The Ecumenical Objective

Click to go to our Home Page

Should your church have a part in the Ecumenical Movement? Is it safe or is it dangerous? What are its goals? What is it aiming toward?

The World Council of Churches is composed of over 300 member denominations representing a majority of Christians on the globe. In nearly every nation there is a national branch of the WCC. Here in America its branch, "the National Council of Churches," is divided into State Councils and local ministerial associations. (If you wish to contact the WCC in the US, you will have to write to the NCC headquarters in New York City.)

The WCC and its subsidiaries are at once both the outgrowth of the Ecumenical Movement, — and the means by which its objectives are to be attained.

What are those objectives? Read them for yourself:

"I feel that reunion with Rome is not outside the realm of
possibility. I didn't feel that way five years ago . . History would argue for papal primacy. As for papal infallibility, we may find a way around that." — Bishop James A. Pike; a leader in the Protestant Episcopal Church, in an interview with Daryl E. Lembke, in "Los Angeles Times," December 25, 1963.

"I think we realize that if there is to be a final unity among
Christians there will have to be a central head of the church and that head will clearly have to be the Bishop of Rome." — Bishop John Moorman of Ripon, England, chief Anglican observer at Vatican Council II, quoted in "Liberty," December, 1963.

"I could not accept the doctrine of infallibility of the Pope, but I could accept a Pope who would be a symbol of a united church." — Dr. Douglas Horton, former Dean of the Harvard Divinity School and a Protestant observer at Vatican II, quoted in "Catholic Herald," London, May 13, 1966.

"When Pope Paul and I met, instinctively we embraced one another. It was a meeting of love, a brotherly encounter. That, finally, will be how reunion will be accomplished." — The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, head of the historic Patriarchate of Constantinople, in an interview with John Cogley, in "New York Times," November 18, 1966.

"I find myself asking whether the truths, the Christian insights, the principles for which Protestantism came into being and which for 400 years Protestantism has tenaciously defended, may now have been achieved. And I find myself asking whether Protestantism is any longer necessary or desirable." — Dr. James Gordon Gilkey, Jr., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn Heights, New York, and a leading Presbyterian ecumenist, quoted in "New York Times," July 7, 1963.

"I do not see any reason for Protestants not eventually to accept some understanding of the Pope and acknowledge him as the earthly lord of  the Church. I believe that in faith and prayer and ecumenical endeavor we can work this out." — Dr. B. Gibson Lewis of East Aurora Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, New York, in a speech before an ecumenical audience of over a thousand people, who applauded him wildly at its conclusion, quoted in "Buffalo Courier-Express," September 24, 1964.

"Supposing in some way we should come to a new understanding of papal leadership. If the Holy Spirit says that church unity is through the Bishop of Rome, who are we to accuse the Spirit of bad theology?" — Dr. J. V. Langmead-Casserly, a professor at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (Protestant Episcopal), in an address at Providence, Rhode Island, quoted in "Liberty," May-June 1963.

"We are moving steadily toward better understanding and closer relations, a spiritual unity that will lift up the things we hold in common . . Together we can unite for the progress of the church . . I am very sure that to the present time no mistake has been made in this procedure. My feeling is that the next step is the culmination of this spirit. I am encouraged when we get evidence that this is now being done." — Methodist Bishop F.P. Corson, in a dialogue with Roman Catholic Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia, quoted in "Philadelphia Inquirer," March 16, 1964.

"The very term ["holy father"] so beloved by Catholics, has been, until recently, a butt of criticism among us. But now, thanks to the publicity about the Council [Vatican II] and the personality of the Pope [John XX III] himself, Protestants are coming to think of that wonderful old man as, indeed, a Father, and a holy one. The writer must confess that, for his part, he cannot but reverence John XXIII and pray for his health and the success of his plans." — Dr. R. P. Marshall, a well-known Methodist ecumenist, and former associate editor of the "Christian Advocate," quoted in "Liberty," May-June 1963.

