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

That the 46,000 may be one

Click to enlarge

EACH year, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, based at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, publishes a one-page summary of the state of world Christianity. The figures are only as good as their sources: the page requires several further pages of methodology. It remains, none the less, a laudable exercise. Sadly, the statisticians have dropped the column that calculates the daily change for each category, but it is still possible to estimate that an average of 2.4 new Christian denominations spring up each day, taking the global total in early 2016 to 46,000. Many of these are simply independent churches, lacking a national or even regional structure. No one could object to spontaneous responses to the Holy Spirit’s working — though one would like to see them drawing together with their neighbours pretty quickly. Many denominations, though, are created through schism, when church members decide that they can no longer tolerate the behaviour or beliefs of their co-religionists. Typically, in such circumstances, one party feels righteous and the other relieved; but the Holy Spirit is not fooled.

In their preface to Looking Forward to a Church Fully Reconciled, the collection of documents from the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II), the co-chairs write: “The reality of our divisions since the Reformation remains a scandal, when we think of Christ’s call to be one. . . . We believe, however, that the redeeming grace of God is never withdrawn and that the reconciling movement of the Holy Spirit abounds all the more in the midst of our schism and woundedness.” There is a pious paradox in this last sentiment, which, if uttered by a football manager, would translate roughly as “The worse our team plays, the more chance it has of winning.” It is, of course, wise to recall that Christian unity is the work of the Spirit, but all the evidence suggests that God does not impose unity on those who eschew it. Schism and woundedness can be opportunities for God to work, but they must first be acknowledged as such. All too often, members of a denomination sit comfortably in their adopted tradition, unaware of the glories, insights, and challenges they are missing.

We thus enter the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the same hopeful spirit as in the past, but with our eyes open. For those with energy and imagination (and transport), joint services with Christians of other denominations are a way to revive the friendliness that might have been neglected of late, creating a fertile ground for united enterprises and closer working in the weeks ahead. For others, though, it is just a morning or evening off. When patterns and places of worship seem so enduring and permanent, encouraging people to recognise disunity as a scandal is never easy.

Job of the week

Priest

North West

Central Calder Mission Community Carlisle Diocese Full-Time Post Crosslacon: Cleator, Cleator Moor, Frizington and Arlecdon Central Calder Mission Community Do you care about those on the edg...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Exporting the Brompton Way

Exporting the Brompton Way

An HTB church-plant is now widely expected when a well-situated urban church’s numbers are low. Madeleine Davies investigates the phenomenon  Read More

Top comment

The unexpected value of colouring a pirate face

Ministry is about much more than time-sheets, says Claire Jones  Read More

Wed 26 Apr 17 @ 19:55
New to the PCC? New to the Church Times? Don't miss our PCC member offer: https://t.co/hFoKkdhjux (new UK subscribe… https://t.co/NuIKMCQOhC

Wed 26 Apr 17 @ 18:57
Amazon faith ad on @sandfordawards prize shortlist https://t.co/KhepIQHzRG