Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pray for Christian Unity: Over and over, and over and...

This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We, all Christians of various denominations and Rites, are to pray unceasingly for unity. We are to recognize that there is more that unites us than divides us, there is more that we agree on than we disagree on.

I agree but it is difficult. We all know that we are right and yet it is not about us! We started out as one church but when were there not divisions? Certainly Saints Peter and Paul knew of divisions. Were we to follow the Law, stay kosher, and follow all the old commandments? Were the Gentiles, the Greeks free of the Law and yet open to salvation? Certainly the Church Fathers knew divisions, otherwise why all of the Ecumenical Councils? Certainly the Bishops and Metropolitans knew division, the Bishop of Rome was first among equals and yet the councils met everywhere except Rome.

Disunity has resulted in so much loss. The churches of the East and of Northern Africa are diminished in size but not in contribution to the Body. Yet where is our support and appreciation of these churches. We (many Christian denominations) send missionaries to the lands of the Eastern Churches to make them like us, Western. Why are we not helping them survive as a testament to their heritage and contribution to all of us?

If there were not divisions than why so many Romes? First Rome than Constantinople the Second Rome, then Kiev and then Moscow the New Romes. Schisms, Reformation, Inquisitions, Holy Wars, all in the name of one God, one Church. Yes, let’s pray for Christian Unity!

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is the result of the ecumenical movement. It is an attempt to heal the divisions within the Church. We are to reflect on: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." We are to reflect on: “when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20) In the United States this year the Society of Atonement marks one hundred years of praying for Christian Unity.

In 1894 Cardinal Mercier wrote the “Testament of Mercier”. This is the foundation of Unity Week. The Cardinal stated,
In order to unite with one another, we must love one another;
in order to love one another, we must know one another;
in order to know one another, we must go and meet one another.

You can tell when unity is present by its gifts. The Council of Churches in Sudan consists of the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Episcopalian Church, African Pentecostal Church, African Inland Church, and the African Interior Church. They have been instrumental in negotiating a peace settlement that has ended a 21 year civil war, the longest war in African history.

The Roman Catholic Church and various Orthodox leaders have cautiously but continually been exploring points of unity. Lutherans, Anglicans and Catholics continue this important dialogue. Peace Churches find ways to work with one another to achieve peace while not minimizing their important theological differences.

All over the world one can find examples of denominations sharing resources and personel in an attempt to feed the poor, heal the sick and advocate for justice. Still, the divisions are real and they interfere with these good works.

So, again, let us pray for Christian Unity.


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