The Ecumenical Movement
Unity in the Mystical Body of Christ
By Raul Enyedi
THE TECHNOLOGICAL and scientific development that began in the latter part of the 19th century brought with it an increased secularization of the world. Religion seemed to be retreating under the siege of atheism. Many at the time were seeing in this the death of the religious man.
But religion survived, and even though some were foretelling its end, André Malraux foretold its victory, by the words that are now famous, “the 21st century will be religious or will not be at all.” And the form in which religion was to win the victory seemed to have been shaped in the midst of this “battlefield.” But what exactly was going on in the bosom of the religious world at this time?
The religious canvas of the 20th century was painted mainly in the colors of the newest movement within Christianity: ecumenism. If in the beginning it was nothing but an insignificant and ignored movement, soon, it was transformed into a force that was more and more imposing, ending up as the main movement of the Christian world.
The word ecumenism that describes this religious movement comes from the Greek oikoumene, meaning world, earth, the whole dwelling part of the earth. The word itself indicates the target of the ecumenical movement: one church in the whole world, universal, and visibly united, ministering for the conversion of the non-religious world. Ecumenism is an attempt to accomplish an ecclesial unity and reunification, by the means of specific doctrines, methods and activities.
Ecumenism is characterized by dialogue, openness toward communication with the view of reaching a mutual understanding, partnership and collaboration. Unlike the “openness to dialogue” of the denominations before them, which was done just to prove the other party wrong and not to come to a common conclusion, this movement offers “an ecumenical space” of discussion with the very purpose of coming to common points of agreement.
The ecumenical movement is a novelty in the history of Christianity. Modern organized ecumenism has its origins in two interdenominational meetings. The first of them took place in London, August 1846, where 800 representatives of main protestant denominations from 10 countries met to create, in their own words, “a new thing in church history, a definite organization for the expression of unity amongst Christian individuals belonging to different churches.” This meeting laid the foundation for what is now known as The World Evangelical Alliance.
The second of these meetings took place at Edinburgh, in 1910. At this conference, many protestant denominations met to discuss the possibility of making mission work in the non-Christian world more efficient and to promote closer inter-denominational relationships. This conference laid the foundation for the body organized in 1948 as The World Council of Churches.
The doctrinal basis of these conferences was post-millennialism, according to which doctrine, Christians had to convert the world before Christ would come back.
Since that moment, ecumenism progressed at an incredible rate, becoming the most popular trend in modern Christianity, challenging all denominations to a response. Probably the most notable response came from the Roman Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council, which answers affirmatively, though ambiguously, to the protestant ecumenical movement.
The religious condition of the Christian world, characterized by a progress of missionary efforts, the desire to expand the frontiers of Christianity, tiredness due to centuries of denominational confrontations, the obsolete attitude of traditional denominations toward the new challenges brought by a rapidly changing world, fading denominational distinctions, the appearance of new societies and movements, especially the Pentecostal movement and later the Charismatic… all these contributed to the drawing closer of denominations, the establishment of relationships and the beginning of dialogue which would increase and strengthen in the following years.
The social conditions (racism, violation of human rights), political conditions (appearance of several totalitarian regimes and dictatorships) and the economic conditions of the world (extreme poverty of large portions of the planet, the negative effects of globalization) generated situations that were thought to require a response from Christianity.
These were the main factors that made up the background of the world religious scene in which ecumenism was to begin its performance.
The most famous ecumenical organization, the one with the greatest openness, is the World Council of Churches, an organization composed of Protestant and Orthodox Churches that collaborates closely with the Roman Catholic Church. Besides this one, there are many other ecumenical organizations, more or less open to dialogue.
For this movement to be successful, all the component parts must be brought together and kept as such, working as a whole, as an organism; even though its every cell – local church, in our case – functions individually, nevertheless, its work must follow the purpose of the whole organism.
Therefore, an efficient ecumenism must have all its parts brought into harmony sufficient enough to make possible working together for a common goal. This is accomplished by the means of four essential elements:
1. Common purposes
2. Common activities
3. Common doctrine
4. A legislative, executive and administrative apparatus that would insure the implementation of the above three points at all levels, from the international forums to the common members of a local church.
Since these points require our special attention, we will try to analyze each one of them individually.
