Working with other churches and religious organizations can be one of the most rewarding experiences for you and your congregation. Communication and dialogue can foster mutual respect and open many doors in terms of friendship and opportunity for cooperation in both work and worship.
History of the Ecumenical Movement
The modern drive toward unity between the various denominations of the Christian faith is known as the ecumenical movement
. Beginning in the late 19th
and early 20th
centuries, faithful congregations around the world began encouraging cooperation and sharing with the goals of common action and witness to the glory of Christ's ministry.
Furthermore, the trend toward unity between churches and religious groups historically separated by doctrine and practice helped to usher in a new vision of Christianity as a unified faith, and highlighted the inclusion of women and youth in church activities. Various national and global organizations came into being as these developments proceeded.
In 1937, the World Council of Churches
was established, bringing churches, denominations, and fellowships from many different countries together in hopes of providing a "visible unity in one faith". The name of the organization's website, oikoumene
, is a Greek word which means "the whole inhabited earth," a reference to the idea that all of us should stand together in God's love.
In the United States, 1950 saw the establishment of the National Council of Churches USA
. The NCCUSA has been a leading proponent of ecumenical cooperation, boasting a faithful organization nearly forty-five million strong and growing. Including one hundred thousand congregations, the organization acts as a facilitator of cooperation between churches of many different denominations.
When reaching out to other congregations and fellowships in your community, keep in mind the spirit of brotherhood and compassionate that are such hallmarks of the Christian faith. Formal agreements between denominations (known as local ecumenical partnerships
) can foster cooperation in mission and ministry in your community.
Sometimes, multiple parishes join together under one roof in the interest of increasing membership, worshipping together, and having a greater positive impact on their communities. Often, this occurs when two congregations are ready to build new churches -- by pooling their resources, they can build a structure of greater size, allowing more members of the community to join them for worship.
Other times, the two churches will merge and worship together, taking elements of the services of both. Others engage in covenanted partnerships
, choosing to maintain separate identities while working and worshipping closely with their ecumenical brethren.
Communicating at the Speed of Faith
In recent years, digital media and communication have begun to globally connect us with those of like minds and faiths. As your church enters the information age, how are you working to link yourself up with the local and global Christian communities? Consider reaching out to new congregations through emails, blogs, video-conferencing, or a website, whether your new spiritual friends are across the street or across the world. Embracing technology will greatly aid you in working with other churches and forming partnerships in the interest of a unified Christian faith.