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10 Things You Can Do for the Unity of the Church

by Steven R. Harmon (a Baptist theologian)*

from Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity
Cascade Books, 2010, pages 55-70

available at http://www.amazon.com/Ecumenism-Means-You-Steven-Harmon/dp/1606088653


·      First, pray for the unity of the church. (p. 57)

·      Second, pray for the unity of the church in the company of other Christians with whom you have serious disagreements. (p. 58-60) “These moments of prayer move Christians from being persons whose backs are turned towards each other, each confession facing away from the others, to Christians turned toward God and one another, beginning to recognize themselves as disciples of the same Lord. The act of gathering in Jesus’ name to pray for unity is a moment of such unity.” (Gros, McManus, and Riggs, Introduction to Ecumenism, p. 104.)

·      Third, commit yourself to the life of a particular church warts and all. (p. 60-61)

·      Fourth, embrace a particular denominational tradition. (p. 61)

·      Fifth, learn all you can about the “Great Tradition” to which all denominational traditions are heirs. (p. 61-63) “Long before there was a Protestant Reformation and prior to the schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, there was a millennium of Christianity from the end of the New Testament era to the early Middle Ages that preceded the current divisions of the church. The faith and practice of this ancient, more united church is what many have taken to calling the ‘Great Tradition’.”

·      Sixth, learn all you can about other denominational traditions. (p. 63-64)

·      Seventh, while remaining committed to your own denominational tradition, adopt another denominational tradition as a second tradition, much as you would learn a second language (p. 64-67)… “When full communion does not exist, churches should acknowledge and encourage special vocations for the sake of unity… The churches should seek to identify and champion these vocations as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the divided churches.”  (In One Body Through the Cross: The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity, 2003, p. 49-50.) “Bi-denominational” Christians can be key facilitators of the exchange of ecclesial gifts among the divided churches.”

·      Eighth, join other Christians in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. (p. 67-68)

·      Ninth, join other Christians in serving as advocates for social justice and environmental responsibility. (p. 68-69)

·      Tenth, in connection with all of the above: search the Scriptures – devotionally, in the context of corporate worship, and with study groups in your own congregation, but also with Christians from other traditions. (p. 69-70)…. “Moving toward unity requires that we not only come to an appreciation of each other’s faith; it also requires that we contest our serious disagreements with one another in love…. “

 

* Steven R. Harmon teaches Christian Theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. A member of the Baptist World Alliance delegations to the international theological conversations with the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and a plenary member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, he is the author of Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision (2006). He blogs about his work in ecumenical theology at http://www.ecclesialtheology.blogspot.com.


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