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Christian ecumenicalism

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1961: Roman Catholicism: Pope John XXIII allowed Roman Catholic observers to attend the New Delhi meeting of the World Council Assembly.


1964: Roman Catholicism: The Roman Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council issued its Decree on Ecumenism. Although it stated that only the Roman Catholic church offered an individual the means for the fullness of salvation, they at least called Christians who were not in communication with Rome to be "separated brethren" instead of cursing them as "anathema." 


1965: Roman-Catholic/Eastern Orthodox: Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople terminated the mutual excommunication between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox church that had been in effect since 1054 CE.


1994-MAR-29: Evangelicals and Catholics together: An organization of conservative Christians involving Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics issued their first joint statement: "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium."


1997: Evangelicals and Catholics Together: They issued their third major statement, titled "The Gift of Salvation." It described a number of beliefs on which they had reached a consensus.


1998-DEC-1: Ecumenical forum: Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches challenged their eighth assembly to consider the establishment of a 'Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations.' 3,10 The proposed forum could potentially include a large number of churches and organizations that are not members of  the WCC, including the Roman Catholic Church and Pentecostal churches.

Presumably, Evangelical Christian churches could also join. "The forum could also include regional ecumenical organizations (REOs), Christian world communions (CWCs) and international ecumenical organizations." 4 The assembly approved the proposal in 1998-DEC, against severe opposition. Clifton Kirkpatrick, of the Presbyterian Church (USA), offered support for the Forum: "Renewal comes from reaching out, not reaching in, and the forum represents a creative way to involve the broader body of Christ in the search for unity."


1999-AUG-22: European charter: The Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) sent a draft of the "Ecumenical Charter for Collaboration Among the Churches in Europe," to the European Episcopal Conferences and to members of the Conference of European Churches (KEK). The latter conference includes all Christian Churches except for the Roman Catholic Church. The document discusses common prayer across denominations, reconciliation, concern for the environment, finding opportunities for inter-denominational encounters and dialog, protecting human rights against inroads by the state. etc. It opposes the use of "physical force, moral pressure or material advantages" to encourage people to convert.


2000-FEB-29: European series of meetings: According to ENI news service: "One of the most basic concepts of the history of Christianity - that of the 16th-century reformation which split the Western Church - is being radically revised thanks to a series of meetings aimed at bringing Protestant denominations closer together. Theologians and officials representing a range of Protestant denominations have been meeting since 1986 to examine the nature of Protestantism. As their dialogues have evolved - the sixth in the series was held in Strasbourg, France, from 11 to 15 February - the participants have dramatically revised the historical view of the reformation, throwing out the stereotype of a monolithic "Reformation" led by Martin Luther and John Calvin. Instead, the theologians say, there were a whole string of events and people who reformed Christianity over a period of several centuries." 10


2000-APR-14: Roman Catholic and Anglicans to meet: According to ACNS news service: "Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops from thirteen regions around the world are to gather in Canada May 14-20 to review and evaluate the accomplishment of thirty years of ecumenical dialogue between the two traditions and to reflect on how the special relationship between them has been developing in different parts of the world." More details.


2000-JUL-9: Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox meeting: Church leaders worldwide from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches began a 10 day meeting in Emmitsburg, MD. It was originally scheduled for 1999-JUN, but was postponed because of religious tensions provoked the genocide perpetrated largely by Serbian Orthodox and by NATO's attack on territories of the former Yugoslavia. The members will concentrate on theological issues, such as the methods of worship and taking Holy Communion. The meeting ended without significant agreement. One unsolved major issue relates to the status of the pope. Orthodox Christians regard Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to be the "leader among equals" of the 15 independent, self-governing and mostly national Orthodox churches. They reach agreement at meetings of groups of bishops or synods. Roman Catholics are far more centralized, with ultimate authority concentrated in the pope.


2001-JAN-6: USA: Episcopalians and Lutherans reach full communion: At the end of the year 2000 Christmas season, the Feast of the Epiphany, Episcopalians and Lutherans across the U.S. celebrated the start of full communion status. This is the culmination of a four-decade long quest, between the 2.5 million members of the Episcopal Church USA  and the 5.2 million members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The two denominations will now be able to share clergy, worship services, outreach programs, etc. 12


2001: Canada: Anglican Church of Canada & Lutherans reach full communion: The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) attained full communion. The ACC Web News reports: "The Waterloo Declaration allowed Lutheran and Anglican clergy to minister at the others' churches and for baptisms to be mutually recognized."

In mid-2007, the ACC reported that: "... the national Lutheran and Anglican leaders are moving the two churches towards working together both in management and at a grassroots level, where joint ministry in rural areas is often a necessity." 13,14


2001-MAR-27: USA: Southern Baptists terminate discussions with Roman Catholics: Representatives of the Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board (NAMB) have held annual discussions since 1994 with representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The goal was to obtain a clearer understanding of each other's beliefs. The Baptists have decided to terminate future discussions, after a final meeting in the fall of 2002. Rudy Gonzalez, director of NAMB's interfaith evangelism team, that "The Roman Catholic-Southern Baptist conversations have given us an opportunity to come to a very clear understanding that there are some marked and clear theological differences between us...We're focused on our mission first and foremost. Any future conversations that might develop will have to fit within the parameters of what the North American Mission Board has been charged to do which is to assist Southern Baptist Churches to evangelize North America." He mentioned that Baptists and Roman Catholics disagree sharply in their beliefs about eternal salvation and the authority of the Bible.


2002: Evangelicals and Catholics Together: They issued their third major statement, titled "Your Word is Truth." It described some progress that the group had made on "the relation between Scripture and tradition."

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute distributes a "1999 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" packet. See: http://www.pcusa.org/\ The week was scheduled for 1999-JAN 18 to 25; Ecumenical Sunday is on JAN-25.
  2. The Presbyterian Church (USA) describes the 1999 National Workshop on Christian Unity  at: http://www.pcusa.org/
  3. Ecumenical News International, (ENI), 1998-DEC-7
  4. PCUSA News, 1998-DEC-16
  5. Ecumenical News International, (ENI) News highlights, 1999-AUG-20
  6. Paul Schaefer, "Can two walk together except they be agreed? Ecumenism as a twentieth century church concern," Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, at: http://www.alliancenet.org
  7. Churches Together in England publish "Guidelines for methods of administration of holy communion..." at: http://www.cte-one.clara.net/
  8. Charles Austin, "Christian Church continues unity drumbeat," The Bergen Record, at: http://www.bergen.com:
  9. Ecumenical News International, (ENI), 2000-FEB-29
  10. Ecumenical News International (ENI) has a web-site at www.eni.ch Their locations are: PO Box 2100, CH - 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, Tel: (41-22) 791 6087/6515; Fax: (41-22) 788 7244; Email: eni@eni.ch
  11. Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), "Historic Consultation of Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops Set for Canada in May," 2000-APR-14.
  12. Jean Torkelson, "Churches celebrate partnership," Denver Rocky Mountain News, 2001-JAN-7.
  13. Ali Symons, "Revived Anglican-United dialogue issues report," ACC Web News, 2009-JUL-03.
  14. "Called to Full Communion (The Waterloo Declaration)," Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, 2001, at: http://www.elcic.ca/

Copyright © 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUL-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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