Special Issue "Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Eric S. Dart

Director, Graduate Program of Pastoral Studies; Assistant Professor, Theology Department, 3206J Palumbo Academic Center, Gannon University, 109 University Square Erie, PA 16541, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Rahnerian Studies; Ecumenism; Hermeneutical Theology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As Christianity moves into the third millennium, the contemporary ecumenical movement and its pursuit of unity is undoubtedly moving into a new context. The privileged paradigm of ecumenical encounter in the twentieth century, which emphasized bi-lateral and multi-lateral engagement between churches, appears to have lost its energy and the subsequent documents produced by these dialogues and meetings no longer garner the attention they once did. The ecumenical context of the twenty-first century challenges dialogue partners to not only make sense of other Christian churches, but also their own Christian identity in relation to their encounters with the ecumenical other. The shift towards reflecting on one’s own Christian identity in relation to the ecumenical other has led towards an emphasis on exploring the dialogic nature of the ecumenical movement. However, while there is a great deal of work that emphasizes and re-envisions the dialogic nature of the ecumenical movement, there is little that explicitly addresses and explores the relationship between ecclesiology and the ecumenical movement outside of comparative studies. Simply put, exploring the implications of ecumenical dialogue as a dialogue between communities for whom Christian identity is both formed and informed by particular ecclesiologies is noticeably absent.

This volume is animated by a fundamental question put forth by Michael Kinnamon, “Can the ecumenical movement, which gave such energy and direction to the church in the twentieth century, be reconceived in a way that provides renewing power for the church in this era?” In particular this volume aims to explore how the relationship between ecclesiology and the ecumenical movement presents both opportunities and challenges within the changing landscape of ecumenism. What is the relationship between ecumenism and ecclesiology? Can the ecumenical movement achieve its goal of unity amidst a diversity of ecclesiologies? Does ecumenical unity necessitate ecclesiological unity? Can there be an ecclesiology of ecumenism or is there only ecumenical ecclesiologies? 

Prof. Dr. Eric S. Dart
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Ecumenism
  • Ecumenical Ecclesiology
  • Unity and Diversity
  • Ecumenical Movement
  • church and churches

