Ecumenism comes from the Greek word oikoumené—“the whole world”—and refers to unity and universality. Today, the term relates to Christian denominational unity and cooperation within the worldwide body of churches.
Increasing ecumenical momentum strategically came together immediately after WW2 with the 1948 founding of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam, Holland. The Salvation Army was a founding member.
Two phrases captured the essence of this movement: “We intend to stay together” and “Visible Unity.”
At that time, General Albert Orsborn enunciated some clear Salvation Army principles that are still applicable today:
- We “are friendly with all whom Christ has named His own”
- We “lend the experience and the testimony of the Army to those aims and purposes which are especially dear to the Salvationist”
- We “listen, and perhaps learn”
- We “are not prepared to change or to modify our own particular and characteristic principles and methods”
Today, The Salvation Army serves in an advisory capacity to the WCC and is notably active in many other national councils around the world.
At local, national, and international levels, it does seem that The Salvation Army is strategically positioned to be in partnership with other Christian bodies and to be a medium of reconciliation.
The fact that the word ecumenism is derived from oikoumené—“the whole world”— may have special application to a movement that sings with gusto: “The world for God.”
Could it be that one surprising means to this end is deliberate ecumenism?
by Colonel Richard Munn