A … shadow beclouds the Christian community today in its effort to give visible expression to the church’s oneness in Christ. That shadow I call Ecumenicalism. Could anything be more heretical than the fact that one who for decades lived devotedly at the heart of the movement which Archbishop Temple designated as the “great new fact of our time,” should seriously question the current direction which the ecumenical movement is taking? My concern, however, is this: The dynamic missionary vision that created the “great new fact” is being replaced by an institutional image which allures leading ecumenists. In consequence, the ecumenical movement tends to be less and less motion outwards and onwards towards frontiers. It becomes instead increasing motion towards the realization of an ordered, ecclesiastical structure. In a subtle manner dedication to mission becomes merely the pursuit of harmony.
Two very delicate questions are the meaning of evangelism and what it signifies to be “a new creation in Christ.” Because such basic issues are considered divisive and do not contribute to unity, they are either quietly evaded or they are not pursued to the point of creative controversy. When the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches met in Rolle, Switzerland, in 1951, the following statement was approved by the Committee:
We would especially draw attention to the recent confusion in the use of the word “ecumenical.” It is important to insist that this word, which comes from the Greek word for the whole inhabited earth, is properly used to describe everything that relates to the whole task of the whole Church to bring the Gospel to the whole world. It therefore covers ...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