"Protestant and Roman Catholic churches will work in harmony as a single family of Christians during the lifetimes of many church members today." — Dr. Truman B. Douglass, executive vice president of the United Church of Christ Board of Homeland Ministries, quoted in "Liberty," May-June 1963.

"Who knows where the love of God may yet lead us? Starting from our separated positions, in God's time and according to His will, like the arches in your Gothic churches we may gradually come together and be one." — Pope Paul VI, in a recorded message for British television, quoted in "New York Times," January 4, 1964.

"The distinction between `Christian unity' and `church union' . . . while universally accepted, is, in some respects, specious. Christian unity which does not imply and make possible whatever degree of church union may be held to be the ultimate desideratum [Latin: something that is wanted] is something less than genuine and true Christian unity." — Dr. Henry Pitney Van Dusen, former president of Union Theological Seminary, New York City, writing in his book, `World Christianity — Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow," 1947, pp. 223-224.

"There is nothing to give point to our dialogue, nothing at once to feed and to challenge goodwill like the development of a plan to unite. . Let us as soon as we may begin to plan for reunion. Grant that the day of reunion may be ten generations away. Planning for its achievement is the point of the whole new birth of vitality in the church." — Dr. Douglass Horton, former Dean of Harvard Divinity School, quoted in "Religious New Service" release, dated August 31, 1964.

"Nothing less than the reunion of all Christendom should be our goal. Our aim should be the union not only of Protestants, but also with [Greek] Orthodox churches, and even, far away and difficult as it seems, with the Roman Catholic Church." — Archbishop Howard H. Clark, Anglican Primate of all Canada, quoted in the "Telegram" magazine `Weekend," Vol. 10, No. 47, 1960.

"I think we are approaching rapidly the day when we will all
recognize, and feel comfortable under, the same roof." — Dr. Claud Nelson, Religious Liberty Consultant, National Council of Churches, quoted in "Liberty," May-June 1963.

"The farthest thing [from Martin Luther's mind] was to make his reform movement into an independent church, named after him, that would exist permanently outside of and in competition with the Roman Catholic Church . . The tragedy is that what was intended to be only a temporary church, has become a permanent arrangement . . The Reformation was not intended to bring about a Protestant church, much less a collection of Protestant churches . . The Reformation was necessary, but Protestants have made a virtue out of a necessity." —Dr. Carl E. Braaten, Professor at the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois, and a minister or the Lutheran Church in America, in an article written for the Lutheran quarterly, "Una Sancta," June 1966.

"[This is a wonderful] opportunity to clarify understanding about our common heritage and what we got in common." — Dr. Robert A. Thomas, Pastor of the University Christian Church, Seattle, Washington, commenting on the fact that Michael J. Taylor, a Jesuit priest, had been teaching an adult Sunday school class at the University Christian Church for many weeks, quoted in "Seattle Times," December 14, 1963.

"The Protestant-Catholic dialogue is putting pressure on us as well as on Catholics to prepare ourselves so that when the time comes we will be ready to do things together." — Dr. George J. Drew, pastor of the Lakewood United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio, commenting on the series of Sunday morning sermons at his church by the Roman Catholic priest, Nelson J. Callahan.

"This is the beginning of something so fantastic it could change all of Christendom and will affect you, your children and their children." Billy Graham, the famous evangelist, in an address at Belmont Abbey College, Charlotte, North Carolina, a Roman Catholic institution.

"A first in the Christian unity movement." — Oklahoma City-Tulsa Catholic diocesan Bishop Victor Reed, in describing the fact that the Greater Tulsa Council of Churches unanimously approved the request for admission by the Roman Catholic Church of the Magdalene, of Tulsa (Religious News Service, April23, 1964.

