Protestants misunderstand ecumenism according to new RC ecumenism leader

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Much of modern ecumenical engagement among protestant denominations has focused mutual recognition and cooperation between denominations without an expectation of full merger. That’s certainly the basic view of the Episcopal Church’s agreement with the Lutheran and Moravian churches. But according to the newly appointed head of Ecumenism for the Roman Catholic Church, that’s a mistake. We should not look for cooperation. We should insist on unity only and not settle for cooperation.

“Cardinal-elect Kurt Koch, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), has accused Protestants of renouncing the original goal of ecumenism. They have succumbed to a relativistic view of ecclesiology based on shared communion between separate Churches, he said this week, and in doing so have abandoned the proper ecumenical aim of genuine unity.

‘It is decisively in this postmodern mentality characterised by pluralistic and relativistic tendencies that is found the great challenge to the search for visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ,’ the Swiss archbishop said on Monday at the opening of the PCPCU plenary assembly in Rome marking the fiftieth anniversary of the pontifical council. In a theologically dense address to his first PCPCU plenary since becoming president last July, he said this mentality was found among not only Protestants but also ‘many Catholics’.

The PCPCU president, who is to be made a cardinal in today’s consistory, said the current crisis of ecumenism boiled down to what he called the two ‘profoundly different mentalities’ that shape the way Catholics and Protestants describe the nature of the Church.

‘The Churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reform have renounced the original objective of ecumenism as visible unity and have substituted it with the concept of mutual recognition as Churches,’ he said.”

More here.

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David da Silva Cornell
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David da Silva Cornell

Well. Rome certainly does like its black-and-white rigidities.

What the new Cardinal Koch fails to appreciate -- and which in turn gives rise to further concern over Rome's own understanding of ecumenical endeavors and enterprises -- is that the type of communion that Rome elevates is likely only possible through an organic process of growing together.

In some places in the world, United and Uniting churches have been possible and have resulted form ecumenical dialogue. In other places, such as the USA, the COCU effort was too much, too fast for some (and did gloss over some substantial difficulties). And while COCU's successor, CUIC, has had its own major difficulties, a rich network of bilateral full communion relationships, both actual and in discussion, has sprung up. Personally, I find it hard to imagine that after a generation of, say, TEC and ELCA and the Moravians living together, it will not just seem the inevitable next step that that unity-with-diversity would not find new expression in a merged United Church, and likely bringing in additional denominations as well.

But Rome's vision has never been one of organic convergence like this; it is of ultimate submission to Rome.

Yet Rome should look at analogous endeavors, such as free trade. Rome wants a sort of WTO (but one that Rome, of course, dominates), but the WTO's (and before it, GATT's) multilateral "rounds" of discussions and agreements come and go cyclically. In between, bilateral and regional multilateral accords go forward, and when the GATT/WTO rounds have resumed, they have built upon the work done through the bilateral and regional processes.

Ecumenism strikes me as not so different, as a practical matter, from the worldwide process of reaching trade agreements, and Cardinal Koch seems rather intellectually shortsighted if he cannot see that whatever the universal Church looks like on the day it ever regains true visible unity, it will more likely have been sped toward that day thanks to the "Protestant" approach of full communion perhaps organically leading to outward union, than by Rome's "it must all happen together; we welcome you to submit!" approach.

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tobias haller
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tobias haller

Well, nothing new here. This has always been the Roman model for reunion -- as the church, from their standpoint, is officially defined as subsisting in that hierarchy of bishops in communion with the pope. The idea of independently administered churches being in communion with each other but answerable to no higher-level administration is simply foreign to their way of thinking.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Matthew Buterbaugh+
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Matthew Buterbaugh+

If Rome wants unity, I'm ok with that. They're certainly welcome to join the Episcopal Church, or their local Anglican Province. Heck, we'll even make it easy for them: no re-ordination, confirmation, or anything.

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Execute
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Actually, JC, that's just been the position of the Catholic Church, even if it was more understated in Vatican II. I certainly remember when in 1980 or so John Paul II spoke to the World Council of Churches on Ecumenism. He said, in effect, "We think ecumenical activities are very important for seeking unity in the Body of Christ; and when you are all ready to come home, we'll be happy to have you."

Marshall Scott

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tgflux
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tgflux

Nuthin' like a Popoid to tell (for example) us Anglicans the original aims of the ecumenism that WE (emphatically NOT the Popoids) invented!

Yes, it's true that there have been different emphases in ecumenism over the past century: some w/ greater institutional unity, some w/ greater diversity.

But it has NEVER been true that the ecumenism envisioned a melting-down of all churches/Christian traditions into one uniform institution (least of all, one subordinate to the Bishop of Rome! That has only been the view of the pre-Vat2/Post-post-Vat2 Popoids).

JC Fisher

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