The goal of Christian :Inky is a clear one. So clear that it is easy to pretend that It is already achieved.
The Council broadened the Church, pushing aside unnecessary rules bringing to the fore the vital doctrines. The idea of sincere Christians of other denominations being heretical and beyond the pale of salvation is gone. Even the suggestion that Christians of other denominations should have to leave their Church and be formally received Into the Catholic Church is unfashionable and unrealistic.
In Europe today we are living in an increasingly pluralistic society, but plurality does not deny unity. There will be no monolithic Christian society, only local communities, all different, all centred on Christ.
We are also learning that the major causes of the original separation are political and cultural and not theological. As in Northern Ireland, the devil seems to have successfully entwined theological differences with major political rifts and made the rift look purely religious. Nevertheless the rift is a major cause of scandal to Christianity and in addition it weakens the voice and work of Christ in the world.
We are living in a post industrial world. People are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the religion of scientific and materialist progress which they have believed since the mid 19th Century. The emphasis is less on growth and quantity, more on stability and quality. This is producing a movement to the local and the domestic, away from big solutions, big Institutions.
In this context denominational divisions are an absurd anachronism.
Many people have already recognised this. Not only married couples but others from different denominational backgrounds are partaking of each other's communion. People are finding that the group of people with whom they work, or help out in local charitable organisations are the group with whom they feel the greatest Christian fellowship.
The future undoubtedly lies this way. Basic Christian communities knowing each other, praying together, active in serving the area in a caring way, are the emerging pattern. Hopefully they will not be known as Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists or Baptists because of the sort of Church they visit on a Sunday but, as it once was, their most distinguishing mark will be that they love each other. While it would be disingenuous for the Churches to pretend the day has already arrived when we can call ourselves one, much could be done to speed up the day of unity.
The Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission has presented its three reports.
The two teams of theologians have laid out the map in the three areas of the euchariet, ordina tion and the ministry, and authority in the Church. The reports have not yet been accepted by either of the Churches. For no apparent reason we are still waiting for an official endorsement, qualified or unqualified from both sides.
Meanwhile much of the impetus given to the cause of ecumenism in the parishes and local communities Is being lost. Without intercommunion at least occasionally there is a limit to the significance and attraction of formal ecumenical prayer meetings.
Christians need other reasons to be brought together. We would suggest that every organisation at local and national level which works with the poor, the old, the handicapped, or raises money for such causes should come together to discuss how they can merge with their denominational counterparts to further the cause of unity.