Ecumenical Institute Bossey

Wozu Ökumene? : Gedanken zur Zielbestimmung der Ökumene

Heller, Dagmar

In: Ekklesia – Oikoumene – Politiki, Festschrift für Metropolit Damaskinos Papandreou, Athen, 2007, p. 257-270

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    Why Ecumenism? Reflections on the Objectives of Ecumenism by Dagmar Heller During the last decades ecumenism is more and more questioned, because each of the different Christian traditions is disappointed that the respective others did not really change in a way, which would enable Eucharistic sharing. The question is, therefore, whether the objectives and aims have been too high or even wrong. How can they be determined anew today? And which expectations are realistic? This article first gives a short historical overview on the goals of the modern ecumenical movement. One of the problems is, that the question of the nature and the shape of Christian unity has never been answered until today, because if unity would have been clearly defined, the WCC and the ecumenical movement would never have been able to develop in such a broad way, integrating a wide variety of churches and traditions. Therefore, the goal of the ecumenical movement from the beginning on includes a certain ambiguity and vagueness, which has been calling since for a common search for more clarity on the question of unity. The present situation is characterized by some progress within church families but stagnation on the wider level of the relations between the big main church families (Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Reformation churches, Pentecostals). On this background nowadays the legitimacy of variety and differences is much more emphasized than at the beginning of the ecumenical movement. It is necessary to find ways for mutual recognition of the churches while none of them has to give up the core of their identity. The objectives of ecumenism today are, therefore, basically the same as at its beginning: the unity of the Church. But how can progress be made in the near future? The article calls for a clear formulation of goals to be reached by stages for the next future. A first step, which still needs to be achieved is to get to know each other. Secondly a major question to be answered is: which differences between the churches are legitimate and which ones are theologically real obstacles to Eucharistic communion. Finally it is necessary to find ways of speaking with one voice in social questions despite the theological differences. [Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Church in Baden (Evangelical Church in Germany, united). Since 2007 she is professor for Ecumenical Theology ate the Ecumenical Institute Bossey and executive Secretary for Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.]