Two news releases recently demonstrated to me the failure of ecumenism that is guided largely by denominational staff and not shared by the faith practice of people in the pews.
Reporting on the recent ELCA Conference of Bishops, an ELCA press release stated:
Without "grassroots ecumenism," in which people of all faiths study God’s Word and work together for the common good, Hanson said it will be difficult to maintain ecumenical momentum. He called on the ELCA synod bishops to be "imaginative, chief ecumenical officers" in their synods.
Years after our agreements with The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Moravian Church and United Church of Christ, where are we? Has our witness to this country become more clear? Are we more united in mission because of these agreements? I’m not convinced.
Then I saw this article over at beliefnet: Anglicans, Catholics Still Not United on Mary. It describes a recent meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the USA and the skittishness some American Anglicans feel toward Mary, despite having agreed upon a statement of shared belief and practice regarding Mary some two years ago. Looking toward the day when the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches are reunited in a common communion – but recognizing that a shared belief about Mary would be a precondition to full communion – The Rev. Ronald Robertson, a Catholic consultant to the group, said, "This would not necessarily mean we’d have to use the same words," he
said. "We could agree that different words describe the same reality."
That sounds like the logic that got us into a mess with the Roman Catholics and the Joint Statement on Justification. In that case, we agreed upon the same words, but evidently took them to mean different things.
No wonder the people in the pews don’t care much about or understand what church bureaucrats are discussing and doing in the ecumenical realm. Does it really matter?
Ecumenism that matters is the grassroots ecumenism that happens locally. Why not just walk down the street and pray with the folks in that other – equally half-empty – church building? Swap pulpits, share communion, offer a joint VBS.
That’s ecumenism that makes a difference.