Among all the things that would make ecumenism impossible, the lack of a common purpose would be the first on the list. This is the binding agent that holds churches together, since the varied doctrine, common only in the main points, is not strong enough to bring or hold together these ecumenical churches.
It is essential that the main purpose of the movement would be the particular purpose of every member of it. This purpose is one that would be followed even if the organization would not exist.
The main purpose invoked is the going forth of the Gospel to the whole world, the sharing of the Good News of Christianity with every inhabitant of the planet. This is the purpose, or rather, the ideal of every Christian, every church, every denomination of Christianity. This ideal has never been reached before, and, even with modern means like mass media, it still cannot be reached. But, what is practically impossible can become possible if all Christians, everywhere, would work together for this on a local, regional, national, international and even worldwide level. A worldwide ecumenical organization would help individual efforts, making mission work more efficient, thus increasing the chances of success.
Of course, along with the main purpose come other objectives of the ecumenical movement, all of these being also the local or denominational objectives of the different organizations engaged in this movement. The fight for the defense of human rights, children’s and women’s rights, the fight against ethnic and racial discrimination, violence and military conflicts, as well as cooperation in humanitarian efforts; the promotion of peace… these are only a few of the objectives which the ecumenical movement considers to be called to. Slogans like love, fellowship, worship, praise, unity, equity, justice, dialogue are found in the vocabulary of every member or admirer of this movement.
The supreme purpose ecumenism proposes to Christians is to be “one in Christ.” It is said that all the members of the universal invisible church must be one in Christ, referring to the words of the Lord from John 17, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” The unity in the mystical body is absolutely necessary in order to convert the world, claim the promoters of ecumenism.
Here is how the WCC sees the unity of the mystical body and the result of it: “the churches together serving a world in need.” The same document further states: “After centuries of division, the churches recognize anew that they are one in Christ. Within the ecumenical fellowship they witness together, work against injustice, and seek to overcome their theological and historical differences.”
But there must be found ways of putting into practice the above mentioned purposes, otherwise, they remain only on paper. This leads us to our second point of the program of the ecumenization of Christianity: common activities.
Doubtless by just working together with our neighbor, making conversation with him, we come to know each other better. We are always closer to a person that we know, it does not matter how little, than to a stranger. Likewise, organizations come to strong long-lasting relationships by means of common interdenominational activities and dialogue. Pope John Paul II said: “The more that we meet together and love one another, giving witness to the joy that unites us, the less difficult will be the path ahead.”
These activities must exist at all levels. Congresses and conferences are organized, where national and international leaders of several denominations participate. Such meetings can be dismissed with a fellowship dinner, the Lord’s Supper or even with the rite of feet-washing between these leaders. Seminaries or classes on different themes, where renowned professors from different denominations are invited, are also useful for the training of future ministers.
Mass-media is also used to promote ecumenism. Talk-shows where prominent figures of various denominational backgrounds are invited, to discuss friendly topics common to all; different publications, articles in newspapers, internet sites, audio-video materials – all these are used to promote ecumenism and common attitude and action.
Interdenominational, social or charitable organizations like orphanages, senior citizen homes, soup kitchens for the poor, kindergartens, schools, clinics and hospitals all have their important part in the play. But the crucial importance belongs to the ecumenical manifestations in which the common members are involved. If ecumenism fails at this point, the above mentioned activities are deprived of all ecumenical fruit and importance.
The common members represent the overwhelming majority in every denomination and if the decisions made at the top of the pyramid do not find their fulfillment at the base, it is like they never existed, because this level is the real mirror of the ecumenical system, reflecting its true state and efficiency.
Therefore, marches that unite such members as well as other manifestations of this kind, like religious concerts, crusades and other common religious programs, held in neutral locations, all these bring their contribution in sowing an ecumenical attitude in the hearts of the participants, in the bosom of their churches and in the community to which they belong.
But one of the most efficient instruments used for the accomplishment of a mental or spiritual unity on an international, nay, even worldwide level, is prayer – a specific time when all believers worldwide pray for the same things. This leads us to what is known as “The World Week of Prayer.” It brings together, in a spiritual sense, all the participants worldwide. This week is observed once a year, but the dates sometimes differ. The theme, the biblical texts and the prayer requests are also supplied to all, so that the unity of all participants may be even deeper.
