What Is The Ecumenical Movement?

What Is The Ecumenical Movement? December 6, 2014

Have you heard about the ecumenical movement?  What is it?  Why is it important to know about?

The Good and the Bad

I can see both pros and cons on this movement but there are serious problems with it.  When essential doctrines of the faith are compromised and certain elements of the faith are sacrificed for the sake of unity then the things lost are of greater consequence than those things gained.  It’s not so much whether differing religions can join together for a common cause but is the cause for the purpose for which the church was created for?  Is it for the sake of social clout?  It is for the sake of combining forces to fight for social justice?  Is it for political purposes?  It is simply for addressing particular social evils where a greater number of voices can be combined to make effectual change?  When the church loses the focus on the centrality of the cross, that God is to be glorified, that sinners need to be saved, and that the whole Word of God is sent to the whole world, then whatever causes there are leave behind the true purpose for which the church was founded by Jesus Christ.

The Pros

The goal of the ecumenical movement sounds great. They seek to unify interdenominational faith-based groups which have largely been historically divided over doctrine and practices and to do this for the sake of worldwide religious unity.  The word ecumenical or ecumenicalism comes from the Greek “oikoumenikos,”from the root word “oikein “for “to inhabit,” and from “oikos” meaninghouse” and joined together “οἰκουμένη” translates into “the whole world.”  It seeks to form an alliance or unity to form a powerful global Christian cooperative.  Even though it is thought to be an interfaith cooperation of differing religious denominations, it sometimes gets lumped in with the interfaith pluralism which includes non-Christian faiths.  At face value it appears to be good but there are underlying problems that many in this movement seem to ignore.

The Cons

When a vast sweeping movement seeks to include all so-called Christian faiths there are those who do not seem to fit into what most Protestants and Catholics embrace.  For example, even though Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses claim Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Jesus they claim to worship is apparently not Who Catholics and Protestants believe is truly the Jesus of the Bible.  They profess Christ but a Christ that some believe was a created being and not eternal and co-equal with the Father.  One of these groups claims that the Bible contains errors and believes they have a newer, better testament (e.g. the Book of Mormon).  Even the Evangelicals and Roman Catholics believe differently in many important areas making a unique joint-effort almost impossible as far as the essentials of the faith.

Why the Movement? 

It is believed that the Ecumenical Movement started from the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910 even though the Vatican did not give their formal recognition to this movement until 1960.  When the World Council of Churches gathered in Geneva in 1969 Pope Paul VI visited and today sends council representatives with the Catholic Church having joined itself with some of the committees, seemingly signifying their approval of this movement.  The church often used the word ecumenical for the purpose of building a consensus on orthodox Christian practices like the Lord’s Supper or Communion, expressing the belief in Jesus’ sinless-ness, His virgin birth, and His resurrection, much like the creeds do in written form.  Although the goal of achieving greater cooperation and unity is admirable and is said to be patterned after the unity that the first-century New Testament church had, it’s seemingly impossible to have complete unity in what each denomination believes and practices.  The differences between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox (including the Russian Orthodox Church) and the Protestant Church (evangelicals) may never be reconciled.


I can see the benefits of this movement but overall, I see no reason to compromise on the essential doctrines of the faith simply because there would be more political and social clout to effect societal change.  Christians around the world are called to be salt and light in this world but they were never given the decree to solve this world’s evils and to correct the present system of governmental rule around the globe.  There is only One Who has the power and the authority to bring about change and make it permanent.  It will take the strong hand of God to bring about world peace.  Mankind has historically proven that they cannot rule themselves.  Jesus said that He came into this world to be King but His kingdom is not of this world…yet.   Jesus told Pilate “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world” (John 18:37) and “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).  That day is coming.  Are you prepared for it?  If you have never repented and trusted in the King, then the beginning of that kingdom brings God’s wrath upon you (John 3:36b) but if you have, then I cannot even express how joyful that will be in words alone (Rev 21.22).  That will truly be when “the whole world” will be joined together in one purpose and that purpose is for the express cause of worshiping God, glorifying Him, and enjoying Him forever.

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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