Let me clarify my title right away by saying that I am not opposed to the ecumenical movement. I believe that in many ways this movement, rightly understood, is the hope of Christianity, and in the long run even of the world itself. However, I am concerned over some facts and trends that ecumenism should take into account if it is to avoid serious distortions and perversions. There is a real need for some negative thinking about ecumenism for the sake of ecumenism itself.
One of the concepts that has been a source of strength to the ecumenical movement is encounter, the encounter that takes place when a Christian meets Christ in another Christian. A common love, faith, and loyalty engender an instant kinship, a joyful mutual recognition, that leaps across all national, racial, social, political, ideological, and denominational differences. Differences continue to exist, but they no longer irritate and divide.
Unfortunately, much that is regarded as encounter seems to be something actually quite different. It is rather a phenomenon that occurs as ecclesiastical bureaucrats associate with one another. Are you acquainted with TAUPCE and UMHE? Do you know Dr. Esel of Marburg and Monsieur Lemoine of Brussels? Have you ever met Bishop Satsuma of Japan? Are you familiar with that fine report on the inner city by Moderator Igreja of São Paulo? Some people think that if you can answer yes to these and similar questions, you have had an “encounter” in the authentic sense. Sometimes that may be so, but more likely the “encounter” is really only a superficial acquaintance among veterans of much briefing programming, scheduling, and budgeting, a relationship in which there is nothing specifically Christian. These veterans come to enjoy ...1
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