As a concept, the prayer for unity of Christians, in which several denominations participate, existed as early as the 18th century and grew in the 19th and in the first decades of the 20th. These ideas came either from protestants with Pentecostal inclinations, or from Roman-Catholics.
The World Week of Prayer concept originated with the French abbot, Paul Couturier, who, in 1935, proposed “The Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” The year 1964 brought two extremely important events. The first took place in Jerusalem, where Pope Paul VI prayed with the orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I, that they “all may be one” (John 17). The second took place at Rome, where the “Decree on Ecumenism” of the 2nd Vatican Council emphasized that prayer is the soul of ecumenism and encourages the keeping of the Week of Prayer. In the year 1965, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (known today as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) of the Roman Catholic Church began together the official preparation of the material for the Week of Prayer, which was used for the first time in 1968. Since then, the usage of these materials has continually increased, being used now by approximately 550 million ecumenical Christians.
Though other ecumenical organizations use different dates or materials, the ideas and the practice come from the source quoted above.
A step beyond the boundaries of Christianity and of the dialogue with monotheistic religions was made by Pope John Paul II who called all the Christian denominations and the main world religions to pray together for peace. This was accomplished for the very first time on October 27, 1986 in the town of Assisi, Italy. There, under the supervision of the pope, representatives of the main Christian denominations, as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and American Indians, came together and prayed, each one to his god, in his own particular manner, for the peace of the world.
Following the “spirit of Assisi,” as John Paul II called it, these meetings continued every year, in different locations, the 1998 edition taking place at Bucharest, Romania. This call to prayer opened a door to inter-faith dialogue, where polytheistic and animist religions are also invited, giving, thus, a new dimension to ecumenical dialogue, by drawing closer together the great religions of the world.
Other common activities of a special importance for the ecumenical movement are religious holidays. Complex ceremonies, traditions and different customs have developed around them, leading to a “spirit” of these holidays: a powerful emotional charge to all the participants. The main ecumenical holidays are Christmas, the Baptism of Jesus, Palm Sunday, Easter, Pentecost, the Ascension. The dates of these holidays are set by the Roman Catholic Church and by Orthodox Churches.
In the past, evangelicals categorically opposed these holidays because of the pagan origin of their dates and practices and also because there is no commandment in the New Testament to observe such holidays. In present times, evangelicals that are involved in the ecumenical movement participate in the Catholic/Orthodox holidays, selecting out of these observances those that have some connection with Jesus.
Why are these varied common activities so important? One work is worth a thousand words. And even more, if the words bring forth arguments instead of consensus… At the same time, when people are kept busy, their disposition toward meditation or doctrinal study, regarded only as simple theory when compared with the activities they are involved in, decreases.
And these reasons are more than sufficient in the attempt to calm the waters, already too troubled over doctrinal issue.
The third point is by far the most difficult, creating fiery debates and great arguments between the participants in these discussions. The previous two points were designed to help in the accomplishment of this third one. Only with such an accomplishment would ecumenism have a solid foundation and the unity would be thorough.
The thing that hinders the doctrinal unity of the movement and slows down the fulfillment of the ecumenical objectives is denominational identity: that is the maintaining by the member denominations of doctrines specific to them, which makes them different from other members.
Most denominations base their existence on these very particularities. The problem they face is that, with the leveling down of these particularities, they lose not only their identity but also the reason for their separation and establishment. If they accept the giving up of their distinctions, they denounce their founders and predecessors as schismatics and charlatans.
The model ecumenical church is a “post-denominational one,” where churches refuse to consider the differences between them, insisting to look only on shared likenesses.
Nevertheless, denominational identity remains an intense problem. Even the WCC faces this serious problem. They say: “Yet another challenge comes, paradoxically, from the sharpening of identities in churches within the traditional ecumenical movement. This may be a necessary response to a rapidly changing world, with its uncertainty about the future, loss of traditional social values and increasing secularisation. It need not be anti-ecumenical. But it often is: an emphasis on the local and familiar, a fear of what is different, financial stress – such factors call forth a ‘re-confessionalizing’, a turning inward which leaves fewer resources for the ecumenical fellowship.”
