Is Christian Unity Possible?

I am a pastor serving in a denomination that made the pursuit of Christian unity its guiding principle. We have a long history of ecumenical participation. It's what drew me to the denomination. One of my predecessors as pastor of this congregation (in the fairly distant past -- 1920s through 40s) served as president of the Federal Council of Churches, so it is part of our congregational DNA. I am a board member of the denomination's Council on Christian Unity. But I wonder whether what one of our founders called our "polar star" is still our polar star. The denominational entity that I serve as a board member barely survives as denominational dollars continue to shrink and other areas of church life seem more important to the majority of our congregations, clergy, and leaders. 

A number of years ago we tried to tweak our unitive mission declaring ourselves to be a "movement of wholeness in a fragmented world." I actually like that statement. I had it put on our own congregational website. I think this is a worthy mission for the church, especially at this moment in history when we have become increasingly polarized. But more recently, especially since joining the CCU board, I've begun to wonder whether this effort to tweak the mission statement has diminished our commitment to the pursuit of unity. 

Although we affirmed a full communion statement with the United Church of Canada at the recent General Assembly, something that hopefully helps support our Canadian Churches, which are spread across the vastness of Canada. But, we don't have similar relationships with other mainline Protestant churches, with the exception of the United Church of Christ and the Alliance of Baptists. We don't have a similar relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the ELCA, the American Baptists, or the United Methodist Church among others. Thus, we don't have mutual recognition of ministries or sacraments. The assumption was that the Consultation on Church Union would take care of that situation. It never occurred and we don't have the necessary bilateral relationships or the means to pursue them (at least I don't see that we do). While such official relationships won't prevent congregations like mine from pursuing collaborative relationships with congregations that are outside our full communion partners, it doesn't help.

So, here's my question for consideration. Is ecumenical work (the pursuit of Christian unity) on an institutional basis of value in a "post-denominational" age?  Does it matter if we don't have full communion with denominations whose congregations we are collaborating with? Should we put resources there?  In the end, is Christian unity in a visible form truly possible?


Philip V. Miller said…
Institutional unity has some practical benefits, and it would seem to afford venues for theological dialogue. The more difficult challenge, worldwide, is the growing schism between fundamentalists and nearly everyone else. Right-wing political movements, sanctioned by church leaders, are growing not only in the US, but throughout Europe.

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