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This is the fourth of eight posts reflecting upon a recent paper released by the Conference of European Churches. The background can be found in a post on Methodist Ecumenical News. The paper is Visions of Unity in Our Churches - Points of Convergence.
The report includes eight points of convergence and I thought it might be interesting to consider them one by one.
Christian Identities are rich gifts of God to be shared with each other. We have to wrestle with the question about the relationship between the maintenance of our particular ecclesial identities and the search for the visible unity in the One Church of Christ.
We understand the church as a single entity divided. So, ecclesial identities are in tension with visible unity. Being part of one such identity or tradition is perceived as in tension with being part of the One Church of Christ.
It's difficult to imagine what unity could possibly mean, if it does not in some sense already exist. Is salvation on hold until we sort out the unity of the church? Of course not. Indeed later in the paper the claim is made that 'the unity of the church already exists since all God’s faithful people living and departed are perfectly united with God in Christ and therefore with each other in the communio sanctorum.' (Page 4)
So, why do we seek structural unity, given that all are already saved? In the extreme an enforced unity, in the sense of one church you must join to be saved, would seem to be superfluous. (Many people already belong to such a church, the problem being there is more than one.) Or do we seek unity through relationships between members of different traditions?
The unity we seek has to be solidarity between traditions in the teeth of those who would dominate us through their superiority; their trousering of the keys to salvation. Paradoxically, it is the claim that there is one true church, that divides us.
In practice, I don't have too much of a problem with the power elites in our churches so long as they are accountable to the faithful. The problems would be insurmountable if there were one single hierarchy.