Mention Christian unity these days and you won’t see a flicker of interest in the eyes of many Christians. Older folks, so used to putting their thinking and energy into ‘church union’, struggle to visualise an alternative to denominational cooperation or merger; younger Christians move freely amongst denominations but find it harder to see the ‘big picture’. Unity is seen as a fringe matter – something to tack on to your church life when everything else is attended to. But unity is a dimension of our whole Christian life. It is at the heart of who we are – individually, congregationally and as the people of God. We cannot preach love your neighbour when we practise ignore, compete with or put down your neighbour. Through its very structures the church contradicts the gospel – declares ‘neighbour’hood is impossible.
Christian unity is the will of God, the prayer of Christ, a major theme of the New Testament, a core understanding of the gospel and an essential mark of the community of faith. Divided church is an oxymoron. In this 21st Century we face unique challenges but we are called, as Christians in every century have been, to find appropriate contemporary ways to fulfill Christ’s prayer – or the world won’t believe.