Moving toward Christian religious unity, including a traditional movement of dialogue among established sectarian bodies and a counter-secular revolution equally founded on the doctrines of revelation and social justice. The movement promotes through functional organizations cooperation between church bodies on such common tasks as missions and work among students. Mutual understanding on fundamental issues in belief, worship, and polity, and a united witness on world problems is promoted through conferences.
Ecumenical Councils and contacts have existed since 325 AD. In recent times, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and The World Council of Churches have highlighted the mission of the Christian ecumenical movement. The secular movement of the late 20th century comes out of underground Churches and emerging indigenous Christianity of Africa and Asia. It is a protest against what its proponents consider to be an institutionalized church, uncaring of social issues. The third type of ecumenism, also of recent origin, is among liberal Christians and others concerned with relations among all religious bodies. Often called inter-faith movements, they are concerned with an open dialogue between faiths and cultures.
The ecumenical movement has been a strategy to unite religious people in order to be more effective in the affairs of the modern world. The infighting and disruptive wars that have been committed in the name of particular sects and religions are still happening today. The Christian ecumenical strategy has been an attempt to have member religious bodies gain unity and therefore an influential impact on social roles. It includes institutional dialogue, coordinated administration of mission programmes, shared schools of theology and structural relationships through councils of churches and other coordinating bodies. In order to effect social change, however, the ecumenical movement will need to decide if its primary goal of unity is in beliefs, organization, or ethics. It will also have to be able to discern the difference between the cultural bias and the religious belief.
The Christian ecumenical strategy is empowered by having committed people in every culture who are concerned with social justice. As one of many concerned groups, the ecumenical movement is able to cross cultural and political lines to catalyze action in both small communities and on top government levels. As it gains in respectability among local people, the bureaucratic systems begin to listen to its concerns on specific issues.
Ecumenism has the propensity to reduce its religious understanding to the least common denominator, thereby reducing the power and particular uniqueness of each creed.