Formation of the World Church
The Reformation of the 16th century eventually led to the numerous independent Christian groups we know today: Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Charismatics, Unitarians, Methodists and so on. The Reformers were 'Protestant' in that they 'protested' against and rebelled from the supreme authority of the pope.
An early attempt to reverse this fragmentation was the Evangelical Alliance (EA) founded in England in 1846. Today, the EA vision includes 'Working for a united Church'. And the 1910 World Missionary Conference of major protestant denominations and missionary societies has been described as the formal beginning of the EM. So ecumenism was birthed in an attempt to unify the Protestant churches. The word 'ecumenical' literally means 'the inhabited earth' or 'the whole world', so here we have the birth of a 'world church'.
Today, the EM is led by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and promotes worldwide unity between all the major Christian groups:
"A united church is no optional extra." [Desmond Tutu, WCC, Brazil, 2006]
Although initially involving mainly Protestant and Orthodox churches, the WCC now has Catholic observers and the Catholic Church is a full member of some of its committees. Whilst the EM is not an interfaith initiative, it does promote unity despite significant doctrinal differences, and so a casualty must inevitably be truth! This point is often ignored by the EM as it stresses Jesus' prayer for oneness and unity amongst His followers (Jn 17.20-23). And so the relentless move to unity continues:
Chrislam is a modern-day attempt to blend the teachings and practices of Christianity and Islam. As of 2014, Christians, Muslims and Jews plan to build a place where they can all worship (initially at least, in separate rooms). They want a building to combine a church, a synagogue and a mosque under one roof. It is called 'House of One'. Where? In Berlin! Moreover, the Vatican actively supports Chrislam.
Roman Catholic Church:
The restoration of unity among all Christians was one of the principal concerns of theSecond Vatican Council (1962-65). The Council's Decree on Ecumenism claimed that Christ founded only one Church, and that division openly contradicts the will of Christ. But the Catholic Church acknowledges that doctrinal and structural differences between Protestants and itself create many obstacles to full ecclesiastical communion. It claims:
"The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. Although the ecumenical movement and the desire for peace with the Catholic Church have not yet taken hold everywhere, it is our hope that ecumenical feeling and mutual esteem may gradually increase among all men. Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren ..."
The Anglican Church claims that "Ecumenism is at the very heart of Anglicanism". Accordingly, an aim of the Anglican Communion is:
"To encourage and guide Anglican participation in the ecumenical movement and the ecumenical organisations, to co-operate with the World Council of Churches and the world confessional bodies on behalf of the Anglican Communion, and to make arrangements for the conduct of pan-Anglican conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, and other churches." [ACC Constitution 2(f)]
The apostolic constitution, "Anglicanorum coetibus," issued by Pope Benedict in November 2009 allowed Anglicans the option of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Anglican Church saw this as "a positive contribution to a wider dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion".
It is claimed that Baptists have never been linked with Protestants and have never been identified with the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Baptist approachto ecumenism is rooted in the recognition that it is insufficient for the Baptist Church to be alone, and that "ecumenism is an inescapable reality for all of us". Yet, despite a clear commitment to ecumenism expressed in formal votes, there are also doctrinal problems e.g. the issues of baptism and structural unity. Baptists believe that unity needs to be bottom up!
In its Ecumenical Statements, the UK Methodist Church affirms its commitment to work with ecumenical partners wherever possible. Its ecumenical strategy includes:
"A vision of one Church for one World; a desire to share in a common life with all Christian people; and a commitment to seeking the full visible unity of the Church.
However, like the Baptists, it recognises that successful ecumenical working does not ignore the differences between Christians and between Christian denominations.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity (which embraces the Greek Orthodox Church) draws on elements of Greek, Middle-Eastern, Russian and Slav culture. Some challenge Orthodox doctrine, particularly on salvation.
The Orthodox Church stands out from other mainstream churches on EM. Whilst it shares the aim of Christian unity, it is not prepared to compromise its doctrine. For instance, at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Athens suggested that the Anglican Communion might take the opportunity "to examine to what degree the Church has remained faithful or has deviated from the Pauline teaching and principles". The Orthodox assert that only they have retained the fullness of the Truth, handed down by Christ to the Apostles, and handed on by them to the Church, down to the present day. In his book "Our Orthodox Christian Faith", Athanasios Frangopoulos says:
"there are not many Churches but one - the Orthodox Catholic Church."
Some go even further and claim that the EM is heresy:
"Modern ecumenism is both a movement and an ecclesiological heresy. It poses a grave threat to the very 'pillar and foundation of the Truth' (1 Timothy 3:15) itself - the Church."
Marks of Apostate Churches
The following video highlights some characteristics of apostate churches, and ecumenism is one of them. Are YOU in one of these churches?