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Related to Ecumenism: ecumenicism, World Council of Churches


(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 ?
Still another view of ecumenism is apparent from the character of first-century Christianity, which was marked by diversity as well as unity.
The official Catholic position on ecumenism is also different from the views of Protestants and others and is conditioned by the "one true church" theory.
This anthology of Potter is a must-read for any historian of ecumenism in general and the W.
This is the building block for ecumenism in the 21st century
Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint expressed the church's continuing commitment to ecumenism.
In an effort to give greater exposure to resources on theology and ecumenism from all parts of the world, and especially to those from the Global South, GlobeTheoLib, in partnership with a service provider, provides a platform for publishing electronic journals.
Such an ecumenism that recognizes common communion (as most Christian bodies now recognize a common baptism) while preserving characteristics of belief and behavior unique to particular communities of faith is both liberalizing and conservative.
For Oxford don Chapman, the high church Anglican pioneers of ecumenism were harboring fantasy.
Let's begin our reflection on the shape of ecumenism in the coming years by naming four things on which 1 suspect we all agree:
The Nordic Institute for Missiology and Ecumenism (NIME) will hold an international doctoral training course with the theme "Challenging Mission Studies, Crossing Borders in Academia" at the [Angstrom]kersberg Conference Centre, Hoor, Sweden, May 24-27, 2011.
One of the Centre's first collaborative initiatives has been a project entitled "Receptive Ecumenism and Catholic Learning," the result of which is a handsomely produced and hefty treasure trove of insights and information certain to provide hope to professional ecumenists.
Kasper warned that ecumenism is "in danger of becoming a matter for specialists and thus of moving away from the grass roots.