Theologians Aren’t the Only Ones Who Can Bring About Church Unity

Image: iStock
Image: iStock

Scene 1: The setting is the Baptist church I used to attend. I walk in just before the service starts, prepared to notice all the glaring deficiencies that caused me to leave the Baptist tradition a couple of years earlier. Now I am an Anglican, and, like many in my newfound tribe, my besetting vice is believing that I have a corner on the rich treasures of Christian history. I expect to wince when I open the bulletin and see that there will be no Communion today. I expect to groan at the plain language and the absence of formal prayers.

Then, sitting with some of my dearest friends who still belong to the church, I experience something else entirely. To my surprise, I’m keenly aware of solidarity with these hand-raising believers. I know all their flaws with the sort of intimacy achieved only by long familiarity, but, through it all, I’m reminded that we share the same baptism. And nothing—not even a midlife change in church affiliation—can cancel that watery bond that is stronger than the bulkiest anchor chain.

Scene 2: The setting is an Anglican church, where I now worship. Sitting beside me is my Catholic friend Ron. We kneel at the same time and pray in unison. We recite the same creed aloud—“I believe in God, the Father Almighty . . . and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”—and we make the same prayer of confession.

When it comes time for Communion, I walk forward to the priest and cup my hands to receive the bread. Ron steps to the altar rail beside me. He crosses his arms over his chest to indicate that he won’t receive the bread and the wine, in obedience to his church’s teachings which preclude Catholics from taking Communion with other traditions until theological unity is achieved.

My priest prays a blessing over Ron as I tip the chalice to my lips. Together we walk back to the pew and kneel to pray. Ron is at my elbow, bowing next to me. I think I hear him repeating the words I’m whispering: “Father, I ask for those who believe, that we all may be one.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Wesley Hill

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