Ecumenical Realities by Martin E. Marty

Ecumenical Realities

— Martin E. Marty

“Hopes for an ‘Ecumenical Spring’” was a Christian Century headline above a report by Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service. Her report spelled out why such hopes are wan, if not desperate. Three samples: The National Council of Churches has shrunk from 400 staffers in its prime to fewer than twenty today. Churches Uniting in Christ closed its office doors in 2010 and has lost one of its major denominations. Christian Churches Together has “struggled.” Monitor and assess the news of the separate church bodies and you will find few folks mourning or, indeed, “planting” so there can be some sprouts in an “ecumenical spring.” Do people in parishes know of the declines and demises? Would they care, if they did know? If so, what should they do?

The modern ecumenical organizing began just over a century ago, in a very different world. The councils and federations and conferences served well for decades. Ecumenism was “the great new fact of the era,” according to wise Archbishop William Temple, half an era ago. Let me touch on various assessments of why so much has changed, beginning with the denominations or church bodies which made and make up the ecumenical bodies (whose smaller staffs usually include able and faithful people.)

For me, a central reason was illustrated in the press room at the Faith and Order (sub-WCC) meeting at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1960, when I first got up close to ecumenical doings. I tell the story often: The participants were defining Christian unity: “all in each place who confess Christ Jesus as Lord. . . [should come to] a fully committed fellowship.” The errant typist gave us in the press a draft-release that said we were “to come to a full committee fellowship.” Ecumenism seemed to be the task of bureaus, task forces, commissions, but it was grasped heartily by most of the faithful.

The offense caused by denominational hostility is less relevant today, when denominations get along fairly well; the destructive conflict today is within the communions. Catholics do not fight Methodists any more; Catholics are in conflict with Catholics, [“United”] Methodists fight Methodists. Homework is needed desperately.

The drama of separation, suspicion, and conflict shifted when energies were transferred from within Christianity to Christianity in its relation to other faiths. Many Christians yawn when [if?] they hear of tensions among South Asian or South African Christian churches, while the urgent scene now faces Muslims against Christians, Christians against Jews. “Interfaith” ventures are more promising than “Ecumenical” ones.

Note: much has been achieved, as ecumenical programs are on a new plateau and are taken for granted. Some leaders in the ecumenical church bodies, scorned now for their moderation when their cutting edges are dulled, urge members to look again. A friend asks “What are Christians in mainline and moderate and (gulp!) liberal styles griping about. They won!” Christians to their right often came out of their isolation in ways influenced by ecumenical experiments. As those who stood off adapt to “modernity,” they adopt approaches practiced by ecumenical pioneers through a century.

Sociological analysis and historical reviews should not soothe anyone, say the profoundly committed ecumenists. The Gospel and other New Testament scenarios consistently keep promises of Christian unity and commands to realize those promises in the minds and programs of Christians of all sorts. They simply cannot pretend their way back into cultures of 1910 or 1960 and proceed from there. Who’s “planting” for spring?


Frank Newport, “Mississippi Is Most Religious U.S. State: Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states,” Gallup, March 27, 2012.©

Adelle M. Banks, “Hopes for an ‘Ecumenical Spring’,” Christian Century, March 15, 2012.

© 2012 The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago; reprinted with permission       

Featured in The ARK, A Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families May 2012, Volume 23, Edition 5


Working Together as Christians at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014 ☞ “Resisting Violence, Building Peace” God’s Vision For Our World

The ARK, A Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families; Volume 24; Edition 4; October, November and December 2013

Pages 24 – 25 … Save the Dates for the Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Save the dates for the


Ecumenical Advocacy Days


Come to the 12th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days and join hundreds of other Christians in Resisting Violence, Building Peace.” Guided by the image of Jesus weeping over a capital city that turned from the true way of peace (Luke 19:41-42), we will expose the violence that pervades our culture and world: THEME: Jesus Weeps – Resisting Violence, Building Peace

THEME BACKGROUND for 2014 Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Today we too weep over the culture of violence that impacts our cities, our nations and families, which too often turn from ways of peace.

Violence in its various manifestations impacts our lives in direct and indirect ways.

Around the world, families are forced from their homes; they cower from bombs and dodge land-mines.