Any such “sharpening of identitites” and inward looks to their own particularities is a challenge for ecumenicals, as long as they try to just cover the differences, and not to settle them once for all.
As a protection against some ecumenical heterodox groups and as an attempt to show their members that they share also common doctrine, not only purposes and activities, a submission to a confession of faith is a condition to join an ecumenical movement.
This confession being an ambiguous one, there still remain enough untouched points of doctrine and sufficient room for denominational identity to allow cooperation between various groups. The purpose of the confession is not the solving of these differences, but the emphasis on common faith elements, bringing the joined churches into an “ecumenical space” where they can discuss their doctrinal differences.
According to the promoters of ecumenism, there are two pillars upon which the whole movement rests: The Holy Scriptures and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. We will discuss later the scriptural basis for ecumenism. The ecumenical essence of the Creed is found in the statement: We believe in the one holy catholic [universal] and apostolic church. The doctrine regarding the Church, developed in the ecumenical Councils, call all those that believe in the universal church to spiritual, practical and doctrinal unity.
A common doctrine remains, doubtless, the most difficult point to be accomplished, and seemingly now impossible. But the diminished importance of doctrine in a pragmatic action-oriented world favors the fulfilment of this purpose. It does not really matter what you believe as long as you are involved in mega-actions, such as human rights defense, aid for the poor of Africa or militation for peace in the Middle East…
The fourth point is the legislative, executive and administrative apparatus that makes the decisions and insures that the decisions made at the top are executed at all levels. Indeed, we are talking about a well structured pyramid organization.
The decisions made at the headquarters are transmitted to every national member organization, which, in their turn transmit them to their regional organizations. From here, the decisions are brought to the local level (the churches) by pastors, committees or other authorized ministers. This structure is composed of associations, unions, conventions, alliances of churches or inter-religious councils. In fact, even mission boards and church committees may be included here, since everything that goes beyond a local democracy is a piece in this immense worldwide machinery.
Of course, most of these unions, conventions, etc. were not founded to serve the purpose of ecumenism, but, in time, they changed their character and purpose. Ecumenism found in these supra-church organizations a structure already formed and functional, and uses it as an important instrument in its rapid advance.
These pyramid structures are strictly necessary for the ecumenical movement because, had they not existed, the discussions would have had to be held with every local church individually, which process would require a long period of time and huge human and financial resources.
Since ecumenism would function only on a local level without supra-church organizations, we will take two examples that show how some worldwide decisions are accomplished in the life of a common member in a local church.
The first example refers to the world week of prayer of the World Council of Churches.
In the WCC, the decision is made that the world week of prayer will have the theme “he makes both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” – Mark 7:37. The biblical texts, the comments and the prayer requests are also prepared aforetime. These materials are taken by the delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and are sent from the churchwide organization to their regional organizations. From here, they are sent to the 65 synods, among which are North Western Washington Synod, South Eastern Iowa Synod and Metropolitan New York Synod. From these synods, the materials come to local churches, in Seattle, Davenport or New York, fulfilling their purpose, that is, to unite in prayer and spirit the American Lutheran believers with the other hundreds of millions of believers who are participants to the same ecumenical event.
In order to see even better the ecumenical pyramid system and the way it works, we will take the second example closer to us.
A similar program of common prayer is initiated by the World Evangelical Alliance. This program may take the form of the above mentioned one, or may be just a call to prayer regarding a certain need. Such a call to prayer may be on behalf of the Christians in North Korea or for the “persecuted Church” around the world.
The path of such a program may follow this route: from the headquarters of the World Evangelical Alliance, the appeal is transmitted to the European Evangelical Alliance, which, in its turn, sends it to the Romanian Evangelical Alliance (made up of the Baptist, Pentecostal, Christians after the Gospel Unions and the Orthodox movement Army of the Lord). The next step the appeal takes is to the Union of the Christian Baptist Churches of Romania, and from here it is sent to their regional associations, which are the Communities of Baptist Churches of Banat, Arad, Bucharest, etc. From these associations, the appeal is brought by the pastors to the local churches who unite in their time of prayer for Korea or for the persecuted church along with the hundreds of millions of other nominal Christians from different protestant and neo-protestant denominations, from all over the world, participants in the same ecumenical event.
Of course, not all the churches that are part of ecumenical organizations have the same rhythm in implementing the decisions made at the top. There exists a certain liberty at higher levels in sorting the decisions, so that none comes to the common member before being filtered. In this way, some churches are running ahead, others are coming behind. But all of them have the same target and will arrive, sooner or later, at the finish line.
The Real Purpose of Ecumenism – The “One World Church”
Besides the purposes already enumerated, there is another objective, not often talked about, which becomes clearer as worldwide ecumenism is studied carefully. This objective is the One World Church.
The purpose of ecumenism is to bring Christianity from the state it was found, that of “Churches separated” to the state of “Church One.” Now we are in the intermediate state of “Churches one,” a phase characterized by common purposes and activities. The final phase will not be accomplished until the doctrinal issue is solved.
But what will be the role of Catholicism in the future? Why is the Catholic Church interested in ecumenism? She does not consider herself as holding only partial truth, nor does she think truth is to be looked for and found in the “ecumenical space of discussion!” The Catholic Church is the only one that has a different position from the rest of the churches involved in ecumenism. Our answer is that the Roman Catholic Church seeks the returning to her of her lost and prodigal daughters, now called by her “separated brethren.” And nothing helps her cause better than ecumenism!
The Catholic Church already cooperates with different ecumenical movements, the discussions between these parties being in some cases quite advanced. Since no ecumenical movement has such doctrinal consistency as can be found at the Vatican, a union of these parties would lead to that One World Church, the strongest religious organization the world ever saw in its history…
Ecumenical activities – the Social Church
The involvement of ecumenical churches in humanitarian, social and political activities makes them social-humanitarian institutions or organizations for defending human rights, and not churches of Christ! This is not the kind of work for which the churches were left on earth!
The churches must be working for the objective expressed in the command of the Savior: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matt. 28:19-20. “Go ye” is a divinely authorized commission or sending (vs. 18), the sent ones are working for God (vs. 19) and enjoy Christ’s presence (vs. 20). The disciples are persons who heard the Gospel, believed it and were baptized (Mark 16:15, 16). The duty of the church of that time and the duty of all her descendents is to preach the Gospel, to baptize those who believe it and to teach them the whole Christian doctrine. The responsibility of all these actions belongs to the churches, and in obedience to Christ is not one to be done outside of churches! Yes, evangelization, administration of the ordinances and instruction in the faith done in heretical or apostate churches are not acts of subjection to Christ, but rather acts of rebellion and imitation of truth!
If a church does not fulfill the purpose unto which she was left here, if her activities are not related to this objective, she cannot be a church of Christ! It does not matter how much good it does for the community, how many poor people she helped in third world countries, or what international political accomplishments she had, all these put together will not make her a church of Christ!
Ecumenism – Founded on False Doctrine
In the attempt to resolve the doctrinal problem, ecumenism appeals to subtle and dishonest strategies. Some of them are the following: the distortion of Christian history with the view of healing the wounds of the past, the reinterpretation of denominational particularities, the redefinition of doctrines, when such is possible and helpful, the abstractization and relativization of such terms as unity, love, truth, fellowship, Church, body of Christ, etc. which lose their meaning and weight when taken out of their biblical context, and come to mean something else than their original designation…
But how strong is the common doctrinal foundation of the ecumenists? We shall analyze the validity of the interpretations given to the scriptural texts that are considered to be the doctrinal basis of ecumenism.
One of the main doctrines ecumenism owes its existence to, as already mentioned, is post-millennialism. The ideas of the founders were that Christ had to find, at his coming, a converted world. Does the Bible speak about the conversion of the whole world? We answer with a definite “NO!” bringing only one of a multitude of proofs, this alone being convincing enough. The Lord says: “…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:8. The implication is that truth will be here, but not a lot. There is no way He will find a converted world!
One doctrine that brings the ecumenists closer is the doctrine of salvation by works. Catholicism states that participation in the sacraments of the Church is the way to salvation; Orthodoxy preaches also the doctrine of human effort in the attempt to reach sanctification; Evangelical Protestants promote decisional regeneration, or the exercise of the human free will in making a decision for Christ, manifested in a variety of forms. All of these are nothing but mere branches of the same humanist doctrine – the human capacity to save itself, to merit God’s grace.
