Ecumenical theologians climbed Mont Réal,
Ecumenical theologians had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put ecumenical theology together again.
The World Council’s fourth world Faith and Order Conference, held July 12–26 in Montreal, proved a major debacle whose defacing scars may long embarrass the ecumenical movement. In the aftermath of this fiasco (WCC leaders themselves privately labeled it “a crisis in technique”) the council’s Central Committee will now face the heavy burden of defining the future status of faith-and-order concerns.
The Montreal conclave doubtless had positive values: face-to-face meetings dispelling needless suspicion, frank exchange of contrary views, recognition that despite deep divergences delegates are sincerely devoted to Christian concerns in a non-Christian world, mounting uneasiness over the fragmented Christian witness, probing of areas of agreement as well as of difference between long-separated communions, inquiry into what limited objectives might be cooperatively sought by churches of differing theological convictions, and finally, open cross fire concerning some of the Church’s current and pressing problems. It was, in fact, to such “fringe benefits”—typical of every ecumenical assembly—that conference spokesmen swiftly appealed in expounding the achievements of Montreal.
But these were not objectives for which WCC had budgeted $63,000 toward the overall cost of a faith-and-order conference. What was sought was theological breakthrough. What Montreal produced was theological ambiguity transcended only by theological stalemate.
Once again, assuredly, the 350 participating delegates manifested the irreducible fact that emergence of the ecumenical movement ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more