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Believing in the Church: Why Ecumenism Needs the Invisibility of the Church
Religions 2019, 10(2), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020104
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 19 January 2019 / Accepted: 5 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
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Abstract
Amidst the plethora of approaches to ecumenical dialogue and church reunion over the last century, a common theme has been the depreciation of the classic Protestant distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” church. Often seen as privileging an abstract predestinarianism over the concrete [...] Read more.
Amidst the plethora of approaches to ecumenical dialogue and church reunion over the last century, a common theme has been the depreciation of the classic Protestant distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” church. Often seen as privileging an abstract predestinarianism over the concrete lives and structures of church communities and underwriting a complacency about division that deprives Christians of any motive to ecumenical endeavor, the concept of the “invisible” church has been widely marginalized in favor of a renewed focus on the “visible” church as the true church. However, I argue that this stress on visible unity creates a pressure toward institutional forms of unity that ultimately privilege Roman Catholic ecclesiologies at the expense of Protestant ones, and thus fails of its ecumenical promise. Renewed attention to Reformational understandings of the relationship between divine grace and human action and the centrality and uniqueness of Christ as the foundation of the church, I argue, dispels some misunderstandings of the church’s “invisibility” and demonstrates the indispensability of the concept. I argue that this Reformational framework, which refuses to accept the empirical divisions of the Church as definitive and summons us to an ecumenism that belongs to the church’s sanctification, provides the best theological ground for ecumenical endeavor. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference)
Open AccessArticle The Day of Prayer and Its Potential for Engendering Public Ecclesiology Ecumenism in Zambia
Religions 2018, 9(12), 393; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120393
Received: 9 November 2018 / Revised: 19 November 2018 / Accepted: 27 November 2018 / Published: 29 November 2018
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Abstract
This article argues that while the National Day of Prayer in Zambia has its inception in political context, it has obligated the institutional churches to break out of their religiously fixed spaces, forcing them to suspend their official doctrinal positions for that specific [...] Read more.
This article argues that while the National Day of Prayer in Zambia has its inception in political context, it has obligated the institutional churches to break out of their religiously fixed spaces, forcing them to suspend their official doctrinal positions for that specific day, and embrace each other in enacting what could be classified as “public ecclesiology ecumenism”. The article defines public ecclesiology ecumenism as the manifestation of institutionally-defined churches in public spaces to celebrate a common liturgical life in Christ through prayer, songs, preaching, and promotion of unified prophetic witness in the public. However, being a political initiative makes the Day of Prayer a potentially dangerous neo-colonial space for advancing a dominant political ideology which perpetuates corruption and exploitation of the masses. Thus, one of the core tasks of the churches is to liberate, reclaim, and reconstitute the Day of Prayer into a prophetic site of struggle against political corruption and poor governance by seeking to produce alternative public and political cultures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference)
Open AccessArticle Ekklesia and Ecumenism in the Body of Christ: Unity from the Ground-Up
Religions 2018, 9(12), 390; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120390
Received: 9 October 2018 / Revised: 22 November 2018 / Accepted: 22 November 2018 / Published: 28 November 2018
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Abstract
This article explores the implications for Christian unity from the perspective of the lived faith community, the ekklesia. While bilateral and multilateral dialogues have borne great fruit in bringing Christian denominations closer together, as indeed it will continue to do so, considering how [...] Read more.
This article explores the implications for Christian unity from the perspective of the lived faith community, the ekklesia. While bilateral and multilateral dialogues have borne great fruit in bringing Christian denominations closer together, as indeed it will continue to do so, considering how the ecclesiological identity of the faith community both forms and reflects its members may be helpful in moving forward in our ecumenical efforts. This calls for a ground-up approach as opposed to a top-down approach. By “ground-up” it is meant that the starting point for theological reflection on ecumenism begins not with doctrine but with praxis, particularly as it relates to the common believer in the pew. The ecclesiological model “Body of Christ” provides a helpful vocabulary in this exploration for a number of reasons, none the least that it is scripturally-based, presumes diversity and employs concrete imagery relating to everyday life. Further, “Body of Christ” language is used by numerous Christian denominations in their statements of self-identity, regardless of where they lie on the doctrinal or political spectrum. In this article, potential benefits and challenges of this ground-up perspective will be considered, and a way forward will be proposed to promote ecumenical unity across denomination borders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference)
Open AccessArticle Karl Rahner and the Elusive Search for Christian Unity
Religions 2018, 9(11), 365; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110365
Received: 6 October 2018 / Revised: 15 November 2018 / Accepted: 15 November 2018 / Published: 17 November 2018
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Abstract
Despite his prominence within the landscape of theology, Karl Rahner is largely absent in ecumenical discourse. This is surprising considering the concern he shows for both the church’s unity and ecumenism throughout his writings. Rahner’s understanding of unity and diversity and their relationship [...] Read more.
Despite his prominence within the landscape of theology, Karl Rahner is largely absent in ecumenical discourse. This is surprising considering the concern he shows for both the church’s unity and ecumenism throughout his writings. Rahner’s understanding of unity and diversity and their relationship to one another has the potential to provide important resources for the contemporary ecumenical movement and the goal of visible unity. This article examines Karl Rahner’s theological understanding of ecumenism and the relationship of ecumenism to the realities of unity and diversity. This article explicates Rahner’s theologies of symbol and unity as prerequisites for understanding and developing the relationship between unity and diversity. The unity of the Church is fundamentally a symbolic reality in the process of “becoming”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference)
Open AccessArticle Ecumenical Ecclesiology in its New Contexts: Considering the Transformed Relationship between Roman Catholic Ecclesiology and Ecumenism
Religions 2018, 9(10), 291; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100291
Received: 20 August 2018 / Revised: 19 September 2018 / Accepted: 25 September 2018 / Published: 26 September 2018
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Abstract
The quest for Christian unity is entering a new phase amidst the movement’s many voices, perspectives and tensions. Christians are witnessing the advent of an emerging ecumenical paradigm, which, because it is not fully realized, is still realizing its full definition. The paradigm [...] Read more.
The quest for Christian unity is entering a new phase amidst the movement’s many voices, perspectives and tensions. Christians are witnessing the advent of an emerging ecumenical paradigm, which, because it is not fully realized, is still realizing its full definition. The paradigm operates in a global context rather than a Eurocentric one, and even as it is more global, it is simultaneously more local. It cultivates shared praxis while being less concerned with the comparison of dogmas. Ecclesiology is also entering a new paradigm which shares many features with its ecumenical counterpart, particularly its global perspective and interest in shared praxis ahead of dogmatic questions. Even though ecumenism and ecclesiology share common trajectories, their journeys are unfolding in largely parallel rather than cooperative and mutually-enriching ways. This raises the question: What opportunities might arise from examining the shifts in ecumenism and ecclesiology together? This article examines how new methodological and practical developments in these two fields can form and inform one another. It studies the shift to synodality in the Catholic Church and the turn towards discernment in the ecumenical sphere as manifestations of similar theological commitments and a common interest in cultivating participatory processes. The seismic changes reshaping the religious landscape are transforming the relationship between ecumenism and ecclesiology; yet a strong connection between them endures and illumines paths forward for the church in the third millennium. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecumenism and Ecclesiology: The Challenge of Unity and Difference)
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