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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

"Ecumenical," according to Webster's dictionary, means "pertaining to the entire inhabited earth; universal in extent." The "ecumenical movement" began within Protestant Christianity, expanded through organizations like the World Council of Churches, and now, through grassroots clergy associations, is understood as a complete interfaith dialogue.

The movement began in the Christian mission field. Missionaries found themselves thrown together, forced to work in cultural situations that tended to downplay differences that might have seemed important and divisive back home. Baptists felt free to use Congregationalists' translations of the Bible in order to save the time involved in doing their own. Overseas, cooperation was almost mandatory. Whereas their American counterparts may have had the luxury of debating fine points of difference between predestination and free will, the overworked foreign missionaries just didn't have time for such luxuries.

Although ecumenism is, with a few exceptions (see below), accepted today as the norm, it was not always so. Before the Church grew so divided (see Christianity, Development of), the concept was both unheard-of and unneeded. Later, as individual denominations grew, it was a natural thing for people from different Christian traditions to band together when community projects outside the scope of any one denomination beckoned. Even there, however, it was the participation of moderate and liberal churches that formed the backbone of ministerial fellowships and Christian clergy associations. Fundamentalist pastors and Jewish rabbis were often left out, sometimes by their own choice but sometimes by a subtle (or not-so-subtle) attitude of exclusion on the part of traditional Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Congregationalists. By the 1960s, as mainstream America began to awaken to the realities of racial and ethnic segregation, and as the civil rights movement, largely sparked by Christian churches in both the south and the north, began to assert its influence, ecumenism flourished. Gradually, doors were opened and barriers broken down.

Even still, it took more than forty years for some groups to be included. As late as the 1990s, a clergy association in western Massachusetts brought down all kinds of criticism upon itself when it became one of the first in the nation to welcome a Druid priest and a neo-pagan witch into its membership. And shortly after the infamous September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Reverend David Benke, a high-ranking Lutheran pastor in the Missouri Synod, found himself suspended and ordered to apologize to all Christians after he participated in an interfaith prayer service held in New York's Yankee Stadium. Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus all took part in the service, and this was unacceptable to twentyone Lutheran synod pastors and congregations. In comments made to the San Francisco Chronicle by denominational spokesman David Mahsman, Benke was accused of "compromising the gospel of Jesus Christ" by appearing to place Jesus on an equal footing with Allah, Vishnu, "and whatever gods are involved."

Charges made against those who endorse ecumenism generally include "unionism" and "syncretism." Unionism involves mixing differing beliefs of Christian organizations. Syncretism pertains to joining together Christian and non-Christian religious views.

Perhaps the need for ecumenism in today's volatile world was best demonstrated at the very beginning of the movement. On August 2, 1914, a worldwide Christian conference was held to discuss ways churches of all denominations could work together for peace. It was felt this was a common cause that should unite people of all traditions. On that day, in the city of Constance, Germany, an ecumenical peace organization was founded, the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches, designed to be the first of its kind.

The organization never had a chance to meet, because that was the very day World War I began.

References in periodicals archive ?
A long fifth chapter will be of particular interest to ecumenists and, one would hope, to Pentecostal scholars as well.
The essays in this collection were presented at the annual conference of the North American Academy of Ecumenists (NAAE), held September 26-28, 2014, in Burbank, California.
Dorothea Sattler, a Catholic ecumenist from Munster, began her contribution to the "tense ecumenical situation before the 2nd Ecumenical Kirchentag" with a quotation from Peter Handke: "Sometimes I want to scream the pain out of me".
It is from the strength of that identity that he has been a leading ecumenist on the world scene for much of his ministry.
This great ecumenist, a friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and ambassador of reconciliation, died fifty years ago.
Regarding the article "Papacy is a 'gift' but needs repair, leading ecumenist says," by John L.
7) What is often forgotten, however, is that this doyen of missions was for a time known primarily as an ecumenist.
Thomas Stransky, former president of the Paulist Fathers and veteran ecumenist, enumerated new resources of energy and challenges: the development of new coalitions by which individuals and groups were entering the ecumenical arena; the development of "para-churches," which do not pretend or wish to be "churches" according to the usual North American mold; a new realignment of typologies as the classical East-West and Reformation-Roman typologies were breaking down and being replaced by a North-South orientation; and the sudden emergence of "new and fluid confessional lines across the traditional denominational lines.
In a word: this Festschrift is an unusually well conceived and edited collection of essays which, in addition to honouring John Briggs, the prominent British Baptist historian and ecumenist, make a contribution in their own right to discussion and reflection in a number of fields.
While the audience for each is different, both volumes offer resources to the missiologist, scholar and ecumenist that cannot be easily duplicated in any other sources.
Von Weizsacker rebelled against the church of his youth and is now an ecumenist whose most profound religious experience was "at the grave of the Hindu Holy man, Ramana Maharshi" (134).
I would like to honor Brother Jeff in his vocation as an ecumenist and a lay theologian in this short Gedenkschrift, although I also recognize that a monograph could be written to honor him and to delineate his legacy for posterity.