St Cuthbert’s Church© 2016
St. Cuthbert’s Church Brunswick
Diocese of Newcastle
As many of you are aware my friend and I have spoken to each on the phone twice a week since we were ordained 22 years ago.
In one of our weekly phones calls David gave me the Anglican greeting ‘The Lord be with you ‘to which I replied, ‘and also with you.” During our phone conversation he asked me the question “are you having any prayer meetings for Christian unity?” To which I replied “No I am not, I don’t believe in prayer meetings for Christian unity.” David knows me well enough and wasn’t at all shocked by my response.
Sadly and painfully there are many divisions in the church which often gets it a bad press. Just recently the media has highlighted again the split in the Anglican community over Gay priests, if it’s not Gay priests, it’s women Bishops and others issues that divide the church. Even locally congregations can be divided with church council meetings resembling a battle ground. So when the Diocese and Parish churches announce and advertise prayer meetings for Christian unity my question is “what are we expecting or wanting God to do?” To be blunt if there is disunity in the church God isn’t going to fix it. I believe it’s a waste of time praying and asking God to fix something that isn’t His problem or his responsibility. Perhaps though praying for Christian unity makes us feel less responsible and distances us from our own actions which cause disunity.
The church must stop putting the onus back on God whilst avoiding its responsibility to put into practice what the Bible teaches about Christian unity. The world is watching and until we start to reflect the teaching of Christ in our lives and churches then the message we preach is going to be ineffective. When Jesus said that we should love one another as He first loved us, it wasn’t a good suggestion, it was a commandment.
Of course I believe in praying for unity within our churches my friend understood perfectly the point I was making. Jesus said that we ought to take the plank out of our own eye before trying to take the spec out our brother’s eye. Christian unity begins with us when we put into practice what is taught in the Bible. In order for unity to come we have to first examine ourselves and see if there is anything we need to repent of, it’s all too easy and convenient to put the onus back on God.
I end with the passage of scripture that I read before every church council meeting which promotes Christian unity which speaks of imitating Christ humility.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians chapter 2:1-4