What does “ecumenical” mean?

Dove and HeartRebecca Kiser responds:

Ecumenical means the inclusion of all the Christian denominations worldwide, what we might say is the “Capital-C” Church of God.   It is not the same as non-denominational, which is a rather new concept where local groups of Christians don’t ally with a known denomination and its structure, but stay independent.  Usually groups identifying as non-denominational follow teachings which are quite conservative; the difference is that they have no larger structure to relate to or cooperate with in mission.

Anne Eggebroten responds:

Ecumenical is a term used to describe gatherings or conversations of Christians that include not just a variety of Protestant denominations but Catholics and Orthodox Christians as well.  From 1974 to 1990 our group was just called “Evangelical Women’s Caucus,” but we were gaining quite a few Catholic members and others who did not feel represented by the word evangelical.  As a result, we added ecumenical to our name.

The word ecumenical came into English from the Greek word oikoumene meaning “the inhabited earth.”  Thus “ecumenical dialogue” is occasionally used to mean conversations including persons of other religions as well as a variety of Christians.

For further reading:

“Ecumenical” in The New Oxford American Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001).

The Quiet Reformer: An Introduction to Edmund Schlink’s Life and Ecumenical Theology by Eugene M. Skibbe (Minneapolis: Kirk House, 1999).

Ecumenical Faith in Evangelical Perspective by Gabriel J. Fackre (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).

Becky Kiser and Anne Linstatter
Rev. Rebecca Kiser serves as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, USA. She describes her faith life as “… like one of those funnel gadgets, being raised in the extremely narrow end of fundamentalism, then moving into the gradually widening scope of the evangelical, through orthodox Reformed theology, and now probably more progressive." Dr. Anne Linstatter is a professor and founding member of EEWC-CFT. She teaches on women and religion at California State University, Northridge. She describes herself as a writer, mother, (somewhat) radical feminist, and born-again Christian. She collected and edited personal stories for her book, "Abortion—My Choice, God’s Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories." Her commentaries appear on Women’s eNews and Christian Feminism Today, as well as on her blog Martha y Maria: Women’s Lives, Women’s Rights.

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