The Scriptures clearly condemn this humanist doctrine, stating repeatedly that grace cannot be earned, neither mixed with human works.
The verse so often quoted by ecumenists, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” shows the spiritual, doctrinal and practical unity of church members.
“One faith” shows the unique and compact character of truth. This truth was revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures, and the responsibility to defend it and proclaim it to the world was given to churches. In this sense, a church of God is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Hence, the truth is not in the place where every denomination brings its contribution to truth, as the ecumenists are teaching, but in the scriptural God recognized assembly, because only in such a church the Holy Scriptures are really believed and proclaimed!
The unity in diversity taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Ephesians 4:1-16 is the spiritual and doctrinal unity of the body as a living organism in the diversity of members (that had different designs, gifts and even different measures of such graces). This unity was their basis for common activities and common purpose in the body or assembly in that certain place.
What is present ecumenism teaching us? The unity of the mystical universal body of Christ in purpose and action, in the diversity of doctrine. Once again, the difference between God’s way and man’s way is clearly seen.
John 17:21 is also one of the most quoted scriptures in the ecumenical world, “that they all may be one…” The key of correct understanding of this passage is found in the study of the context. It is not social activities that bind together the disciples of Jesus, but His presence in them (vs. 23) – spiritual unity – and the Word received by the Lord from the Father and given to them (John 17:8, 14, 17, 20, 21) – doctrinal unity. Only in these ways could those of that time be one and this is the only way we, in this time, can be one with the apostles.
True unity does not lie in a common purpose or in common actions, does not lie even in love! True unity lies in truth, in the holy Word! People today are ready to sacrifice the truth on the altar of love to the honor of unity, but their union will not, cannot be accepted by God! The way of ecumenism is the human alternative to the divine plan, because it despises the revealed way to accomplish unity.
Oftentimes ecumenism appeals to the Scriptures to justify itself. But can we find in the Scriptures examples of ecumenism, of openness toward other faiths and of toleration of errors? Was Jesus, our Lord and Savior, an ecumenical leader, open to dialogue and cooperation with the other contemporary religious groups? Is He really praying for ecumenism in John 17? Anyone that studies the context and the life of Jesus will clearly answer in the negative. What about His followers? Were the apostles ecumenical in thought and action? What do the Scriptures say?
Our Savior had polemical discussions, not ecumenical ones with the religious leaders of His days, condemning their deviations in doctrine and practice (Mark 7:9, etc.). Consider Peter, preaching on the day of Pentecost and later in the Temple, defending himself before the Sanhedrin, and Stephen preaching before the same body. They did not try to establish ecumenical dialogue, they did not try to find common solutions to enable collaboration with the Jews, but they preached directly their message, even though many of their hearers were gnashing their teeth in anger at hearing their words. Paul is not seeking common points between Christianity and paganism when he spoke to the Athenians on Mars’ Hill, or in the city of Listra.
The messages preached by all of them emphasized the individuality and the uniqueness of Christianity as possessor of full truth (See Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 14:8-18; 17:22-31).
It is obvious that the first Christians did not conceive of any inter-faith dialogue. But neither did they conceive negotiations with “separated brethren,” that is with those who did not remain fully faithful to the Christian teachings, but took upon themselves the authority to add to or take from the teachings received from the apostles. Hence, Paul calls repeatedly to separation from these people, “…that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3:6). “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (vs. 14, 15), showing the proper attitude toward those who departed from truth (See also Rom. 16:17, 2 Tim. 3:5, Titus 3:10, 2 John 10, etc.).
Another verse the ecumenists refer to in order to justify their attempt to reach unity in doctrinal diversity is Philippians 3:16, “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Like every other time, the study of the context solves the supposed problem and rejects the claims of the ecumenists.
In the previous verses Paul talks about the perseverance in the life of faith, comparing it in verses 12-14 to an athlete’s run, in which he tries to get to the finish line, that is the resurrection of the dead. Verse 15 says: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded [to keep running, persevering]: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded [doctrinal variation from Paul], God shall reveal even this unto you.” Paul does not give up one inch of doctrinal field, but states that God will lead those who were differing from the apostle to the same doctrine. In verse 17, Paul urges them to follow him as he was to be an example for them.
