Speaking in Vatican City a month after the Vatican unveiled plans to facilitate the conversion of conservative Anglicans to Catholicism, Arch bishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams offered a moderately hopeful assessment of ecumenical relations between the two churches.
The ecumenical path has always been narrow, but recent events cast a new light on the limited and shifting range of ecumenical possibilities. With the exception of the success of the rapprochement of Luth eran, Reformed and United churches in Europe, intra-Protestant ecumenism seems to be dead in the water.
Pope Benedict’s invitation to Anglican bodies to join the Roman Catholic Church was seen by some observers as historically momentous and by others as insignificant (after all, a provision has always been there for Anglicans to convert). Which is it?
With embraces, hymns and common prayer, Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist leaders recalled joyfully the pact made a decade ago that ended a centuries-old division over a key church doctrine. Vows were made at a Chicago service to seek greater unity—even as a Catholic archbishop noted a new challenge to unity posed by diverging views on sexuality.
We Christians are a people divided by what unites us. We believe that God has, through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, made us one people, but how the Eucharist works to make us one with God and one another has been one of the most divisive points of conflict between Christians, particularly since the Reformation.
As the church’s growth in the global South rapidly and radically reshapes the profile of world Chris tianity, separation between the major streams and families of faith is growing deeper every day. Living Chris tian traditions remain isolated from one another at a time when the demonstrated unity of Christian fellowship is necessary for a credible witness.
Though they’re not merging, the nation’s two largest mainline Protestant denominations have agreed to share ministers and resources. The full-communion agreement, which was approved at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial assembly in Minneapolis, connects the 4.6 million–member ELCA with the United Methodist Church, which has 11 million members.
In the nearly 500 years since the Church of England split with the Roman Catholic Church, a fair number of converts have crossed from one church to the other. Still, the path can be rocky, as Alberto Cutié—the most recent high-profile convert—discovered on May 28 when he left Catholicism to join the Episcopal Church.
In recent months, the National Council of Churches observed its 100th anniversary, the World Council of Churches celebrated its 60th birthday, and the new, widest-ever group, called the Global Christian Forum, laid plans for a second international conclave in 2011 with a strengthened secretar- iat and an effort to get the word out about its existence.