Recent Burst of Ecumenical Activity Gives Religious Leaders Hope

January 15, 2001

Source: U.S. News & World Report

On January 15, 2001, U.S. News & World Report reported that "a sudden burst of ecumenical activity last week prompted some religious leaders to suggest--cautiously--that the new century would bring a resurgence in religious tolerance and tranquility." For example, "the 5.2 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the 2.5 million-member Episcopal Church last week celebrated the launch of a 'full communion' agreement that will enable the two denominations to share clergy and pool other resources...In a Vatican newspaper in late December, German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger...called for 'constructive dialogue of reciprocal knowledge and reconciliation' between Christians and Jews...Meanwhile, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians, concluded a Christmas celebration by calling for a 'dialogue of truth and love for the unity of those who believe in Christ.' Such a dialogue presumably would aim to heal the Great Schism of 1054, which divided Christendom into Eastern and Western branches...Developments such as these suggest that the growing edge of ecumenism has shifted from national and international church councils to the grass roots. Still...Christian splintering remains the dominant trend. Last year, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the number of denominations throughout the world surpassed 33,800, with an average of 10 new ones organized each week."