There is a nice piece by John Allen on why it looks like I will have a job for life in the ecumenism business. In it, he suggests that we ecumenists should be in a “festive humo[u]r” for this reason alone:
The ecumenical movement is actually among the most phenomenally successful currents in global Christianity in at least the last 100 years. It may not have achieved full, visible communion, but it has swept away centuries of prejudice and broken down denominational ghettoes in what can only seem historically like the blink of an eye.
He is right about that. He is also right about this:Here’s the unvarnished ecumenical truth:
Pluralism is an almost immutable fact of life in a globalized world, akin to the law of gravity. In that context, and given the weight of history, it’s deeply unlikely that we’ll see full, visible communion among all the branches of Christianity anytime before the Second Coming. The Orthodox are not going to accept papal jurisdiction, Catholics are not going to tolerate the kind of doctrinal and ecclesiological flexibility one finds in the Anglican Communion, and so on. That doesn’t mean renouncing full communion as a dream, but it implies not broadcasting it as the primary motive for ecumenical work, because doing so is a sure prescription for heartbreak.
Well. I don’t agree with him completely there. The goal of full visible unity and a united eucharist among all Christians will always be my motivation, even though–perhaps especially because of the fact that–it remains an eschatological hope.
As Papa Benny points out in his latest encyclical, the eschatological hope is the only hope which has the power to keep us going on every small step of our journey.