In this context, Paul pleads in verse 16 for unity based on common doctrine, and this unity was to grow as doctrinal differences were eliminated, not by negotiations and attempt to reach consensus, but by aligning themselves with the doctrine revealed and authorized by God.
These are only a few examples of the many that could be quoted to prove that there is no ecumenical thinking in the Scriptures, neither such practice among the first Christians. No, ecumenism did not exist even as an idea in the New Testament, much less as a practice! And since all the New Testament churches were independent, and none of the supra-church organizations of today existed then, ecumenism was impossible!
Therefore, what is the true foundation of ecumenism? From the multitude of possible examples, we have chosen only some to prove that the Bible does not support ecumenism. There is only one pillar left: The Creed and the Dogmas that developed during the ecumenical Councils, after Christianity became state religion! This is the true foundation of ecumenism! This is the foundation upon which the Catholic Church has discussions with the Orthodox Churches, and upon which the Protestants are brought back to their Mother Church!
The Ecumenical Pyramid
We might say that without the pyramid of para- and supra-church organizations, ecumenism would be impossible! How much time, effort and finances would be required to persuade hundreds of thousand local independent churches of different denominations to join in such an ecumenical “dance?” It is impossible to give such an answer…
But we may ask, at this point, where is the starting point, the source of ecumenism? Some would answer: the supra-church organizations, such as associations, unions, conventions, etc. That answer would be correct, but incomplete. Even though the ideas start there, the responsibility for the development of ecumenism belongs to local churches! Indeed, it was not the local churches that decided the change of the flag from the mast, but the organizations superior to them. The local churches found themselves in a position of indifference, ignorance or inability to change something in the system.
Let us remember that it was not always so! These organizations, transformed into instruments of worldwide ecumenism that dictate to the local churches the course they have to follow did not always exist! There was a time when churches, independent but working together as sisters, were contending for biblical truth as they understood it, keeping themselves separated from everything that seemed to be evil or unbiblical!
Today, the idea of a democratic independent church seems to be something strange, at least. Independence was lost and the simple democracy of a local church was replaced with a bushy hierarchy of boards and committees all out of the control of a local church.
Membership in a scriptural church brings with it the responsibility to contribute to the church’s life by participation in the democratic process of making decisions, by the vote of the members. In these supra-church systems, however, the power of decision does not belong to the member, but his representatives. The church is not any longer a democracy under Christ, her Head, but a republic where members choose a small group to make decisions for them. In such cases, the common member and the local churches lose the control over the activities that take place at superior levels and become just the executors of the orders that come from above.
The ordinary member does not care any more about what happens and is satisfied to believe everything he is told and to execute what he is ordered. And for such a member, ecumenism seems to be the safest and most comfortable path to follow in the future.
Is ecumenism really the only option for the future of Christianity, the only way to take the Gospel further? A prominent Romanian ecumenical preacher said some years ago: “The future of Christianity is a moderate ecumenism…” Is that so? Compromise, giving up the identity, politically correct doctrine… is this the way without alternative we will follow? Let us remember where it leads… The way of ecumenism, paved with good intentions, with beautiful slogans about unity leads to the one world church, united in purpose, activities and doctrine but without Christ and truth!
What is then the alternative to ecumenism? We find the answer in the Scriptures, “be ye separate” – separation from all that is defiled, the independence of churches from the state and from supra-church organizations. Yes, churches totally separated from the state, independent from associations, conventions, alliances and councils is THE ONLY REAL ALTERNATIVE to ecumenism!
But are all independent churches the churches of Christ? No, only those who have their doctrine, practice and origin in the Church established by Jesus! His churches do not follow the teachings of men, but the Word of God; they were not established by some man, but by Christ (Mat. 16:18)! Christ stood by these churches in all their bi-millennial existence, because He said: “…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
The only churches that preserved the original Christian doctrine and practice and can claim an uninterrupted existence in all times are churches of a Baptist kind.
