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19 January 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 21-01-2014

Yesterday began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It has been going now for over 100 years - the idea, in the first place, of two Anglicans then taken up by a French priest, Paul Couturier. It is a response to Our Lord’s prayer at the Last Supper: “I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe that it was you who sent me”.  So our visible unity is to be a motive for believing. But it’s not, is it?  It’s reason for disbelieving. If one person is pedalling one brand of Christianity whilst the man in the other church down the road is spouting another an enquirer would hardly be inclined to believe either.

The biggest split between Christians occurred about 1000 years ago between East and West, a result of Roman arrogance and Crusaders‘ barbarism. But here the prospect of reunion is better today than it has ever been.  The Eastern Orthodox have the Mass and the sacraments, we share the same faith.

When Pope Francis goes to the Holy Land in May, there he has arranged to meet the Patriarch of Constantinople and they will pray together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

We are more familiar with divisions at home where Christians are divided between Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and others.  We can be a bit snooty. They left us. Let them come back.  The truth is that we pushed them away.  The Church in the fifteenth century was in a poor state. The papacy was a perk to be fought over by rival families in order to enrich themselves and for that purpose they indulged in simony - putting a price on what is spiritual - indulgences, for instance. Luther had good reason to rebel but he threw the baby out with the bath water.  The Council of Trent put the Church on the right course again but by that time the Lutherans and Calvinists were well establshed. In England Queen Elizabeth put a Protestant heart into a Cathoic framework and so caused tensions which are reflected among High and Low Anglicans today.  These differences between us are deeply engrained and seem to be growing wider - as in the Anglican decision to have women bishops.  But nothing is impossible to God. If Our Lord prayed for visible Christian Unity then he did so as the Head of the Body to which we all belong by baptism. We, too, therefore, must pray as He did.

St Paul today is telling the Corinthians that they should not be imagining themselves to be the Church forgetful of all other Christians, but thry are called to relate to all who everywhere pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is their Lord no less than ours.  This afternoon we will be host to the other Churches in Thornton and we will pray together that Our Lord’s dream of unity may be fulfilled. That is at 3.00 today.   

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