It occurs to me, that there are two kinds of ecumenism (or ecumenicism, or ecumenicalism). One one hand there is this striving for unity in Christian churches (or worldwide religions), that seems to say: "It doesn't matter what you believe, all roads lead up the same mountain." This has justifiably taken a beating from conservatives, for all kinds of different faiths. For if all religions are equal, then they are all equally invalid. Whatever I decide to believe, is just as valid as anything else, so why bother with any of it?
But I do not think it so simple as to simply just dismiss any "ecumenism" all together. For me, as an Orthodox Christian, there are some very important principles that must be taken into consideration. First, all men (inclusive of women and children) are created in the "image of God." Thus all men are my brothers, even if we have different beliefs. (I can only pray that my neighbor holds beliefs that would cause him to treat me with dignity.) Secondly, that Jesus Christ, the God/Man, came to save all of us. "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Thus I am compelled to treat my neighbor with respect and dignity, not matter what his beliefs.
But having said that, I also believe that "Truth" is important, and should not be watered down. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh to the Father, but by Me." There is "no other way by which a Man may be saved." So I must have a commitment to not watering down, what I genuinely believe to be True. I do my neighbor no service, if I do not present him with what my faith actually teaches, even if I fear it may offend him. My neighbor holds the same responsibility. Tell me what you believe if you love me. If you truly value my soul, and truly believe you have information that will help me find salvation, don't hold it back.
Now, having said that, we are not always going to agree. You may believe that my religion is wrong or misguided. I may sincerely believe that you adhere to teachings that are just plain error. Now what?
We can love each other. We can look into each other's eyes, and say, "Here is a child, loved by God." We can support each other in those areas where we find agreement. Which brings me to "Good Ecumenism."
As homeschoolers, we are privileged to be a part of a great group of people; The Niagara Frontier Home Educators. We are a group of about 1/2 Roman Catholic and 1/2 Protestant, with us lone Orthodox family. (There is hope that we will be joined by one, and maybe two other Orthodox). We have a weekly Gym and Arts/Crafts class for our kids, and meet monthly for "family night," which is anything from a science fair to a visit from Harriet Tubman.
What is the key to our group's success? Love. We love God. We love our children. And we are learning to love each other. If the house is burning down, you don't ask for a belief statement from the one standing next to you...you hand him a bucket. And this is what we are attempting to do.
Last year, unfortunately some people left our fellowship, because most of us could not agree to the statement about the Bible, that they wanted in our "belief statement." That is unfortunate. Because if we are wrong, you can show us by your love. We are not building a church, all of us are members of churches. We are building a homeschool fellowship.
If you visit the site for NFHE, you will notice that in the "belief statement," the dreaded "filioque clause" is included. Its not because the leaders are insensitive to the Eastern Orthodox. Its not because the Orthodox family does not care about the importance of that "clause" to Christian history. It is because folks are ignorant to us Orthodox, and the history of the Schism. But it is also because this Orthodox family, while realizing that it needs to be addressed sooner or later, so that we are not misunderstood, was leery of putting the group through another controversy so soon after the departure of our Fundamentalist families. But when we do, it will be an opportunity to learn about us Orthodox, how we are different and how we are the same.
There are many causes that Christians of all stripes can work together. Pro-life. Pro-family. Habitat for Humanity. Amnesty International. Feeding the poor of our own neighborhoods.
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have love for each other."