Behind the continuing rah-rah façade of the ecumenical movement things look something less than cheery. Even avid disciples of the ecumenical ideal now concede a darkening picture. The drive to unify Christendom on an organic, worldly scale has bogged down.

“At the moment the drive, in this country at least, seems stalled and plagued with uncertainty,” says William MacKaye in the Washington Post.

Methodist theologian Albert Outler’s analogy of the mood is more graphic, if somewhat indelicate. “It’s a feeling that the movement is a kind of ecclesiastical coitus interruptus,” Newsweek quotes him as saying.

Perhaps at long last the ecumenists are facing up to hard realities, realizing that true Christian oneness can be built neither upon sentiment nor upon subjectivity. And they are increasingly embarrassed by the mawkish overkill that has assessed virtually every ecclesiastical development solely on the basis of whether or not it furthered an ambiguous ecumenicity.

Yet ecumenically oriented Christianity still shows no signs of correcting its insensitivity toward theological affirmation and its preoccupation with particulars in the social sphere to the neglect of scripturally revealed truths and principles. The good judgment of countless devout Christians continues to be brought under open or implicit rebuke while the rampant theological skepticism of influential ecclesiastical figures goes unchallenged. Church bureaucrats float from one perspective to another, drifting with the headlines, never anchoring long enough to make a dynamic difference or to arrest the enduring interest of the laity.

Lack of potent theological “fuel” to empower the ship Oikoumene is as much the conciliar movement’s problem as the shallow waters in which ...

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