Convergence Movement

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Founder
Robert Webber
Time Period
1985
Description
The Convergence Movement truly emerged in the 1980s as different churches from evangelical, charismatic, and liturgical backgrounds sought to blend their different forms of worship. One of the foremost books that influenced the Convergence Movement was Robert Webber’s Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church (1985), which describes his own journey as well as that of six others from evangelicalism to the Episcopal Church.

Members of the movement creatively blended Christian worship styles in order attract different churches across many denominational lines. For example, the movement employed a spontaneous/charismatic style of worship while also using a liturgical form by employing the Book of Common Prayer and focusing on the sacraments.

The emphasis on religious unity often draws comparison to the Ecumenical Movement, though the unique blending of worship styles makes the Convergence Movement distinct.
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Narrative
The Convergence Movement began and had its greatest influence toward the end of the 20th century, specifically in the 1980s and 1990s. The movement came about not so much as a result of specific, important events but through a cross-denominational trend. The movement began from the ground up as different churches from evangelical, charismatic, and liturgical backgrounds sought to blend their different forms of worship. As these different churches began to interact with others going the same direction, the movement grew in force and influence.

The Convergence Movement focused the blending of different worship traditions into one. For this reason, it had several defining characteristics corresponding with the different worship backgrounds that were being blended together. One characteristic of the movement was the focus given to unity. Rather than being divided by the different denominations, the movement rejoiced in the one body of Christ seen throughout the whole world. The Convergence Movement also was defined by its focus on the early church. It sought to live in accordance with apostolic teaching and trace its authority back to apostolic origins. Finally, the Convergence Movement was characterized by recognition of the value of different worship traditions and then striving to blend them together. While the movement employed a spontaneous and charismatic style of worship, it also used a liturgical form by employing the Book of Common Prayer and focusing on the sacraments. For these reasons, the movement appealed to different churches across many denominational lines.

Significant Contributions to Christianity in the United States

The Convergence Movement was significant for Christianity in the United States because of the interaction it brought about between denominations that were traditionally very separate. While the Convergence Movement should not be confused with the Ecumenical Movement, there are similarities in the ways that both movements saw value across denominational lines in the ways others worshiped and served. The movement impacted many churches throughout the United States in the way they worshiped.

Throughout the history of the Convergence Movement, several publications had a large impact on the continued life of the movement and its growth. One of the foremost books that influenced the Convergence Movement was Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church written in 1985 by Robert Webber who taught theology at Wheaton College. In the book, Webber describes his own journey as well as that of six others from evangelicalism to the Episcopal Church. Webber was an important figure in the Convergence Movement as he also wrote several other books addressing the issue of worship. Richard Lovelace also wrote an influential article entitled "The Three Streams, One River?" in the magazine Charisma (an influential charismatic magazine).
Photographs

Mass at the Cathedral of the King, a Charismatic Episcopal Church- photo by Kenneth Tanner at English Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5)

Robert E Webber- photo courtesy the Robert E Webber Institute for Worship Studies
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Nathan Mee

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