Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
21-28 May 2023
What makes Christian Unity important? Responses and reflections
May 23, 2023
As we mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we invited responses from Uniting Church members engaged in the ecumenical and theological space, reflecting on what makes Christian Unity important.
“The message of Christian unity is not a sweet occasional ‘kumbaya’ moment, but a gritty commitment and determination to recognise and value each other."
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Rev Sandy Boyce, Executive Officer, Victorian Council of Churches and UCA deacon
It is easy to ‘other’ people in multiple ways – gender, ethnicity, language, race, religion, sexuality, ability, intellect, and so on. We see it all the time – at the football, in the media, out of the mouths of politicians. And we recall we have a history of that happening in and between our Christian churches. And we are the poorer for it, because we miss the insights and wisdom of ‘other’ voices.
The message of Christian unity is not a sweet occasional ‘kumbaya’ moment, but a gritty commitment and determination to recognise and value each other, and the Christian traditions, beliefs and practices we hold in common - as well as those that are different. They are part of the beautiful mosaic of living as the people of God.
As we offer dignity and worth to the lived experience of others, and broaden our conversation partners, we deepen and enrich theological discourse as well as our understanding of the reign of God, the community of Christ, and the freedom of the Spirit. And so we celebrate diversity and difference, as well as belonging and inclusion and connection, and in doing so we find the treasure of community and unity as Christian siblings.
Rev Dr Sandy Yule, secretary of the former Assembly Christian Unity Working Group, and participant of the Uniting Church and Salvation Army Dialogue
Christian unity is a gift of God. We are called into it through our baptism and as we hear and respond to the call of Christ to follow. We should pray for it and receive it and inhabit it, knowing that it is not ours to create.
It is instructive to consider the variety of Jesus' disciples. The original 12 were significantly diverse, representing conflicting parts of the Jewish society of his time. There was a tax collector, Matthew, a collaborator with the Romans (and an obvious sinner and enemy of the people). There was Simon, whom Matthew and Mark refer to as a Cananaean (an indigenous and marginalised person), but whom Luke refers to as a zealot (an ‘Israel first, and out with the Romans’ man). There were the ordinary people with Hebrew names, starting with the fishermen. There were the Greek-named people, such as Philip, who probably had a Gentile connection. And then there was Judas Iscariot, who may have been a professional assassin!
Jesus would seem to have appointed the 12 to live and work in his company so that these human differences could be transcended in the life of God’s kingdom.
Among Christians, our human cultural and political differences are not definitive. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth through, among other things, listening to those with whom we do not initially (or even finally) agree. Forming factions would seem to be a sign of turning away from Christ.
The Uniting Church has followed the Holy Spirit in seeking consensus in decision-making, however imperfectly practiced. We have made a covenant between First and Second Peoples in our land, at least within the church. At this time of crisis for reconciliation between First and Second Peoples in Australia, may we recognise that Christ has broken down the wall of enmity between us so that we can speak truth to each other and seek justice together.
Let us pray,
O Lord, grant us the knowledge that we are one with all Christians through you.
May we find new ways to receive and express this unity so that the world may believe.
We pray for the miracle of healing for the sins of our colonial past.
We pray for true repentance from those of us who continue to enjoy the fruits of that history without acknowledgement of those who were dispossessed, displaced and sometimes murdered.
We pray for your peace for our nation, as well as the strength needed to achieve it.
Rev Jon Humphries, Advocate for the Assembly Transforming Worship Circle and panel member of the Growing in Faith Circle
We are all different. We are each unique. This applies to our individuality, but also our communities as the Church, our denominations, our cultures and even our families. We are all different and unique and this, in the wisdom of God, is something that we share together.
Each holds a special place and role in the Body of Christ. Our diversity is our blessing. It enriches us and builds our strength and capacity to join God in God’s mission, that is if we hold to God, who as Christ is the vine and we are the branches.
When we practice the marks of love as shared by the Apostle Paul and when we seek to grow and manifest the fruit of God as Spirit, and most of all when we live in love, then God lives in us and we find our common unity – that is our true communion.
Tri-unity of being,
We are different, yet that makes us the same.
We are gifted in unique ways, and that leads us into greater ministry
As we join together in your mission.
Bless us in our being.
Hold us together.
Forgive our divisions.
Heal our wounds.
Make us one, as your Body in Christ.
Together we pray.
What is unity in diversity? An extract from the Doc.byte series published in 2019.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the Christian community as the body of Christ. Using this metaphor, Paul demonstrates that unity is made up of many diverse parts, yet all these different parts form the one body of Christ. The Christian community is made up of diverse members from different cultures and walks of life. The challenge the church continues to face since its early beginnings is keeping the integrity of an authentic Christ-centered community in the face of diverse differences, especially when those differences lead to conflict.
Find the official Week of Prayer for Christian Unity resources on the National Council of Churches website
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