Presbyterian Church in Canada
Ecumenical Relations Committee
Excerpt from the Acts &
Proceedings of the 123rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada,
1997, pp. 291-292.
Definition of Ecumenism
The Committee, in its ongoing task of defining and carrying out its work, has prepared a definition of ecumenism to be included as part of its mandate statement. Since no previous definition stated has been approved by the Church, the following has been written and revised to accommodate suggestions from the Committee on Church Doctrine:
The word OIKOUMENE (the whole inhabited world) was first used to describe the great councils of the early centuries of the Christian Era which brought together the leaders of the Christian movement from every community in which the new faith had taken root. Their purpose was to seek convergence on the doctrines and creeds by which the Gospel could be expressed and proclaimed.
The unity of the Church, the whole community of people of all races, tongues and classes, was an essential part of the good news proclaimed by the New Testament writers. Christ prayed that all who believe in Him might be one (Jn. 17:21). The modern ecumenical movement is an effort to reverse the fragmentation of the Christian Church which began with the split between Eastern and Western churches in the eleventh century. In the past hundred years, Christians have become increasingly troubled by the scandal of disunity among churches. The Canadian Council of Churches was formed in 1944, with The Presbyterian Church in Canada as one of its charter members. The World Council of Churches, which began several years later, defined the term "ecumenical" to describe "everything that relates to the whole task of the whole Church to bring the gospel to the whole world".
The ecumenical vision seeks to draw together a commitment to the unity and renewal of the church and a commitment to the reconciliation of God's world. Fundamental to its basis is the conviction that God's covenant includes "every living creature that is on the earth" (Gn. 9:16) and that it is God's "plan for the fullness of time, to gather all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on Earth" (Eph. 1:10). The purpose of ecumenism, from its beginning in the ancient Greek-speaking church, was to advance the proclamation of the Gospel in worship, evangelism and service that all may be one so that the world may believe. The church is called to serve as a credible sign of God's unifying purpose for the whole world.
From its union in 1875, bringing together the Presbyterian and Church of Scotland denominations of the Maritime Provinces and central Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has actively worked for the unity of Christ's church. We recognize the common calling in Christ which we share with all Christians and we seek ways of making visible the unity which God has given us. We affirm one church, one faith, one Lord, sharing in worship, witness and service to the world. As part of the Church Universal, we strive to listen to and learn from one another, to break down the barriers which divide people and to promote justice and peace in the whole human family and the integrity of all creation.
We work toward a church which shares one baptism, celebrates one eucharist and recognizes one ministry. At the same time, we acknowledge that unity is not the same as uniformity and that diversity of polity and practice can be faithfully sustained within Christ's church.
We confess that the history of evangelical mission of many Christian communities including our own has been clouded by cultural imperialism which has distorted Christ's word for all humanity and we commit ourselves to witness to the gospel in the spirit of humility and respect for others, recognizing that truth and goodness we encounter in people of other faith traditions than our own are the work of God's Spirit, the author of all truth. "As beggars telling others where food is to be found, we point to life in Christ". (Living Faith 9.2.1).