The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Diverse households

Ecumenism, interreligious affairs in a multicultural age

One afternoon when our office suite at the university where I teach was unusually busy, a student approached me. "Can I pray?" she asked, gesturing to the already occupied conference room. I asked if she would like a quieter space and unlocked an empty office for her.

Less than a week later, I came across another student on a prayer rug in the stairwell.

I then went to the dean of student affairs to propose that we create a designated prayer space on campus. And not for the first time did I think about how the world of ecumenism has expanded to include interreligious partners.

When I was a college student in the 1980s, we worked on ecumenical efforts with Roman Catholics and Baptists. Today students venturing into the world of ecumenism also frequently encounter adherents from other world religions.

Looking at how the word "ecumenism" comes to us gives a sense of how earlier church incarnations viewed ecumenical outreach. Donald McCoid, assistant to theELCA presiding bishop and executive for ecumenical and interreligious relations, said: "Ecumenism has its roots in being of the same household (oikoumene). The quest for a united Christian church has kept this meaning of ecumenism as the focus for Christian dialogues and Christian unity." 

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