Ecumenical Relativism?

Written by Joel on September 15th, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI addressed Brazilian bishops on September 10. Read a translation here.

This particular quote struck me:

“In the first place, an erroneous view of ecumenism must be rejected that induces a certain doctrinal indifference that attempts to level, in an a-critical Ireneism, all ‘opinions’ in a sort of ecclesiological relativism”

I think that I often lean towards advocating a kind of ecclesiological relativism in my approach to ecumenism. Certainly not “believe whatever you want to believe” but beyond the core beliefs there is a wide field of adiaphora (things indifferent) or I might call them emphases. Methodist emphasize holiness, Uniting traditions emphasizes ecumenism, Disciples emphasize communion etc. How can anyone call any of those emphases untrue or not the church?

Maybe Pope Benedict’s emphasis is on the a-critical acceptance of all things simply because they have a Christian tradition. I do not believe that the field of adiaphora is a wide as some Protestant traditions want to believe it is. For example in faith and morals a Christian (individual or one’s tradition’s) stance on abortion, other life issues including euthanasia, the death penalty; sexual morality including gay marriage, contraception, premarital sex, IVF, etc. And of course the foundational matters of faith – the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, virgin birth, etc, etc.

Perhaps he was saying that these issues/questions must be reconciled before we can talk about what kind of diversity is acceptable in the Body of Christ. Diversity on these questions of faith and morals are unacceptable in a united church.

I believe there is fertile ecumenical ground to be explored between Evangelicals and Catholics for this reason; who both share rather similar views on these questions.


Leave a Comment