In Christianity the qualification ecumenical is originally (and still) used in terms such as "ecumenical council" and "Ecumenical Patriarch" in the meaning of pertaining to the totality of the larger Church (such as the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church) rather than being restricted to one of its constituent local churches or dioceses.

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Ecumenism refers to efforts by Christians of different Church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings.

The term is also often used to refer to efforts towards the visible and organic unity of different Christian denominations in some form.

The first significant, lasting split in historic Christianity came from the Church of the East, consisting largely of Eastern Syriac churches outside the Roman Empire, who left full communion after 431 in response to misunderstandings and personality conflicts at the Council of Ephesus.

After fifteen centuries of estrangement, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church entered into an ecumenical dialogue in the 1980s, resulting in agreement on the very issue that split them asunder, in the 1994 Common Christological Declaration, which identifies the origin of the schism as largely linguistic, due to problems of translating very delicate and precise terminology from Latin to Aramaic and vice versa.

The exact number of these denominations is disputed, based on differing definitions used.

The largest number often quoted is "approximately 45,000" from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

These also include the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in India.

In modern times, there have also been moves towards healing this division, with common Christological statements being made between Pope John Paul II and Syriac patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, as well as between representatives of both Oriental Orthodoxy and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Moreover, the classic distinction between Pentecostals and Charismatics is that the former are entire denominations (such as the Assembly of God) or include most nondenominational churches, whereas the latter are Spirit-filled Christians in already existing Catholic or mainline Protestant churches.

Moreover, some Evangelical churches are also Pentecostal, though certainly not all. The oldest lasting schism in Christianity resulted from fifth-century disagreements on Christology, heightened by philosophical, linguistic, cultural, and political differences.

There are a variety of different expectations of what that Christian unity looks like, how it is brought about, what ecumenical methods ought to be engaged, and what both short- and long-term objectives of the ecumenical movement should be.