Ecumenism: The quest for Christian unity
The term ecumenism comes from the Greek oikoumene, which means the entire inhabited world. In short, ecumenism is work that seeks Christian unity. The foundation of ecumenical activities lies in the teachings of Jesus, who said that Christians must be known by the love they have for one another.
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
In practice, Christians all over the world are united by the following:
- The scripture
- Baptism and the Eucharist
- The church calendar
- Creeds of the early church
The creeds affirm that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”.
Ecumenism is actions
In ecumenical dialogue, churches seek to identify the faith they have in common. This involves a deep consideration of both scripture and the writings of the fathers of the early church.
Each church brings its own emphasis on our common faith. By acknowledging our differences, we can deconstruct misconceptions and encourage a better understanding of our individual positions. This allows us to identify shared perspectives and strengthen our unity.
Doctrinal dialogue and agreements between Christian churches describe the extent to which the churches acknowledge our common faith and the steps we must take to find greater unity.
In this dialogue, the objective is to reach sufficient doctrinal consensus so that church members can freely take part in the activities of ecumenical churches and the churches can regard each other’s members as their own. This allows members to
- celebrate the Eucharist together,
- act as godparents,
- have a church wedding and
- work in another ecumenical church.
Ecumenism is a mindset
An ecumenical mindset is the willingness to understand Christianity in other denominations and the willingness to foster unity and collaboration with other Christians. This requires an honest and loving attitude towards other Christians.
Parishes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland can organise mutual activities with other Christians in their area. Parishes must also be ready to accommodate ecumenical families in Church services and to offer their facilities for other Christians to use.