ecumenist, n.
/ek"yoo meuh niz'euhm, i kyooh"-/ or, esp. Brit., /ee"kyoo-/, n.
ecumenical doctrines and practices, esp. as manifested in the ecumenical movement.
[1965-70; ECUMEN(IC) + -ISM]

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Movement toward unity or cooperation among the Christian churches.

The first major step in the direction of ecumenism was the International Missionary Conference of 1910, a gathering of Protestants. Several Protestant denominations inaugurated a Life and Work Conference (on social and practical problems) in 1925 and a Faith and Order Conference (on church doctrine and governance) in 1927. After World War II the World Council of Churches (WCC) was established; the International Missionary Conference joined it in 1961. The Roman Catholic church also has shown strong interest in improving interchurch relations since the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and, with the patriarch of Constantinople, has lifted the excommunication of 1054. The Eastern Orthodox church was active in the movement since 1920 and joined the WCC at its inception. The more conservative or fundamentalist Protestant denominations have generally refrained from involvement. Another important factor in 20th-century ecumenism was the creation of united churches that reconcile splintered sects, such as the United Church of Christ (1957) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1988).

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      the movement or tendency toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation. The term, of recent origin, emphasizes what is viewed as the universality of the Christian churches.

      A brief treatment of ecumenism follows. For full treatment, see Christianity: Ecumenism (Christianity).

      The word ecumenism is derived from the Greek words oikoumenē (“the inhabited world”) and oikos (“house”) and can be traced from the commands, promises, and prayers of Jesus (Jesus Christ). After the International Missionary Conference held at Edinburgh in 1910, Protestants (Protestantism) began to use the term ecumenism to describe the gathering of missionary, evangelistic, service, and unitive forces. During and after the second Vatican Council (1962–65), Roman Catholics (Roman Catholicism) used ecumenism to refer to the renewal of the whole life of the church, undertaken to make it more responsive to “separated churches” and to the needs of the world.

      The ecumenical movement seeks to recover the apostolic sense of the early church for unity in diversity, and it confronts the frustrations, difficulties, and ironies of the modern pluralistic world. It is a lively reassessment of the historical sources and destiny of what followers perceive to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Jesus Christ.

      The possibility of an ecumenical approach, in the modern sense, to Christianity increased, somewhat ironically, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when English dissenting sects and Pietist groups on the Continent began to promote evangelistic, revivalistic, and missionary endeavour. This, along with the simultaneous effect of Enlightenment thought, broke down many of the traditional foundations that supported separate church structures. Other breakdowns in the traditional understandings of church unity led to new possibilities for experimentation in the 19th century. The separation of church and state in the United States signalled the need for civility and respect for religious rights in a land of many religions. The sending of missionaries at the beginning of the 19th century revealed the possibilities of cooperation across denominational lines at home and brought to light the scandal of competition and conflict among Christian denominations abroad.

      Early 20th-century ecumenism derived impetus from the convergence of three movements: international missionary conferences (Protestant), beginning with the Edinburgh Conference (1910) and taking shape as an institution in the International Missionary Council (1921); the Faith and Order Conferences (on church doctrine and polity), commencing in the conference at Lausanne (1927); and the Life and Work Conferences (on social and practical problems), beginning with the Stockholm Conference (1925). In 1937 at the Oxford Conference of Life and Work, proposals were drawn up to unite with Faith and Order. The World Council of Churches, a consultative and conciliar agent of ecumenism, working with national, denominational, regional, and confessional bodies, was inaugurated in Amsterdam in 1948. The International Missionary Council joined the World Council of Churches in 1961.

      Protest movements against the developments that led to and continued in the World Council of Churches have produced an ecumenical convergence of their own. Most participants in this convergence prefer to be called “evangelical.” In the United States the National Association of Evangelicals was formed in 1943, in large part to counter the Federal Council of Churches, which began in 1908 and reorganized as the National Council of Churches in 1950. Evangelicals have many organizations that operate on an international level to channel specific cooperative energies.

      In 1961 Pope John XXIII established the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and the Orthodox churches created the Pan-Orthodox Conference. Dialogues among the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Protestant churches have brought general consensus on such issues as baptism, the Eucharist, and the nature of ministry. The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed on a common understanding of the doctrine of justification, even as Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the Reformed churches have attained surprising unanimity on certain theological issues.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • ecumenism — [[t]ɪkju͟ːme̱nɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT Ecumenism is the belief that the different Christian Churches should be as united as possible, and can also be used to refer to actions based on this belief. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • ecumenism — noun Date: 1948 ecumenical principles and practices especially as shown among religious groups (as Christian denominations) • ecumenist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ecumenism — noun Ecumenical doctrines and practices, especially as manifested in the ecumenical movement …   Wiktionary

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