reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Some thoughts about unity

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Well - I've been getting some stuff ready about unity for my church, and it's really struck me, how much so often what we talk about as unity misses the point completely

2 things have made me think this

  • Jesus unity with God the Father (our model for unity) is relational not functional - that is to say it isn't the structure of Jesus' relationship with God that we are to model in our relationships with other Christians, it is the quality of the relationship. It's not as if God the Father and Jesus have set up an organisation together (Godhead inc. or suchlike) they just love each other.
  • Church in the Bible is the word ekklesia, and is nearly always used to mean the local gathering of Christians rather than the church of Christ is the whole world. I think there's maybe one exception in Colossians 1 which I don't really understand, and once in hebrews where it means the eternal spiritual gathering of God's people in heaven.

I think this means a few things for the way we practice unity, and the questions we have about it:

1) most of the questions people ask me about "unity" are about functional unity - why don't we do things with this church or this church or this group? Whereas I think Jesus is more interested in more interested in whether we actually love Christians where we find them, rather than the whether institutions put on joint events. This is especially true if church= local church - and so our responsibility is to primarily to love people in our local congregations. The doctrine of unity is more likely to lead me, if applied properly, to seek out and practically love that person in the church I find very difficult than to organise an ecumenical prayer meeting.

2) In fact, if unity is about loving other Christians where we find them, NOT working with other Christian groups (as a church) who we think are seriously mistaken over some area of doctrine, is actually an expression of love as much as working with them would be - hopefully it will enable us to love other Christians well, as we meet them, why we think what their church teaches in unhelpful. Of course, we must actually love other Christians wherever we meet them, rather than getting all doctrinally snobby - which is the worst excess of Christians like me.

3) Denominational unity is pretty unimportant to be honest. Whether the Anglican-Methodist covenant works out may be an interesting sociological or strategic decision, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the doctrine of unity as the Bible teaches it. Creating that functional unity won't necessarily (or even probably) increase the love Christians show to one another.

Just before someone leaps on me (through cyberspace) and asks me why my ekklesia does stuff with other ekklesias occasionally I think the Bible does show the model of some local congregations helping other local congregations who are in need. So I have no problem with helping other churches helping us (!) and us helping them where there is some sort of great need. But I hope that we would do that anyway, because of love - and I'm not sure than in itself is a sign of unity.

Not sure about that last bit - like all of ths stuff I'm still working it out......


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