Ecumenism, or the movement toward the visible unity of the Christian denominations, is the most conspicuous fact on the ecclesiastical scene. We say conspicuous because it may or may not be the most significant. Or, it may be significant but not particularly valuable. Or, it may be all these things. But, in any case, it is, at least, the most conspicuous fact on the ecclesiastical scene.
Whatever the value of ecumenism may be, it has a by-product of undisputed value. It has inevitably led to—demanded—a general and intensive study of the nature of the Church. Still, even this is more apparent than real. In many instances the study of the nature of the Church is really merely a study of how to discover essential similarities on which to build the ecumenical church. This drive to ecumenism, therefore, has sometimes produced a calculated shallowness of investigation. To take but one example—the study of biblical ecclesiology was much more intensive in seventeenth century England than it is in twentieth century England.
Be all this as it may, current periodical literature abounds with studies of the nature of the Church. In our bit of space here we note briefly several articles. One of these presents the exclusivist viewpoint (which regards a particular denomination as the only true visible church); another the inclusivist viewpoint (which regards various denominations as equally constituting the visible church); and the third a viewpoint mediating between these.
The Very Rev. Georges Florosky gives us a most informative discussion of the Eastern Orthodox tradition in his, “Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century” (St. Vladamir’s Seminary Quarterly, Spring-Summer, 1956). This learned historical survey succinctly, though incidentally, ...1
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