The ecumenical obligation has become a concern of more Christians today than ever before. Never have so many been so challenged, and so puzzled, by that obligation. Its fulfillment has never seemed more imperative, the means of that fulfillment more elusive.

Ecumenical activities within U.S. member churches of the World Council of Churches are increasingly prolific and diffuse. The baffling puzzle that occupies each church in its own life, and all in their common concerns, is the relationship between ecumenical organization and ecumenical movement. We shall look at the nature of that problem in three relationships.

1. Relationships With Roman Catholics

The multiplication of new contacts between Roman Catholics and members of churches represented here is almost astronomic. From the parish, to the county, to the state, to the national and international level, there is an explosive spread of theological discussions, shared Bible studies, joint services for worship, alliances in civic programs, and pooling of resources for community, state, national, and international issues. Both communities and churches are enriched. On both sides there is awareness of continuing and profound theological difficulties. Nevertheless there is in countless communities a new atmosphere of hope both for a deeper understanding of the Gospel within churches and for a more vital witness of the churches to those communities.

This development is a notable example of ecumenical movement far outrunning ecumenical organization. It is an illuminating and a surprising sequel to the New Delhi statement on Christian unity, with its focus on “all in one place.” Most of us who were delegates voted for that statement and returned home with no particular intention ...

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