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Leader comment >

Unity and humility

THE Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws to a close for another year. For those readers - by no means all - who participated in joint services, it was an opportunity to express solidarity with other Christians, giving and receiving welcome and hospitality. It was also, human nature being what it is, an opportunity to cast over another sect the critical eye that is usually reserved for one's own. One of the chief hindrances to closer unity is the surprisingly strong loyalty that springs up when encountering another group that expresses a desire for the same ultimate goal. In fact, competing football fans are an accurate, if unflattering, analogy. Put a group of Arsenal supporters together, and you might not hear one good word said about the team. Set a Tottenham supporter in their midst, and not one word of criticism will be brooked.

The problem is that nobody really knows what Christian Unity (the phrase seems to require upper-case letters) looks like. For most, it suggests a single organisation and joint worship. The first element seems fantastical, given the tendency towards schism - 41,000 denominations worldwide and counting; the second, frankly, is unwelcome, given the difficulty, even within one denomination, of finding a service that suits everyone's spirituality and taste. In actual fact, taken out of upper-case letters, Christian unity is familiar to everyone. No two people sharing a pew, or seated, side by side, in comfortable chairs, encounter God in the same way; yet they are united by the one thing above all else that drew them into that service. Assuming that they can be persuaded to acknowledge each other's existence - not a foregone conclusion - they will discover, if nothing else, a common desire to know God more. And if there is nothing else, this too can be celebrated. All of the larger denominations encompass a breadth of styles. The particular charism of Anglicanism is that its breadth is so awkwardly and excitingly great. Taking St Paul's metaphor of the body: a grouping of just eyes, or hands, might experience the fleeting pleasure of compatibility before the realisation of their fundamental uselessness sinks in.

This is where mission comes in. Christian disunity can seem dangerously familiar and acceptable, unless seen through the eyes of those who expect the Church to model the one God in Christ whom all the various Christians purport to emulate. Until ecclesial structures reflect Christ's prayer that all shall be one, the chief element of this week - and all subsequent weeks - should be shame.
 

Consulting the victims

THE General Synod is to discuss new safeguarding measures next month. It seems astonishing to us that these were drawn up, yet again, without help from victims' groups. Accounts differ about whether they were informed, but when it was known that they had not responded, why on earth were they not contacted?

Job of the week

House for Duty Priest in Charge

North West

DIOCESE OF CARLISLE Black Combe Benefice St. Michael and All Angels Bootle; St. John The Baptist Corney; St. Mary's Whitbeck; St Mary's Whicham The Bishop of Carlisle seeks to appoint a House...  Read More

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Top feature

Not only dancing in the aisles

Not only dancing in the aisles

From skateboarding to real ale, churches are being used to engage with their localities in ever more imaginative ways. Pat Ashworth reports  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Should churchpeople resist the proposed liberalisation of Sunday trading laws?

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Top comment

Listen to the Spirit - on the bus

A new initiative offers an appealing means of encouraging prayer, says Richard Chartres  Subscribe to read more

Wed 10 Feb 16 @ 22:48
The Church Commissioners agree extra £72.7m for mission https://t.co/ujVlbPxgCV https://t.co/7LaUdu1F4L

Wed 10 Feb 16 @ 21:11
A new initiative offers an appealing means of encouraging prayer, says Richard Chartres https://t.co/Rkmjc33BFc https://t.co/szKcoajhtG