New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
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

Online Vicar

London and Home Counties

SOUL SEARCH ONLINE VICAR 20 hours a week working from home, pay is £20,000 Are you passionate about evangelism? Does digital media excite you as a means to connect with people to share the goo...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Archbishop who was driven out of office

Holding fast in troubled waters

William Sancroft, born 400 years ago this month, was Archbishop of Canterbury in turbulent times; his period in office included incarceration in the Tower of London. John Tiller tells his story  Subscribe to read more

Top comment

Improving the future by disturbing the present

Interim minsters do much more than hold the fort: they can implement lasting change, say Helen Gheorghiu Gould and Peter Hill  Subscribe to read more

Sun 22 Jan 17 @ 18:15
New theological college in Yorkshire, St Hild, goes for the ‘St Mellitus effect’ https://t.co/FX7KFgZgnG

Sun 22 Jan 17 @ 16:12
'Refugees are freezing to death while European leaders turn a blind eye to suffering of people on their doorsteps' https://t.co/jm2WWgoLzB