OΝΕ LORD AND OΝΕ CHURCH
WISHFUL THINKING AND HARD REALITIES
Επιστημονική Επετηρίδα Θεολογικής Σχολής (Τμήμα Ποιμαντικής), Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο, Θεσσαλονίκη 1992. (Τιμητικό Αφιέρωμα στον καθηγητή Ιωάννη Ορ. Καλογήρου).
We confess in the Nicene Creed that "we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church". Our daily experience shows, however, that the one church is badly fragmented and divided into many different and often rivalling denominations. We are greatly distanced from the reality which this creed once described: There is One Church. What was once held together through imperial power has been woefully split in the context of Western democracy and continues to be split in the young nations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Amid these negative signs of the dividing of the one body of Christ there are also rays of hope. While in the West the 19th century was a period of almost endless divisions, the present century is noted for a number of significant mergers.
On a global scale there is also a growing awareness that division and ecumenical aloofness is concomitant with betraying Christ and his Church. The Faith and Order Movement held its first formal meeting in 1920. It spans the globe with representative participants from the Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic traditions. Similarly, the World Council of Churches was organized in Amsterdam in 1948 and set up headquarters in Geneva in the same building as the Lutheran World Federation and the Orthodox community. The close co-operation within confessional families, such as the Anglican Lambeth Conference, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council, and the Lutheran World Federation elevates the ecumenical dialogue to a global level. We should not overlook the national councils of churches established in many nations which give ecumenical dialogue and cooperation added impetus. There are also many similar arrangements on state, regional, and metropolian levels down to the local cluster of churches that sponsors joint programs.
Many factors have contributed to this growing cooperation, among them the rediscovery of the Bible as the source and norm of Christian faith and the awareness that a divided witness in today's world fails to endow the church with the credibility which it requires to spread its good news of reconciliation and love. Ιn our attempt to take stock of today's ecumenical endeavors and in drawing some conclusions as to what should and actually does follow from them, we must first point to a growing movement of reconciliation.