Spiritual Ecumenism vs. Ecumenical Spirituality
There are many things which confuse us. One is the experience we all have in which we believe we understand what somebody else is saying to us, but we interpret the words of the other person completely wrongly. There are many reasons this can happen, but one is a differing understanding of terminology between persons. This is true in all areas of life; theology and ecumenism are not exceptions. Thus clear definitions of terms are important. In this short piece, I will address the major difference between two commonly used terms in ecumenism, which have altogether different meanings: "spiritual ecumenism" and "ecumenical spirituality." To do so, I will have to address some rather mundane facts about the implications of the terms, but my hope is that by the end, the very key to ecumenism for real unity of Christians will be seen.
Let's take a step back and look at the idea of "Buddhist spirituality," for example. Several things become apparent. First, "spirituality" does not imply anything about God at all. Second, there is no implication in such a term of the Trinity, nor of the (Holy) Spirit. Third, the implied focus in such a term is not so much on the second word, a noun ("spirituality"), as it is on the first word, an adjective ("Buddhist").
The same implications are present in the term "ecumenical spirituality." First, there is no implication of God. Second, there is no implication of the Trinity, nor of the Holy Spirit. Third, the implied focus is not on the second word, a noun ("spirituality"), but on the first word, a noun: "ecumenical." Thus, the focus seems to be on ecumenism or doing things ecumenically, which in turn may or may not imply two parties each making compromises on their beliefs. That is, the implication seems to be on unity at any cost.
Therefore taking an approach towards unity simply with an "ecumenical spirituality" is a mistake, for we cannot treat Christ, the Church, and the teachings of both as mere things to be compromised for the sake of unity. If we do so, we fall into a sort of religious business transaction: "I'll give up my beliefs on the resurrection if you give up your beliefs about Mary. Seems like a fair trade to me!" This route simply leads to giving up Truth for unity.
Rather, the focus should be based in the (Holy) Spirit, which is what the term "spiritual ecumenism" implies. In spiritual ecumenism, the implication is that unity is the work of the Spirit. This, of course, implies prayer to the Holy Spirit for unity.
The Holy Spirit is the only one from whom true unity may come. This is because the Holy Spirit is the only one that can transform us appropriately. Transformation here does not mean merely compromising and trading beliefs for the sake of unity, nor does it mean merely changing one's mind on a whim. While transformation may be intellectual, the most important transformation is deeper. When we pray for unity, the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts towards the Truth. Stated another way: the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts towards Christ, who is the Truth (cf. John 14:6).