Økumenisk vinter?

Jeg leste for noen dager siden en lang og interessant artikkel om økumenikk i oktober-nummeret av First Things, skrevet av Michael Root, som er professor i Systematisk teologi ved the Catholic University of America. Der kan man bl.a. lese:

… the high emotions of mid-twentieth-century ecumenism have given way to predictable gestures and general indifference. Last year, the Vatican joined in the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. A Vatican stamp was issued, depicting Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon at the foot of the cross. On October 31, 2016, the pope himself attended a prayer service in Sweden sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation to launch its year of commemorative activities. A few observers complained about false ecumenism. An equally small number proclaimed that a breakthrough in Protestant-­Catholic unity must be just around the corner. Most, however, took no particular interest, and rightly so. It was ecclesiastical business as usual in Sweden: prelates being nice to each other, gestures of goodwill that had no consequences. Fifty years ago, ecumenism could make grown men cry. Now it is mundane.

Many reasons can be given for the dampening of the ecumenical excitement of two generations ago. The mainstream Protestantism that had been a driving force of the ecumenical movement has declined precipitously in recent decades. Traditional church-dividing issues—infant baptism, the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist—can seem arcane not just to the laity, but even to a church leadership that is far less theologically attuned than it was in the recent past. Church unity can seem irrelevant to church life, and ecumenical texts are often written by committees—a recipe for boring prose.

And so the ecumenical process has slowed to a halt. Since the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed in 1999—the fruit of three decades of intensive discussions launched in the 1960s—few significant steps toward unity have been made. …

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… Our situation is not easy. We cannot sustain the old revolutionary optimism; nor can we accept the new normal as our permanent condition. We are like the children of Israel under Moses in the wilderness. They were not to turn back to Egypt, and they were not to look upon the wilderness as their new home. They could not press forward into the Promised Land until the Lord willed that they should do so. We are not to forget the unity to which we are called, but we cannot simply will that unity. Disagreements are real and significant; pretending they do not exist will not make them go away. But we cannot become ­complacent. Talk of “normal ecumenism” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, an excuse for ignoring real opportunities for change. We can easily misread the signs of the times. How many foresaw the rapid collapse of communism? We need to think carefully about our situation and weigh the merits of any paths forward.

Ecumenism is rooted in a sense that things are not what they should be. As Christians, we take our name from the One who came to break down the walls of division. Disagreement, even dispute, may be a permanent part of Christian existence. Paul told the Corinthians, “There must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Cor. 11:19). But dispute among the followers of Christ should not take the form of enduring structures of disunity. Today, we need to find ways of living out as faithfully as we can the unity we find possible. As we do so, we must not forget the unity to which we are called, the fullness of unity we seek with God in Christ and thus with all others who share in Christ.

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