Official government policies maintain interrogation practices that amount to torture, wars rage around the world, and weapons manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Millions endure abuse at the hands of those whom they expect to trust, and many are traded for labor and sex as if they are simply commodities. Lenient gun rules allow horrific massacres to occur on a shockingly regular basis and policy makers lack the political will to change course.

Economic systems perpetuate cycles of poverty and disempowerment that prove violent to the human condition, and ecological systems are threatened and destroyed for the sake of monetary profit and temporary human comfort.

Our culture and media is saturated with images and stories of violence.

If we look at the statistics, we indeed have ample cause to weep:

• Nearly 3,000 children in the U.S. killed by guns each year;

• A quarter of U.S. women experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives;

• A decade of war, nearly 1,000 civilians killed by drones, and Pentagon spending dominating our federal budget over poverty protections, healthy job creation, economic revitalization and true international human security;

• More than 45 million refugees worldwide uprooted from their homes by persecution and armed conflict; and

• Deadly conflicts over natural resources erupting around the world.

Despite the many examples of violence in our world, as people of hope we are consoled by the promise that “justice and peace shall embrace” (Psalm 85:10). This embrace is demonstration that without peace justice is illusory and without justice peace is deceptive. This image is the embodiment of God’s vision for our world- God’s shalom.

Shalom is often translated as “peace,” but its Hebrew roots imply a deeper meaning of peace that goes beyond cessation of violence toward a holistic vision of true security, healing, and restoration involving all areas of social and economic life. It is this vision of “peace with justice,” or “Just Peace” which many of our religious traditions have embraced and continue to strive toward.

The image of an “embrace” in the Psalm also reminds us that our hope is not passive, but active. As people of faith we are called to join with God in this active work and are reminded that justice requires peace-making and that peace requires justice-making. Many of our congregations already work for justice by serving those in need, embracing the stranger, advocating for equality and just economic systems. Others are active in peacemaking efforts and conflict transformation, challenging the violence of domestic abuse and gun violence, reforming the unjust prison system, or working for U.S. foreign policy that will aid peace in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America. All of these efforts are needed and together we must explore the relationship between working for justice and building peace. Throughout the conference, the relationship between justice and peace will be explored in four areas:

• Peace in the Community– So that all may live free from fear (Micah 4:4)

• Peace with the Earth – So that life is sustained

• Peace in the Marketplace– So that all may live with dignity

• Peace among the Peoples – So that human lives are protected*

Through prayer, worship, speakers, workshops and advocacy training we will discover a faith-based vision for national policies that will “guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79). This “Path of Peace,” much like the life of John the Baptist referenced in the context of this passage, will require us to embrace a path not only of personal transformation, repentance, and forgiveness – but a vision for how these principles can take root in the social and political realities of our world. Like John, we are called to preach (through words and action) that vision of repentance, and prepare the way for God’s reign of justice and true peace to enter our world. As the Body of Christ today, we will take these messages of love, repentance, and hope with us as we go to Capitol Hill on Monday’s Lobby Day to call for change in public policy and together lift up a holistic vision of a more just and peaceful world.   *This formulation is from the World Council of Churches’ “Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” issued prior to its International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011.                                 

 End of Pages 24 – 25 … Save the Dates for the Ecumenical Advocacy Days
The ARK, A Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families; Volume 24; Edition 4; October, November and December 2013

Considering How To Be Centered On That of God

Shared Respect; Mutual Respect

The ARK, a Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families

Volume 24; Edition 4

October, November and December 2013

Page 23 ……….. Considering How To Be Centered On That of God                                                          by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw

Considering How To Be Centered On That of God

“Extremism is a centrifugal force. It constantly seeks to draw what is in the center out toward the edges. It pulls societies, communities, apart.  It divides through the pressure of fear. It seduces through suspicion.

Love is a gravitational force. It holds the center together.

Even in the fast spin of change and diversity, it keeps community possible.

It unifies opposites. It works through shared respect.

The physics of faith is at work around us each day.

We can be pulled to the edges or we can hold the center.”

~ The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston,Choctaw

The ARK, a Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families

Volume 24; Edition 4

October, November and December 2013

Page 23 ……….. Considering How To Be Centered On That of God                                                          by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw