The work of ecumenism is important. Christ prayed his Church be One and did not found the schism that now exists, like a sickness, within the body of Christ. The work of unity must never be treated as a second order issue then- for it is clearly the will of God. And the entire Christian community suffers when division renders it incapable of speaking with intended clarity. Why should the non believer take us seriously if we present myriad contradictory viewpoints not a single cohesive system of belief- a divine revelation?
Protestantism is, at its heart, a form of rebellion that despite its many precious insights and gifts, sows division wherever it manifests. For lacking a central authority it invariably splinters periodically leaving a plethora of autonomous groups in its wake- each assured of its claim. The opposite of the formation of “One holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. The model the Creed insists we should build on.
The Ordinariate exists to repair what was broken at the reformation. Its purpose to call people into authentic lived out unity. Ecumenism in practice not just hope. But this can only occur where there is a serious working towards shared belief. For ‘shared truth’ is key to Christian unity without which unlocking of division becomes impossible. Hence in praying that his Church might be One, Jesus also asked the Father to “enshrine them in THE TRUTH” and protect them from the evil one.
But this observation leads to a problem. Because, in recent times, a false ecumenism has crept into the life of the Church. A working for unity through abandonment of truth not shared proclamation of it. And to understand this better we might consider an analogy born of mountaineering.
Prior to Vatican II the path to unity seemed bleak. Sectarian divide fostered suspicion even hatred. There seemed little chance of reconciliation. It was as though believers stood at the foot of a mountain staring into the clouds at its peak- something seemingly beyond their reach. Everyone knew it needed to be conquered, for the sake of the Gospel, but nobody knew where to begin.
Then came Vatican II a period of great optimism. Good and faithful people, on both sides of reformation divide, set out to foster unity. The ecumenical movement got off the ground. Friendships were forged and trust rebuilt throughout the sixties and seventies. Much of the suspicion was gone and trust was regained. There was a very real chance unity might be possible. A base camp was established.
But then, via a series of poor decisions, shock waves were sent through the ARCIC process. Despite having made promises that nothing would be done to hamper unity Anglicans went it alone on issues as serious as the Ordination of Women and blessing of same sex unions. The work of unity came to a shuddering halt. And today many ecumenical projects seem stuck at base camp wondering where things go from here.
Deflated some ecumenists have opted to remain at base camp and turn it into a permanent home. Confidence has waned and people sit politely refusing to tackle that which causes division but with no clear idea of where to go next. The problem is that little progress is made and it all becomes a little shallow and pointless. How many sandwiches and united services can anyone bear without fruit?
Others have changed tack and moved to a different mountain. Not realising unity and truth are two sides of the one coin, and swayed by the spirit of the age, they now seek to trade truth for the sake of unity in clear opposition to Jesus prayer. In doing this they are drifting towards something dangerous. An attempt to celebrate division as somehow worthy of praise.
That is false ecumenism -the seeking of unity by discarding of truth. All religions proclaimed equal because all claims are silenced. It is the pluralistic vision of Masonic life where holy books of all traditions are placed alongside one another in service of man not God. Where all beliefs are viewed as subjective. More akin to the Satanic motto “believe what you will” than a Christian belief in the revealed truth- Jesus Christ- the only way to the Father.
So Christians must tread carefully. Recognising that the previously anticipated ARCIC route is now closed so we must seek a new way up. Building and maintaining friendships remains important but we must not be drawn into pluralism or pantheism or pretend that the situation hasn’t changed in light of recent Anglican innovations. We believe in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” and must ever uphold the belief that unity depends on truth.
The Ordinariate is the new path up the mountain being carved out by Rome. And it works for who else has walked such a walk of unity in the last few centuries? Are you about the difficult climb? The true work of reconciling believers by elimination of wrongful belief and the working towards a shared proclamation?
Do you believe in truth? Or do you enshrine division by praising that secular notion that religious belief is not a salvation issue but a personal matter for the home.