Have the Culture Wars Killed Christian Unity?

As the pope heads for the uber-ecumenical World Council of Churches meeting at Geneva, ecumenism seems a losing cause.

Thursday’s WCC event will unfold against a background of diminished expectations. Ecumenical enthusiasm, which peaked in the 1960s, has succumbed to realism about the theological barriers separating Christian denominations.

Indeed.

At the same time, the culture wars and the growth of newer Christian churches have made the ecumenical movement’s oft-stated goal of “full, visible unity” an even more distant prospect.

What happened?

Ecumenical enthusiasm, which peaked in the 1960s . . .  succumbed to realism about the theological barriers separating Christian denominations.

Oh those theological barriers.

A bishop exhorts:

“The reason why we engage in ecumenical relations is the fact that we Christians in the world are not living up to what Jesus wanted,” specifically his mandate at the Last Supper that “all of them may be one,” said Bishop Brian Farrell of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

There was a “heyday,” yes, but . . .

“There was great enthusiasm and perhaps even the illusion that unity would be achievable within a reasonable time,” the bishop said. “With the passage of time, and with the engagement in the theological discussions, we realize that the differences, the difficulties, the divergences are not easy to overcome.”

Chalk up another loss for wishful thinking.

The cause was hardly helped by an intimate of Francis, “a close adviser” and fellow Jesuit,  Father Antonio Spadaro, who last year . . .

. . .  co-wrote an article, in a journal vetted by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State [and surely OK’d by the pope], which argued that conservative American Catholics who join with “Evangelical fundamentalist” Protestants to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage are engaged in an “ecumenism of hate,” also marked by materialism and hostility to Muslims.

It’s a charge ( manifesto, really) dismissed as “absurd,” by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who noted that “Evangelical leaders work closely with U.S. Catholic bishops on a range of issues, including the rights of refugees and other migrants, predatory lending and international religious freedom.”

They get along better than the Jesuit judged from his Vatican roost. Note that the Baptist man did not eschew the fundamentalist designation, which in some Christian quarters is held in esteem.

via : WSJ

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