"It is a further indication of the remarkable growth in the ecumenical spirit taking place in the churches of the United States and the world." — Dr. R.H. Espy, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, in a comment on the unanimous approval by the Greater Tulsa Council of Churches Executive Committee to accept a Catholic church into membership, quoted in "Religious News" Service news release, dated April 23, 1964.

"In New Mexico, the Roman Catholic diocese has joined the state's Council of Churches and at least one priest now serves on the Council's staff. Donald E. Zimmerman, president of Chicago's Protestant Federation of Churches, indicated in an address delivered June 1, 1966, that the Roman Catholic archdiocese of that city would shortly be invited to join the Federation. In a developing pattern, other local councils of churches were welcoming Roman Catholic parishes and personnel as members. In more than a score of situations Catholic parishes and dioceses have joined the Council of Churches. The National Council's General Board at its December 1966 meeting in Miami Beach, Florida, added the Roman Catholic Church to its list of non-members which agree with its brief doctrinal requirement for membership. This theoretically opens the way for the United States Catholic Council to join the National Council of Churches.

"David J. Bowman, a Roman Catholic priest, has been named by the Society of Jesus [the Jesuits], at the request of the National Council of Churches, to serve as Assistant Director of the Council's Faith and Order Department [the NCC section in charge of theological formulations and statements]. Priest Bowman is a prominent ecumenical leader. Priest James P. Cotter, Executive Director of Jesuit Missions, Inc., announced on January 26, 1966, that yet another Jesuit might be named to serve on the overseas staff of the National Council of Churches.

"In St. Louis, a Roman Catholic nun preached in the pulpit of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. In Norwalk, Connecticut, and in one community after another, the traditional Protestant ministers' association has been expanded to include Roman Catholic priests. In New York City the Protestant Council, as it has always been officially and popularly known, has proposed to eliminate the word `Protestant' from its name. This, it was explained, `would be in tune with the ecumenical movement and would eventually open the door for closer cooperation with the city's Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches" — C. Stanley
Lowell, in "The Ecumenical Mirage," page 22-23.

"The way [toward reuniting] will be long and hard, but the divisions of Christendom are wounds in the Body of Christ urgently in need of healing." — Cardinal Augustin Bea, head of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, in an address at Harvard University, March, 1963, while a guest of Harvard Divinity School, quoted in "Los Angeles Times," March 31, 1963.

"The division in Christendom is a scandal and keeps people from God." — Bishop Floyd Begin, Roman Catholic prelate of the Oakland, California, Diocese, quoted in "The Oakland Tribune, "April 25, 1963.

"The scandal and tragedy of a divided Christendom [is a terrible thing] - - Ecumenism is God's clear imperative for our time - - [It is] the unity Christ wills us to achieve." — Dr. Albert Outler, quoted in "Christianity and Crisis," January 6, 1964.

"Those who oppose Christian unity must ask themselves frankly whether they are Christians." — Archbishop Lakovos, Greek Orthodox Primate of North and South America, quoted in "Liberty," May-June 1964.


"We need new leadership in Protestantism today. We need leadership that is not ashamed of separation of church and state and not ashamed to oppose [government] subsidy grants to any church. We need a leadership that is not afraid to stand publicly for religious freedom and will publicly denounce religious bigotry and oppression whether it is practiced in Spain, in Colombia, or in the Communist countries. We need a leadership that is not ashamed of the army it leads. We need a leadership that is proud of the Reformation which divided Christendom for the sake of freedom and broke the back of the most oppressive spiritual tyranny the world has ever known.

"We need a leadership that will articulate and not mutter; one that will move and not dawdle; one that will state issues rather than create fog;. . one which has no doubt about its own right to be "Protestants Unashamed."

"There is not a dissenter living, but, inasmuch and so far as hedissents [against separation from Rome), is in sin . . Protest we should and must against separation itself, and willful continuance in it as evil." — John Henry Newman, high-placed Anglican churchman, prior to his open acceptance of Roman Catholicism. He was later made a cardinal. Quoted from his book, "Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. III," pp. 202-203.

