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Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Ecumenism can be defined as the movement which seeks the unity of Christians not so much by individual conversions as by the reconciliation of churches, and which emphasizes the mutual resolution of differences rather than the attempt to induce other churches to renounce their position and accept one's own. In the period covered by this encyclopedia the reconciliation of divided churches was sought long before it was given the name of ecumenism. Among the German pietists (see L utheranism ), who sought unity for the sake of mission, N.L. von Zinzendorf (1700–1760) believed unity should not entail uniformity, since the churches had something to learn from one another; where formulations were incompatible, the differences were ‘tropes’ which God in his patience allowed to exist and used as means of edification until the churches could be united. Another branch of pietism, the separatists, on the other hand, commonly regarded the existence of distinct churches as a ‘Babylon’. Another German Protestant thinker who transcended church divisions was G.W. Leibniz (1646–1716), who advocated a cultural and political, as well as a religious, unity of Europe, in which, as in the medieval Holy Roman Empire, a leading role would be played by the emperor, now in the person of Tsar Peter the Great. In the eighteenth century Leibniz's principle of ‘variety brought together in unity’ inspired the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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