Notice it says "initiatives aimed at great Christian unity or cooperation...used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice." That would sound like a good thing right? Uniting the body of Christ. I mean, I always thought we should play nice together, particularly in light of the whole commandment of Jesus to "love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you" found in John 15:12.Web definitionsEcumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. These initiatives are often referred to as interdenominational. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice.
Long before I heard the word "ecumenical," I had heard rumblings of teachings that the World Council of Churches (a worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service) was a bad thing because it would mark the "second coming of Christ." Of course, that confused me because I always thought that would have been a good thing...
I looked up what they may have been talking about and it seems there some people who have made vague connections with the writings of Revelation and a unified ecclesiastical body, a one world religion. I think it is a bit of a reach. I wonder if they know that Revelation almost did not make it into the cannon of scripture...probably not.
Later in my life--after I learned the word--I sat as the only female clergy in a room of clergy discussing the term "ecumenical." One of the other clergy asked the question in a rhetorical manner with the assumption that the answers would be negative, which they were. As others were talking about the horrors of ecumenism, I (who cannot play poker) sat there with a stunned and confused expression. The questioner noticed and asked me what I thought ecumenical meant to which I replied "it is the body of Christ getting along." I had always thought it was a positive goal to work toward.
I know there are differences. I know that my belief that the communion table be open is contrary to those who think it should be closed to only their denomination, maybe even just their local congregation. I know that my view of God (coming from Wesleyan theology) is true, maybe even as true as their view of God (coming from Calvinist theology). Only our human minds cannot grasp multiple truths that seem contradictory. How can they, being so diverse, both be true?
One of the things that makes me chuckle is when people say, "we all believe the same thing." No, not even close. We do not have the same beliefs, but I would hazard a guess that people within the same denomination and even the same church do not have beliefs that are consistent with one another. There are those whose own theology is inconsistent with other portions of their theology. Yet they were never made to reflect and think on this to work it out. People want the "we all believe the same thing" to be true, because then their belief is never questioned or examined.
The fact of the matter is no one owns God and no one has the market cornered on divine knowledge. I am a bit of educational snob, and would never be a part of the church in which the pastor did not have theological training, but that doesn't mean that uneducated laity do not have divine inspiration. The key is to recognize that just as we have very deep seated beliefs that we have developed over the course of our lives, others have just as deep seated beliefs. The Bible speaks to those divisions.
Peter had long held beliefs that Jews and Gentiles should not associate, yet God taught him something new.
You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. Acts 10:28If God showed Peter something new, does that mean that all of a sudden every Jewish Christian is going to say, "okay, sounds good to me." That did not happen. His fault was not that he now ate with Gentiles, but that he hid it from his Jewish friends for fear of condemnation and Paul called him out on it. (Gal. 2:11-16). A division of beliefs in the early church.
When in doubt, I still go back to Jesus. I think Jesus is a good place to go back to when the scriptures seem to be confusing, or tradition divides, or people want to bring in handpicked, out of context passages to back their point. I go back to Jesus.
When Jesus was trying to explain spiritual things to the obtuse Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus said:
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.So, let me get this straight, we aren't to condemn others even if they believe differently than we do?
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.' Luke 7:1-2Jesus said encouraging his followers not to worry about insignificant things.
But if they are right, then doesn't that make me wrong? I'm not wrong.
‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ Mark 9:35b-37
Jesus said in dealing with the disciples and pride.
Don't get me wrong; there are difficulties, no doubt, with ecumenism. It is found in all that separation "by doctrine, history, and practice." There are some who think I am "an abomination" as a female clergy. Of course, I feel that if they have a problem with my calling to ministry, they should take it up with the One who called me. However, I do not care if they do not want me to preach in their church; I do not feel called to their church. I do care that they feel a need to belittle others who feel differently than they do. There are many other issues we are divided by as well.
How can we have Christian unity when we feel that the other is wrong on what we feel are some foundational truths? Well...let's go back to Jesus.
His disciples were becoming exclusive like the Pharisees:
John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’ Luke 9:49-50I think Jesus was a pretty okay guy. I mean after all, he went around including all those who the Pharisees would otherwise exclude, the outcast, the marginalized, the women. Well, we know what happened to him. Working toward Christian unity will not be without conflict and derision. Some people just don't want to get along.