Oikumene, in Greek, means ‘the whole household of God.’ It’s the source of the word ‘economy’ and the root of ‘ecumenism’, the movement to deepen connections among Christian denominations.
Ut unum sint, ‘that they may all be one,’ was Jesus’ prayer in the last hour of his life. Every denomination (or communion) stands in tension between the truth of its distinctive understandings of how to live out its discipleship of Jesus, and Jesus’ hope for unity. Some communions respond by going rogue, by shedding their relationship to any denomination. Other communions, like the United Church of Christ, make Christian unity their primary mission and actively cultivate intimate partnerships with other communions.
The modern ecumenical movement in the United States celebrated its hundredth birthday in November 2008. The Church of the Brethren has long been an active member of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA, and helped to organize its service arm, Church World Service. Olympic View pastor, Ken Miller Rieman, is currently a denominational delegate to the NCC General Assembly.
The Church of the Brethren was also one of the charter members of the World Council of Churches, established in 1948, in part to counter the global factionalism that resulted in World War II. Pastor Ken attended the 7th General Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe and was surprised to see that the issues of greatest concern to Christians around the world differ significantly from the ones which dominate conversation among U.S. Christians.
Because Christ’s call to unity remains, and because the great challenges of poverty, hunger, violence, and environmental destruction in our world remain, we believe that our denominational differences must not divide or impede our response. These challenges are simply too great for any of us to tackle on our own.