Another kicking for the ‘ecumaniacs’
Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 23 October 2010, 7:08
FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER – I was looking forward to hearing Vaughan Roberts’ study of Ephesians 4 this morning. The Rector of St Ebbe’s in Oxford (pictured above) has quite a reputation as a writer and speaker and I’d never heard him before.
He started well, talking about John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and a world littered with broken dreams of one-ness. The church, he said, ‘should be a symbol of unity, but tragically, often it is not’. I thought that at this point he was going to tell us a few home truths and encourage a bit of evangelical soul-searching. But no.
In response to Paul’s instruction to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3), all he could do was give those deluded ecumenists another kicking. ‘Ecumania’ and ‘the urge to merge’ lead to a marginalisation of the truth, he claimed: ‘our unity is not organisational but spiritual’.
Roberts’ remarks went down well with some of the audience, as I’m sure he knew it would. But in this midst of this self-congratulation there was no acknowledgement that we evangelicals have a history of schism and division worse than any other group in the history of the church. Does Paul not have anything to say to us, in the first instance, about our arrogance, our pride and our multitude of ego-driven splits?
And there was absolutely no recognition that the people who are on the other side of the argument might just have something in their favour – such as the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John’s gospel, for example. Before his death Jesus prayed to his Father that the disciples may be one, ‘that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17: 21).
That’s one heck of a reason to be serious about organisational unity, and those Christians who care deeply about it deserve a bit more respect. They are on solid biblical and theological ground when they argue that unity has to become visible and real – ‘that the world may believe’.
It may well be that, at the moment, organisational unity is not achievable or even desirable. But that’s really not the issue. Many evangelical churches can’t even bring themselves to join with local fellow Christians for an act of common witness during Lent or the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So let’s not pretend – while we’re busily writing off other believers – that our unity is ‘spiritual’. It’s nothing of the sort.
Photo: Lausanne Movement