It seems to me that ecumenism could learn quite a lot from interreligious dialogue. For one thing all religions have their internal differences and denominations. Judaism has its orthodox, reform and liberal movements; Buddhism can be divided into Theravada, Mahayana or Vajryana Buddhism; Islam has its Shia and Sunni denominations as well as its various schools of law and Hinduism consists of many paths which are so varied that they seem like separate religions. This diversity is accepted by students of religion and in dialogue people are interested in these differences and keen to know how the different denominations relate to one another. This isn't scandalous but a recognition of the diversity that exists in all religions. So it's not at all scandalous that Christianity has its divisions as long as there is acceptance of this difference. One of the motivations for the ecumenical movement was the competition of missionaries touting for converts and insisting that their version was the true Christianity.
Today we are happier living with diversity. In interreligious dialogue we are not looking for a new unified faith. Rather we rejoice in difference and strive to understand those who are different from us. We search for the gift of wisdom to be found at the heart of faith, to recognise truth when we come across it - a truth which often gives new insights into our own faith and deepens our understanding of its truth. Sometimes too we find that other faiths have practices that we wish our own faith would adopt - a kind of holy envy so to speak. And underneath all this diversity we recognise a fundamental unity - a common humanity and a common search for meaning, value and purpose in life.
But religions are also interrelated as is everything else in life. All of them have come from the womb of Asia. Many of them have emerged from other religions or indigenous religions eg Christianity has its roots in Judaism, Buddhism has its roots in Hinduism. Sometimes these religions can be best understood when their origins are known. What is their distinct message looked at in the light of the world which gave them birth? This can reveal their particular truth but should also be a reminder that the expression of that truth is conditioned and affected by its context. That should, I think, be a sign that no religion has the totality of truth or the most complete expression of it. We do have a lot to learn from one another.
Luckily there is a movement within Christian ecumenism that reflects the work of interreligious dialogue. it's called receptive ecumenism and focuses on the gifts of faith and practice that different denominations have to offer to one another. It requires humility and an open heart if it is to take the christian churches forward in their journey together. It values an essential unity which is not harmed by diversity but may even be enhanced by it.
So this coming week I pray not just for Christian unity but for the openess of heart that will take us to the table of dialogue so that we learn to value and respect those whose expression of Christianity is different from mine.