Unity between Denominations? Part I: The Problem

The Problem:

Followers of Christ are quite clearly called to a profound kind of unity. Christ goes so far as to pray that we should be one in a manner akin to how He and His Father are one. Did you catch that? Christians are to share in the Divine Trinitarian Unity. This is quite radical! But is this what we observe when we look at Christianity?

No. Instead of being able to comfortably and fearlessly enter any church around the world with confidence that we will join with a community who professes all of the same faith we do, and will worship in accordance with God’s will, and with whom we can receive Holy Communion, we must check the sign out the front, and pass them by if they are not in communion with us.

So how does one resolve this dilemma? A few days ago the solution I heard proposed, as I understood it, was basically this: while we should acknowledge the differences between denominations as real and significant (i.e., we should remain as separate groups), we should remember that our unity is grounded in Christ, and so shouldn’t treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as though they are not just as Christian as we are. Really, it seemed to me to be a confused mix of “all this division is bad, but it should stay because the disagreements are important.”

I think really it came down to the fact there is no way to have a visibly unified universal church in the Protestant paradigm, and so the conversation quickly moved to how the local church community should have unity, since that is more immediately achievable. This revolved around things like being truthful, resolving disputes quickly, living virtues like charity, patience, and humility, and doing the will of God. (cf. Eph. 4:1-6,25-32) All of which are important, and certainly the local church ought to be unified. But the Church is both local and universal.

So what is the problem? Christians ought to be one, and yet clearly aren’t. How is unity to be achieved between denominations without compromising on the Truth of Our Lord? It seems hopeless in the Protestant paradigm, which is problematic given how important it seems to be to Jesus and the New Testament writers, but I am going to propose that it is possible, and has always been so, and unity has always been maintained in, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

This issue is one very close to my heart. The disunity in the Body of Christ grieves me deeply for a number of reasons:

  • There are untold riches in the Church that millions of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are missing out on.
  • We cannot receive and commune with the Lord in the Eucharist together, and this is a privilege that I get to experience, but they do not because they don’t have valid sacraments (except baptism) (unless they’re Orthodox)
  • I feel deeply for the married couples who cannot receive Communion from the same table.
  • Christ prayed for the unity of His followers, just think how much our divisions grieve Him, as fresh wounds in His Body.
  • The divisions in the Church are a cause of scandal- instead of our unity being a witness to Christ, it causes people to look at us and say, “How can Christianity be true, they can’t even agree amongst themselves!” How can we possibly expect the world to regard us as credible if we cannot agree with each other on the most fundamental questions?
I am strongly of the opinion that if more of us, from whatever Christian background, went out of our way to build authentic friendships, Christ would bring much fruit from that. I speak mostly from the perspective of Catholic-Protestant relations, because that is what I have had most experience with. “Official” dialogue is made difficult with our Protestant brethren because there are so many groups and such widespread wariness of hierarchy that there is not much ecclesiological ground in common upon which we may build. Thus it must generally take place on the individual level, and this won’t happen on a large-scale unless we are much more intentional about it. 
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4 thoughts on “Unity between Denominations? Part I: The Problem

  1. WHICH CHURCH?Jesus said I will build My church. Which church was that? Matthew 16:15-19…."But who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."…..18 I also say to you that are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven……(THE KEYS WERE USED IN ACTS CHAPTER 2)Did Jesus say I will build the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, or any of the other 30,000 denominations?JESUS SAID I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!HEAD OF THE CHURCH: Ephesians 5:23…as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.The apostle Paul did not say, select a man on earth, or a national board and then appoint him or them as head of the church? Paul said Jesus was the head of the church.JESUS IS AND WILL BE, UNTIL HE RETURNS, THE HEAD OF HIS CHURCH.When the apostle Paul sent greetings to the Christians in Rome, he said; (Romans 16:16 ….All the churches of Christ send greeting.) Paul did not send greetings from the churches of Roman Catholics, nor from any other denomination. Paul was a member of the Lord's church, not some denomination.Acts Chapter 2: The same Peter, who Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven told them how to become member of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, (the kingdom of heaven on earth is the church of Christ, the Lord's church, the body of Christ)? Peter preach Jesus to them and when they believed, he told them to repent and be baptized so their sins could be forgiven, and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were added to the Lord's church.Acts 2:40-41….."Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.They were added to the church only after they believed Peter's preaching and were immersed in water.The Lord added the saved to His church. The Lord did not add them to the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran church, the Baptist Church, nor any of the other 30,000 denomination that exist today. (Acts 2:47… And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.)CAN JOINING A DENOMINATION SAVE ANYONE?Did the apostle Peter consult a man-made catechism, a creed book, or a denominational statement of faith before he preached on the Day of Pentecost?Revelation 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.Having you name written in the role book of one of the 30,000 denominations cannot keep you from being thrown into the lake of fire.When Jesus returns He is coming for His church. Is your name written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:1-27……27 but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.Which church did Jesus die for? JESUS DIED FOR HIS CHURCH!( All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>. steve finnell a christian view

  2. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your comment. I apologise that I left it so long before commenting. I think I would pretty much agree with most of what you’ve said here, with one exception. I’d say that the Catholic Church is not a denomination, but is precisely synonymous with that Church that Christ Himself founded.
    God bless,
    Mon

  3. […] I’ve written a bit on Christian unity before, in “Why I attend an Anglican Bible Study“, and my series on denominations. […]

  4. […] The fundamental problem with all of this is that what actually happened in the Reformation was not reform, but schism. If real reform had taken place, it would have taken place within the one Church. What happened instead was a protesting breakaway, which has now developed into a plethora of denominations, completely lacking in unity. […]

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