Only a few years ago the words ecumenical and ecumenism meant nothing to the average laymen. They were just so much Greek, in the real sense of the word.

But now we are confronted with these words in sermons, in literature, and in church courts. It is therefore important to know what they mean, what they imply, and how they are used today.

Ecumenical means worldwide or universal, and, in relation to the Church, implies the oneness of Christians in the faith and all which flows therefrom.

Ecumenicity is not a religion. Rather it is a fruit or manifestation of Christianity. It is a spiritual reality separate and distinct from organizations or the manipulations of men. It is Christian unity which crosses all social, racial, denominational, or national barriers.

All of this being true, why are there those in the Church who have real misgivings about what is now known as the “ecumenical movement”? If true ecumenicity has existed since the beginning of the Christian church, should it not be fostered?

In order to clarify the matter it is necessary to define terms. I believe that the ecumenical movement is something separate from ecumenicity, just as the “fundamentalist movement” is separate from historic evangelical Christianity, or fundamentalism.

The ecumenical movement, as it now exists, is a relatively new phenomenon. With the Reformation there came into being a number of denominations, most of them established by men convinced of the importance of some particular doctrine or teaching of Scripture. The force was centrifugal—away from centralization—often independent, and sometimes divisive in effect.

However, in recent years the pervading force has been centripetal, towards cooperation, union, and unified action.

Unquestionably the ...

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