Disciples News Service

Ecumenism: Its past and future: WCC dispatch #11 from Busan

By Nathan Wilson

“I am convinced that the ecumenical movement will have a future only if it also remembers its past.” 

With that, Michael Kinnamon, the Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Collaboration in Interreligious Dialogue at Seattle University’s School of Theology, introduced the Korean edition of his revised Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices at the World Council of Churches’ 10th Assembly meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea.

Referring to the unity statement under consideration at this assembly, Kinnamon said, “I’m very glad that we have at this assembly a unity statement … but it’s important to remember that also have statements on unity in New Delhi in 1961 and Nairobi in 1975 and Canberra in 1991 and that we build on those things in order for the movement to be able to advance.”

Anthologies also help us identify the most important documents – which can be especially helpful in a movement such as the ecumenical movement where so many documents have been produced.

Kinnamon celebrated that the anthology was published in Korean in time for the assembly.  He thanked the Korean translators and celebrated the Korean church as “one of the most vibrant, growing churches in all of the world.”

The team of six translators includes Disciples pastor Chung Seong Kim of the Good Neighbor Christian Church in Johns Creek, Georgia.

“We all know that we have more than enough documents,” said Kinnamon.  “What we need is to put them in format that is helpful.”

When asked about sources of hope in the ecumenical movement, Kinnamon named the engagement of young adults, including students at this assembly; passion and vision at the local level; and churches that are newly catching the vision for the ecumenical movement.

When asked about threats to the ecumenical movement, Kinnamon named the tendency for ecumenical work to become “business as usual” for those involved in it, the trend toward professionalizing ecumenical work rather than ecumenism remaining a passionate movement to renew the church as a whole and the temptation to forget that God is the chief actor. 

He also named sin, in particular the sin of self-centeredness, and stated that we are at our better selves when we share with each other and hold each accountable in community.

Ecumenism has renewing potential for the church in this era and into the future. 


Wilson pastors First Christian Church in Shelbyville, Indiana, and coordinates the “Faith & Values” section of The Indianapolis Star. He is an accredited media representative at the WCC’s 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea.