summer of 2008. Speakers represented Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants.
At this-perhaps historic-Congress, the way was led by Dr. Virginia Kimball (Orthodox) and Dr. Maura Hearden (Roman Catholic). Dr. Hearden’s essay was especially relevant to United Methodists. It was titled “Our Lady of Spiritual Solidarity: Reflections on the Marian Dimension of Catholic-Methodist Dialogue.” My essay “Making the Blessed Virgin Mary an Imperative in Our Protestant Church: A Reflection by a Methodist,” immediately followed her’s in the book Mary for the Love and Glory of God (2011).
In terms of the pressing necessity of a healthy Christian Unity for our day and time, we believe our ministry is the key to uniting all, who proclaim the name of Christ as Savior and Lord into much more solid and beneficial relationships. We do so especially in the face of various religious and secular groups, who would destroy us. These threats are very real and we cannot meet them with a fragmented Christianity that seeks ongoing aggrandizement and insistence on doctrinal rigidity in negative competition with one another.
Generally, Protestants-regardless of name or founder-are called upon to put aside longstanding presuppositions and stereotypes that have caused unnecessary pain and sometimes made us a laughing stock to the world we are trying to save.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you ...
Dr. Donald Charles Lacy is a retired United Methodist minister, author, teacher and ecumenist.