Some potential impediments to ecumenism in the Gulf include:
- The transient nature of expatriates in the Gulf.
- Due to Christians in the Gulf being a minority and due to the non-resident status of most Christians, a competitive spirit develops whereby church leaders vie for a perceived limitation of granted land, sites for new buildings and visitor visas. This competition leads to operational separation even when churches are obligated to share common worship space.
- Due to the non-resident status of Christians and the perceived or real sensitivities with Gulf governments regarding advocacy by foreigners for migrant workers, Christians are hesitant to engage in diaconal and social justice work that might jeopardize visas and lead to greater restrictions for the Christian communities.
- Time limitations. Church pastors and leaders work very long hours with multiple responsibilities and find it challenging to devote significant time to efforts beyond the immediate needs of their communities.
- Financial constraints. Ecumenical collaboration at any level requires funding. Finding adequate funding has been a challenge in the past.
- Often national allegiances are stronger than inter-church partnerships.
- Linguistic differences.
While these are impediments, they are not insurmountable obstacles. The Gulf Churches Fellowship (GCF) has been meeting consistently since 2012 with equal and substantial participation from all five church families.
As of 2015, there were estimated to be over 3.4 million Christians living in the six countries of the Gulf, which is 6.5% of the total population of people residing in the Gulf. The percentage of Christians residing in each country varies. In Bahrain Christians make up 13% of the total population, in Kuwait 9%, in Oman 4.3%, in Qatar 9%, in Saudi Arabia 4.3%, and in the UAE 12.5% of the population is Christian. The total populations of the Gulf countries are as follows: Bahrain 1,377,237, Christians 179,415, Kuwait 3,892,115, Christians 349,470; Oman 4,490,541, Christians 193,040; Qatar 2,235,355, Christians 201,460; Saudi Arabia 31,540,372, Christians 1,359,250; UAE 9,156,963, Christians 1,142,930. The total population of the Gulf countries combined is 52,692,583 with 3,425,565 Christians. (World Christian Encyclopedia, www.worldchristiandatabase.org).)