"There is a definite relationship between the intensity of belief, often expressed in the absoluteness and exclusiveness, and the rate of growth .. Sometimes Churches develop ability to cooperate at the cost of intensity of belief." — Donald Mc Gavran, in "How Churches Grow: The New Frontiers of Mission," pp. 58-59.

"Without convictions, a religion has no spiritual power." — Arnold Toynbee, a leading historian of our time.

"Neither the Christian church nor the individual Christian can [dare] . . participate in anything which savors of syncretism." — J.N. 0. Anderson. "Syncretism" is the attempt to unite diverse ideas or religions into a single whole.

"To the extent that ecumenism minimizes the importance of doctrine and the content of religious ceremonies, as is currently being done in ecumenical worship, it is laying the necessary groundwork for interfaith worship, which is religion without doctrine, without meaning, and ultimately without God." — Harold O. J. Brown, "The Protest of a Troubled Protestant," p. 36. This book was written as a protest against a number of aspects of the ecumenical movement.

"Now syncretism, under every possible form — ethical, political, social, and theological, was the favorite policy of the Roman emperors. They would have all the varieties of mankind called in and restamped at the Caesarean mint." — "The Octavius of Minucius Felix," in "Fraser's Magazine," March, 1853.

"If there was only one religion in England, its despotism would be a matter for fear; if there were two, they would cut each other's throat; but there are thirty and they live in peace, and happily." —Voltaire, "Lettres Philosophiques," No. VI, p. 58.

"No sooner has the attention of the church been diverted from our relationship to God, than the effectiveness of the church in society has begun steadily to decline." — A.N. Triton, "Whose World?" p. 183.

"To think of changing the people in it [the world] may be an act of great faith; to talk of changing the world without changing the people in it is an act of lunacy." — Eustace Percy quoted by Ilion T. Jones, "The Church's Defection From a Divine Mission," in "Christianity Today," May 24, 1968.

"To attempt to commit the Church to social and political programs may be a short cut . . to escape from the more difficult and costly responsibility of submitting ourselves to those deeper changes of disposition and outlook which are in the end a much more powerful revolutionary force." — J.H. Oldham, quoted in W. A. Visser `t Hooft and J.H. Oldham, "The Church and Its Function in Society," p. 218.

"Some Christians find themselves in situations where they must..  participate fully in revolution with all its inevitable violence." — Document entitled, "Violence, Nonviolence and the Struggle for Social Justice," produced by the 1968 WCC-sponsored Zagorsk Consultation, published in "Study Encounter," 7:3:3(1971).

"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer." —  The Nazi Germany slogan of the 1930s ["One people, one empire, one leader."]

"In a free government the security of religious rights consists in a multiplicity of sects." — James Madison, commenting on the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights), quoted in Willard L. Sperry, "Religion in America," p. 54 (1945).

"Schism [the existence of many different churches] has not only preserved the principle of liberty and conscience, and by persistence won back the virtue of tolerance which the early Church first demanded and then betrayed, but also, in some cases, has maintained the truth itself ." Stanley L. Greenslade, "Schism," pp. 205-206.

[Speaking of the problems of having a single, universal church:]
"Prior to the rise of Protestantism there was no real promise of a regeneration of the Western Church. From papal election to papal election good men had waited for it in vain. The doors to reform were guarded by ecclesiastical careerists who drew their livings and their power from the church's degradation." — Phillip Schaff, one of the most important church historians of our century, in "History of the Christian Church," Vol. VII, p. 11.

"There is a kind of dialogue which is little more than the art of surrendering conviction . . Dr. Brown and Priest Weigel have identified the rules of the formal dialogue. But there is a further code of rules which has grown up to govern the dialogue [between Protestants and Catholics to bring them back into an ecumenical whole]..

"1. Neither the Roman Catholic Church, its clergy, nor the Vatican may be criticized directly.

