While the ecumenical movement can be regarded as something that has made great strides to bridge the divides that have existed between Christians, it is undeniable that this movement still meets great opposition from many Christians today. This opposition has come from those within the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions respectively, and each seem to have their own unique justifications for their unfavorable views of modern ecumenism.
ECTS Credits: 3
Professor: Fr. Jesmond Micallef ofm cap
Opposition to Ecumenism
Through the varoious texts given in this course, we will affirm that If we want unity, if we want to be in communion our hope is to worship in truth and this means concordance not expulsion. Ufortunately, many of our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters are reluctant to allow sharing worship – or even prayer – with non-Orthodox people. The major crisis of Orthodox participation in ecumenism in general, and in the World Council of Churches in particular dealt with many issues including this one. The Final Report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC (2002) went very far in allaying Orthodox fears of being forced to go beyond their convictions.. Nevertheless, the issue of praying together (Appendix A) is the least successful of the parts of the document. In the WCC, we are dealing with those among the Orthodox who are, in general, most open to ecumenical contacts.
The moral of the story, to my mind, is that if we want to get anywhere on the road to reconciliation, we have to be very humble and patient. Cardinal Bea said that the door to unity is not a high one: we must all bend down low to go through it. It takes great efforts to win – indeed to earn – the trust of the other. To do so, we have to be patient both with our ecumenical partners, and with ourselves... Praying together changes our relationship (christians together and with one another), because all sincere prayer is God’s gift, and brings God with it. Prayer together is a time when, conscious of our common poverty and divisions, we ask God to fill our emptiness with his abundance. Such prayer together is also a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, who promised that any prayer in his name would be heard by the Father promised that any prayer in his name would be heard by the Father. Unfortunately, although it is not yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy, praying and worshipping together (speaking with God and giving requests and supplication - humbling of our spirit to give God glory for what He as done and will do) do signify the unity of the Church even it this generally rules out sacramental sharing. So, Yes I do agree with the statement that the goal of ecumenism should be “visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world. Unity does not indeed involve uniformity but it means appreciating the common structure/elements and growing together in local situations. Prayer is a common element for all of us and even the Eucharist. I believe that Prayer offers a less problematic common ground to start with.
The Eucharist although a constitutive element (The table of the Lord where everyone comes to nourish himself as is the Word of God!), presents a more complex scene. For example while the praxis in Athens is that Orthodox who participate in our Roman Catholic liturgies can even take the body and blood of Christ, this is not possible for Roman Catholic who participates in an Orthodox liturgy. I believe that first prayer and worship are the first stepping stones in ecumenism. Worship - including sacramental life, prayer and Bible study - is integral to the life of the churches and the search for unity. Common prayer also breaks down barriers and leads people to look at the Church and Christianity in a new way. That is why we celebreate every year for example the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity!
Objective of the course Opposition to Ecumenism
This course will give students a general exposure to traditional opposition to Ecumenism within the perspective of the three main traditions of Christianity. Moreover, students will be encouraged to consider the possible justifications for such opposition as well as possible ecumenical answers to this opposition.