Growing disenchantment with the ecumenical movement

Despite the continued progress of the ecumenical movement, all is not well. Both the radical militants and the traditionalists have voiced uneasiness about ecumenical trends.

Recent pronouncements of world and national church councils suggest that the concern for doctrinal purity and integrity has been supplanted by a preoccupation with solving the pressing problems in society. The Church must not hesitate to speak to the moral issues of our time, but its judgments should be primarily theological, not sociological or ideological.

It also appears that the earlier missionary orientation of ecumenism is being overshadowed by a search for organizational unity. The well-known ecumenist John Mackay, in this book Christian Reality and Appearance, deplores this latest style of ecumenism and urges that there be a renewed emphasis on mission. Ian Henderson sees the call for oneness as a demand for power and maintains that ecclesiastical imperialism rather than the Gospel is the motivating force in many ecumencial conversations (see his Power Without Glory).

The distinguished Roman Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown notes that in Catholic ecumenism a biblical theological basis is no longer as evident as it was during the second Vatican Council. The new tendency is “to make much less use of Scripture”; he also opposes the “widespread ethical relativism which questions the Bible’s relevance to moral standards today” and “the evolutionary approach in theology, whose optimism about human history strongly contrasts with … biblical pessimism” (The Christian Century, June 11, 1969, p. 816).

Although evangelicals are becoming more ecumenically ...

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