Greetings from St. Louis and the National Workshop on Christian Unity!
What a beautiful gathering thus far - Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist, and the Presbyterian Church USA (amongst other denominations) - all together talking about our joint efforts to live into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Gospel of grace, of love, and abundant life.
I have been pondering this thing called ‘unity.’
What is it?
We pray for one church: a holy (set apart by God), catholic (universal or whole - depending on your Greek word study choices), apostolic (continued living tradition of the apostles) church. Does this mean one universal church body? No.
Christian unity is not Christian uniformity. Uniformity leaves absolutely no room for the numerous and diverse expressions of the one God of Christ. It leaves out the beauty we find in all the different ways we seek to know God.
Yet, at the same time, it leaves a great amount of space for us to find areas where we all agree. Poverty, hunger, drugs, and racism can almost universally be named for what they are...evil. Sinful. And when the churches unite to fight these awful realities of society, we can make advances in the name of Christ - in the name of unity. The people that are uplifted along the way are done so to the glory of God and through the grace of Jesus Christ.
One of the images that will sit with me for a long time is that of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis and the Methodist Bishop in conversation. They spoke about their joint work in confronting racism and the proliferation of guns in the city. They became friends during the awful tensions after the shooting in Ferguson - they retain a friendship where they support one another - even if they do not theologically see eye to eye. They see the humanity in each other and as a result, they see God. It may seem insignificant, but think about it...an Archbishop and a Methodist Bishop...working side by side to make the city a better place. Each seeing the holiness of God in the face of the other.
Perhaps Christian Unity is found in relationship. Perhaps in relationship we can appreciate, value, and call sacred the diversity in the other. In so doing, we also find the similarities. No matter what, we find God.
Yours in Christ,