Ecumenicalism, the friendship and cooperation among differing religious groups and faiths, has a long and rich history. The varied trends in ecumenical thought and action can be traced to the various understandings of the word itself. “Ecumenism” originates from the Greek noun oikoumenē, “the inhabited earth” or “the whole world,” and the adjective “oikoumenikos,” understood as “ecumenical.” There are few biblical passages that use the word oikoumenē. The 15 references to oikoumenē are all found in the New Testament; interpretations of each use and its significance vary.

With so few references, the purpose and function of ecumenicalism has been derived mostly from applications of the term. During the fourth century CE, oikoumenē often referred to the Christian empire under Roman rule. Ecumenical councils gathered periodically to ...

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