Ecumenism can be understood as a vision, a movement, a theology, and a mode of action. It represents the universality of Christianity, affecting the way Christians think about their faith, the church, and the world. Ecumenism can draw Christians together, uniting their life and mission and bringing the Body of Christ and the human community closer to the fulfillment of God’s purposes. Those involved in ecumenism participate in ideas, activities, and institutions that express a spiritual reality of shared love in the church and the human community.
Ultimately, the purpose of Christian ecumenism is to glorify the triune God and to help the one missionary church to witness effectively and faithfully among all peoples and nations. In the second half of the 20th century, Christians began confessing new dimensions of this vocation, especially in relation to what divides the churches. Progress was made on historical theological issues that have divided Christians through the centuries—baptism, the Eucharist, and ministry. But equally divisive among Christians are the divisions of the human family: racism, poverty, sexism, war, injustice, and differing ideologies. These issues are part of the agenda of ecumenism and bring a particular context, dynamic spirit, and urgency to the pursuit of Christian unity as well as of justice and peace. The church’s unity becomes essential for the renewal and unity of the human family. Through its unity the church becomes a sign, the first fruits of the promised unity and peace among God’s peoples and the nations.