"2. If some criticism of the Catholic Church appears to be necessary,
this must always be balanced by a criticism of Protestant churches.

"3. Or, it must be balanced by citing a virtue of the Catholic Church.

"4. Direct criticism of Protestant churches or their clergy is
permissible without balancing it with a criticism of the Catholic Church.

"These `rules' have been developed by Protestant and Catholic ecumenists. Their object has been `fairness to Catholics" [in the effort to combine the two]." — C. Stanley Lowell, "Ecumenical Mirage," pp. 174-175.

An evangelical renaissance is becoming visible along the Christian highway from the frontiers of the sects to the high places of the Roman Catholicism communion." — John Mackay, "Toward an Evangelical Renaissance," in "Christianity Today," February 4, 1972.

"The Pentecostals themselves generally affirm that `Pentecost [speaking in tongues] is not a Church but an experience,' and they have a deep-seated aversion for denominational lines." — E.D. O'Conner, a spokesman for the Catholic Pentecostal movement, writing in "Pentecost in the Catholic Church," p. 27.

"Moral Re-Armament is the good road of an ideology inspired by God upon which all can unite. Catholic, Jew, and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucianist — all find they can change, where needed, and travel along this good road together." — Frank Buchman, founder of the "Moral Re Armament Movement, and a strong supporter of the ecumenical movement, in a 1948 Los Angeles address, given just two weeks before the World Council of Churches was founded in Amsterdam, Holland, quoted in Frank Buchman, "Remaking the World," p. 166.

"[Man needs a religion] which will unite men into one worshiping community and provide the greatly needed common ethos [policies] for international relations." — W.A. Visser `t Hooft, one of the leading ecumenicists of recent times, writing in "No Other Name," p. 29.

"Any reading of [the various world) religions is a reading of Christ . . Every man persecuted for what he believes to be right, dies in communion with Christ. The mystics of Islamic countries with their witness to suffering love lived the authentic Johannine `agape' [the love explained in the Apostle John's writings] . . The supreme task is to identify all the Christic values in other religions . . Our task is simply to follow the tracks of Christ perceptible in the shadows of other religions." — A key article in monthly journal of the World Council of Churches: "The Ecumenical Review," April 1971.

"The call to religion to be or to become `relevant' is the call to participate in revolution, and this at its most significant level." —R.E. Whitson, an important ecumenicist, in "The Coming Convergence of World Religions," p. 3.

"It is becoming impossible for any nation on earth to continue to live . . within the time scheme of any tribal or national history. What we are witnessing is the process by which all peoples are being drawn into a unitary world history . . The driving force of this one world history is the idea of a new order in the future . . The coming world civilization is propelled by this secularized term of the Biblical faith in the coming of the Kingdom of God." — J.E.L. Newbigin, "A Faith for This One World," p. 25.

"I think it is for the interest of Catholicism that individuals should not join us, but should remain [in the Protestant denominations] to leaven the mass, — I mean that they will do more for us by remaining where they are than by coming over." — Cardinal John Henry Newman, in a letter to Phillipps de Lisle, in "Life and Letters of Ambrose Phillips de Lisle, Vol: 1, p. 368. Rome wants the entire denomination, not just individuals within it. Phillipps de Lisle later became one of the founders, from the Catholic side, of the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom, which was organized in 1857.

"I don't know of any Catholic today who thinks of reconciliation with Protestants as a return of individuals rather than as a reconciliation of large numbers of communities." —  Priest Daniel S. Hamilton of St. Pius X Seminary, Uniondale, New York, quoted in "Christian Century," January 8, 1964.

"If we are in any way to blame for that separation, we humbly beg God's forgiveness and ask pardon too of our brethren who feel themselves to have been injured by us. For our part, we willingly forgive the injuries which the Catholic Church has suffered, and forget the grief endured during the long series of dissensions and separations." — Pope Paul, September 29, 1963, spoken to forty-eight visiting Protestant leaders.