In these two thousand years of Christian history, churches of a Baptist kind (known in these times under many different names) never ceased to exist, but they continually carried on the struggle for a pure church. Thus, these Baptists opposed the Catholics and Orthodox and the pagan doctrines they brought into Christianity. They held the Protestants responsible for stopping midway on the road to a pure church, being thus the authors of a further confusion. These Baptists condemned the heresies of the modern restoration movements, holding such a restoration unnecessary and unscriptural. They subjected all these groups to the test of the Scriptures, the universal standard for measuring all the teachings of men, reproving and rejecting all those who came short to this standard.
These churches subjected themselves to the same test of the Scriptures, and found that some of them that had the name “Baptist” were not scriptural churches any more. Some of these churches organized themselves and created supra-church structures that serve the ecumenical movement today. These turned their ear from God’s call to separation, polluted biblical teaching and practice and came to deny their very history and predecessors, just for the sake of conforming to the image of this unification movement. But their apostasy and unfaithfulness does not destroy God’s faithfulness to His promises!
Just as he did in every century, God, in His providence, kept also in these times a remnant of churches faithful to Him so that it might be said that there was no time in these two thousand years of Christian history in which He had no testimony!
We believe that true churches today are found among the Baptist churches; they are independent and missionary. They preach the free grace of God and in the work of perpetuation (preaching, baptizing and establishing new churches), they practice the New Testament order, that is, a scriptural church organizes a new scriptural church!
Thus, we call you not out to a confused, obscure place, but we call you to be part of the churches of the Lord, that are pleasing Him, churches that have no other Head but Him, that are ready to obey Him no matter how great the price may be! We call you to be part of an Independent Sovereign Grace Landmark Missionary Baptist church!
“…come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” – 2 Corinthians 6:18
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” – Revelation 18:4
 WCC 9th Assembly – Changing Ecclesial and Ecumenical Context, capitolul Challenges of Diakonia Today, http://www.wcc-assembly.info/index.php?id=1545&MP=1507-1514
 The message of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the XIIth International Meeting of Peoples and Religions for the Day of Prayer for Peace in Bucharest, 1998. http://www.santegidio.org/en/ecumenismo/uer/1998/papa.htm
 Some key dates in the history of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, vezi http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/faith/wop2006-10.pdf sau Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and throughout the year 2006, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_christuni_doc_20050603_week-prayer-2006_en.html. The full text of Decree on Ecumenism of the 2nd Vatican Council can be found at the following address: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html
 These holidays are a superposing of Christian names on ancient Jewish rites or, more often, on ancient pagan holidays, from which the practices and sometimes even the dates were preserved.
 WCC 9th Assembly – Changing Ecclesial and Ecumenical Context, capitolul Challenges of Diakonia Today, http://www.wcc-assembly.info/index.php?id=1545&MP=1507-1514
 This is no excuse for churches not to help those in need, to defend the oppressed, to preach peace against violence, etc. but it must never be forgotten that the objectives and activities of the churches are of a spiritual nature and all the other activities of a material nature must be done with a view toward the spiritual one.
 By its very definition, grace is unmerited favor. It is the gift or the favor that God makes to man, without the man deserving in any way what is given to him. The motive of God giving grace depends totally on Him, and not on man. The Scriptures say salvation is by grace, to the exclusion of human works (2 Tim. 1:9, Tit. 3:5, Eph. 2:8, 9). Speaking about election, apostle Paul excludes the idea of mixing grace and works or the earning of grace by works in Romans 11:5, 6. To say that you can earn or merit grace, God’s unmerited favor is the grossest contradiction in terms.
 The comparison of the church with a body in the writings of Paul indicates clearly the way he understood the nature of the church. A body involves locality, both in time and space (if a leg is in Africa, a hand in America, an ear in Europe in the Middle Ages and the other does not exist yet, being still future, it is ridiculous to say that all this members form presently a body) but also a spiritual and organic union (even if all the components of a body are to be found in the same place and time, but are separated or amputated from it in such a way that the body is completely disassembled, again, we cannot conceive of calling these members a real body (see Eph. 4:16)). Therefore, when we refer to the word church, we mean the local assembly in a certain place.
 It should not be understood that a local church is a closed and isolated community, not having any connection with other churches of the same faith and practice. On the contrary, following the New Testament pattern, churches may have dialogues and may cooperate with other churches like them but having as a basis the very spiritual and doctrinal unity that is lacking in the ecumenical movement.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726