12 January 2022, The Tablet

Ecumenical progress - an audit

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Ecumenical progress - an audit

Geoffrey Wainwright, left, and Paul McPartlan, editors of the Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies


A recent survey of ecumenical progress over the past 100 years shows that many gifts have been exchanged between previously divided Christian traditions. But how far have the fruits of dialogue been taken to heart by leaders and members of the participating Churches?

After more than a century of ecumenical engagement, people often ask: what has really been achieved? One way to begin an answer is by reflecting on the history of the divisions between Christian Churches. A history of these divisions would have to reach back at least to the tensions in the early Christian communities (still unresolved) over the date of Easter. It would need to cover the non-reception of the third ecumenical council (431) by the Assyrian Church of the East, now a member of the World Council of Churches. It would need to examine the non-reception of the Council of Chalcedon (451) by the Oriental Orthodox Churches, also now members of the WCC. It would have to cover the developing schism between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, sealed in 1054 with mutual anathemas, which were joyfully lifted in 1965. It would need to cover the fragmentation of the Western Church at the Reformation, with the emergence of Lutheran, Anabaptist and Reformed Churches, and then the Methodist Movement, plus the further splintering that came with the growth of independent and Pentecostal post-colonial Churches, and so on ... It would need to cover two millennia of Christian history.

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £30 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login