"[The ecumenical spirit] is not an isolated phenomenon, but the reflection of a vast resurgence of vitality coursing through the Mystical Body." — Priest John B. Sheerin, a theological consultant at Vatican II, and editor of "Catholic World," quoted in Religious News Service release, August 31, 1964.

"Even in a predominantly Catholic country, circumstances may render it more advisable for the government to grant non-Catholics the same measure of freedom of worship as is enjoyed by Catholics. Such a course is justifiable when it is foreseen that a policy of complete toleration will procure greater good than will repressive measures against anti-Catholic activities." — Archbishop Frances J. Connell, "Freedom of Worship, the Catholic Position," imprimatur Cardinal Spellman, p. 10(1944).

"The Roman Catholic Church would be gravely misunderstood if it should be concluded that her present ecumenical adventuresomeness and openness meant that she was prepared to re-examine any of her fixed dogmatic [doctrinal] positions. What the church is prepared to do is to take the responsibility for a more imaginative and contemporary presentation of these fixed positions." — Cardinal Augustin Bee, president of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Catholic leader to initially make overtures to the World Council of Churches at its Geneva headquarters, in a speech at Harvard University in March, 1963, quoted in "Church and State," December 1963.

"It is not lawful [by Vatican standards] for the State any more than for the individual . . to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion; the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens . . The Church deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion [Roman Catholicism]" Priests John A. Ryan and Francis J. Boland, in the most widely used Roman Catholic textbook on religious liberty for Catholic schools, "Catholic Principles of Politics," imprimature Cardinal Spellman, pp 300-301 (1958).

"Recent movements, at present in full development, in bodies of Christians separated from us show clearly two things: The first is that the Church of Christ is one alone and therefore must be unique. The second is that this mystic and visible union [of all Christians into one church] cannot be attained save in identity of faith and by participation in the same sacraments and in the organic harmony of a single ecclesiastical control." — Pope Paul VI in a key speech, given at the opening of the Second Session of Vatican II.

"All those . . who, because of the iniquity of the times, are
separated from the bosom and unity of the church, should render without hesitation the due, reverent homage to the primacy [of the pope]." — Pope Pius XII, encyclical entitled "Eternal King," September 12, 1951. This encyclical called upon all non-Catholic churches to return to the Mother Church.

"THE WORLD MUST NOT BE INTRODUCED INTO THE CHURCH and married to the church, forming a bond of unity. Through this means the church will become corrupt, and as stated in Revelation, `a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." — Testimonies to Ministers, page 265.

"IF WE DECIDE that in these last days we have no work assigned to us that is out of the common course of the nominal churches, we shall meet with great disappointment." — Testimonies to Ministers, page 125.

"`The evangelical Protestant denominations. . [are] appealing every hour to every baser element of their nature to hush up the truth, and bow the knee to the power of apostasy. Was not this the way things went with Rome? Are we not living her life over again [in what is now taking place]? And what do we see just ahead? Another general council! A world's convention! Evangelical alliance, and universal creed!' . .

WHEN THIS SHALL BE GAINED, then, in the effort to secure complete uniformity, it will be only a step to the resort of force." — Great Controversy, pages 444-445.

"As the Protestant churches reject the clear, Scriptural arguments in defense of God's law, they will long to silence those whose faith they cannot overthrow by the Bible. Though they blind their own eyes to the fact, THEY ARE NOW ADOPTING A COURSE which will lead to the persecution of those who conscientiously refuse to do what the rest of the Christian world are doing, acknowledge the claims of the papal Sabbath." — Great Controversy, page 592.

"THE FIRES OF PERSECUTION will be rekindled through the time-serving concessions of the so-called Protestant world." — Bible Commentary, Volume 7, page 975.

For further reading: 5 Testimonies, 450; Great Controversy, 608; Prophets and Kings, 188-190.

Source: LandMarks Magazine by Steps to Life Ministries