With one friend of mine, our conversations always circle back to this: church unity. It’s become a running joke, but the issue is no joking matter.
We’re passionate and helpless about church unity. We want an end to the bickering, miscommunication, and pride, and a beginning of understanding among Christians all confessing one Lord, one Savior, one baptism. We don’t know what else to do except lament about it every time we call each other.
It frustrates me to hear people say, “Oh, don’t the Orthodox believe mostly in works?”, or to see sites dedicated to evangelizing Catholics, or to sense “maybe she’s converting to our side!” during theological conversations. I’m tired of running into statements of faith that purposefully isolate themselves from other denominations or traditions. And if I hear one more person equate historic expressions of the Christian faith with Mormonism, Islam, or a run-of-the-mill cult….
Mostly, it bothers me because I, not so long ago, was very interested in who was in and who was out, in drawing gaping lines in the sand that cut me off from the church catholic and violated Jesus’ deepest wish.
I could go on and on and on about how church disunity ticks me off, breaks my heart, and makes me want to punch something, but really, I just wanted to share Sarah Bessey’s words that set off this rant:
Sometimes I joke that I’m too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives in matters of both politics and theology. I don’t know if that’s entirely true anymore but I do know that I have friends across all that divides us.
And that has changed me for the better. It’s opened my eyes, given me compassion, helped me learn to shut up a bit more, deepened my love for our world. …
We aren’t meant to be dislocated and divided from one another. We are meant to have friendships – publicly and privately – with people who are different than us, people who think differently, who experience God differently, who go through the world differently. The only way to unity – which is not the same thing as conformity – is through friendship, through listening, through claiming each other. This is a good thing. I think it’s important for us to publicly claim each other and say, we’re in this thing together even if everyone thinks we shouldn’t be doing anything together.
If our friendships aren’t making people uncomfortable, I wonder if our world is too small.
I’d like to publicly claim that I stand by my Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Protestant, liberal, conservative, whatever brothers and sisters in Christ who confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the trinity, one in essence and undivided, and the death, resurrection, and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
As much as our differences are real and our flaws awful and annoying, I still hope for the kingdom on earth to look like the kingdom in heaven — fully united with all the people we were so eager to convert in this life.
How do you feel about church unity (or the lack thereof)?