Christian Unity

If you have an overwhelming urge to explore the weightier theological ideas, this is the place to seek fellow-travellers.
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corbin
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Christian Unity

Post by corbin » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:57 pm

We all want Christian Unity. We have it in a sense that all Christian denominations seem to work in harmony when they're working on a project they're mutually interested in, but do you think that we will ever have true Christian unity in the the sense that we'll just be one chuch, similar to the Roman Catholic Church. Right now we're either Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalean, etc. Do you think that we'll ever have real Institutional Unity, or do you think that's really important. Some outside Christianity ask why we're so divided when we basically believe in the basics of Christianity.

God Bless,

Corbin

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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Mon Jul 07, 2014 2:58 am

Institutional unity wouldn't make sense on this side of the pond, Corbin. It's not an appropriate question for us.As our laws stand it doesn't work.And there are very few Lutheran churches here. They're mainly for American visitors.
This is a Church of England site. England has an established Church of which
the Head of State of the United Kingdom is the supreme governor, defender of the faith. Her head is on the money and postage stamps. Members of Parliament,
the police and the armed forces etc swear allegiance to her.
Everybody in England and Wales is entitled to the services and ministry of the Church of England or Church in Wales unless they choose otherwise. It's a free country. There are few restrictions these days on Roman Catholics.There is no demand for institutional unity and never has been. In fact some believe the Church of England should dis-establish as the Church in Wales did.
The established Church is part of our constitution and institutions. Other Christian denominations and other faiths do have representatives in the House of Lords but they are Lords Temporal, not Lords Spiritual.

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:50 pm

On the question of Christian unity we're well aware that Jesus said "We should be one". In my view, we are 'one' united in the 'Church Universal' just with different flavours or combinations of our denominations.

And, in my experience the most difficult area of unity is when senior church people get together to talk about, with an agenda of yes, we'll unite, as long as you agree to do it our way! :( Not workable and likely never to be.

What I see is that 'organic' unity already exists between churches, pastors and people in their local context. As an example, within our Urban Village our Anglican parish works closely with the local Baptists, Methodists and Icthus Churches who all minister to people in the village.

We join together in worship, many people are actually members of more than one congregation and we recently committed ourselves not as 'Churches together' but as "The Church' to build discipleship, share resources and work closely together than ever before. I have seen this working very well with joint events at Easter and Pentecost and the sharing of knowledge and working together in community events and forums.

The Command that Jesus gave us was to go and make disciples among all nations and our most recent multi-cultural service highlighted that our members are widely diverse and come from all four corners of the earth. Including the America's. This is the sort of organic unity that builds and doesn't destroy identity, its the type of unity which shares the good news by our love, word and action together. And it's bearing fruit with increased attendance across all participating churches.

The CofE as Joyce has pointed out is a National Church, but doesn't seek to claim the high ground (at least locally) our mission is simply to make disciples and all people of good will who share that mission are united with us.
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Joe Parrish
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Post by Joe Parrish » Mon Jul 14, 2014 1:26 pm

At a nursing home service yesterday I mentioned that a Jewish friend did not understand the idea of grace. A Jewish congregant asked me later what grace was, and I said it was a combination of mercy and love. What do you think?
Peace and blessings,
Joe :)
Peace and blessings,
Joe

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:12 am

Mercy and Love and perhaps a sign of God's overwhelming power which he showers on us like confetti. If only we could see, feel or taste it. :)
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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:58 pm

Grace to me means all those things, Ernest and Joe. In my experience Christians of all denominations accept ' By grace we are saved through faith, not by works ....' but that members of other faiths, even the ones who acknowledge Jesus as a prophet or a god or a spirit, have never heard of grace and don't understand the idea of it. Mercy, love, forgiveness, redemption, empowerment by the Holy Spirit etc are not part of their belief.

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Joe Parrish
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Post by Joe Parrish » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:53 pm

My Jewish congregant did seem to understand mercy and love.
Not sure that would get through to others, but it worked in this instance.

But it's a bit awkward to sing, Amazing mercy and love, how sweet the sound.... :)

Thanks!
Peace and blessings,
Joe :)
Peace and blessings,
Joe

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:09 am

Joe Parrish wrote: But it's a bit awkward to sing, Amazing mercy and love, how sweet the sound.... :)

Thanks!
Peace and blessings,
Joe :)
Joe could you record yourself singing it, and upload it so that we can judge for ourselves? :thumbs: :p
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Coriander
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Post by Coriander » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:20 pm

It's interesting about Christian unity because in the next village to us they have 2 Baptist churches, one C/E, one Methodist and an R/C. The usual Methodist morning congregation is 5 so I'm told, the C/E alternate with another C/E outside the village, one of the Baptists won't have anything to do with the others (Strict), the other is tiny except the strict Baptist and R/C they share an evening congregation which appear not to talk to one another and is about 10 people plus leader and worship leader... it is not a big village and as an outsider I don't understand why some of them don't amalgamate, but then their leaders would be out of a job.... surely better to co-locate and have different types of service if people don't want to do things the same.... at lease it would save electricity and services could be at a time when outsiders don't have to guess when they can go.....

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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:42 pm

Coriander, that sounds like the sort of situation that was very common fifty or so years ago. I remember it well. There used to be many ill-informed prejudices about doctrinal differences. The current practice of sharing meetings,events and services, Lent courses, Christmas programmes and so on would have shocked many worshippers then. Is the village you refer to called Brigadoon ? :biggrin:

In the 1970s in the next village to us they built one church building which all denominations use. New estates built since then have done the same thing. It makes a lot more sense, as you say.

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Sun Jul 27, 2014 7:10 am

There are real examples of collaborative Christian Unity around. But situations of a lack of Christian Charity do still continue today.

In our Urban Village, there are two Baptist Churches. The elder one was the original, who maintain the strict fundamentals of their foundation, the other is a congregation who broke away from them 150 years ago, and which is thriving and works in partnership with all of the other churches in the village.

I'm not sure of the reasons for the split, but I'm on speaking terms with both churches, who appear to both thriving. It's just a shame that the older church doesn't participate in the churches together initiative, because I'm sure that they'd have a lot to bring and share with us. :(
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Beth
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Post by Beth » Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:06 pm

To bring an alternative point of view, I believe it can be good to have niches within the spectrum of Christianity, so it's not all one bucket of water. In religious studies, some commentators criticize "presentism", which is the forgetfulness of traditions, rituals and distinct cultures technology can appear to bring. However, I can sympathize with Coriander because when things get overly political I'm inclined to become avoidant and retire my opinions as well as my worship!

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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:14 pm

Yes, Beth, it's nice to have niches.
There are varieties of worship-methods and even nuances of faith and we have the freedom to seek what we prefer.
Nearly forty years ago I once heard a talk by Juan Carlos Ortez who said we all need our 'club' but we belong to one Jesus. I still see it that way.
I like that we can choose to attend a service - or not - and that even within our chosen denomination we are free to go where we prefer the music, the parking, or the preaching style, or where we can meet our friends.
When I did Religious Studies A - level there was nothing about 'presentism' but that was 1967 to 68. If it derives from present in the sense of 'nowadays' rather than being in a place (it took me a while to work that out from the context) I can see what you mean. I've not read anything about it by a commentator but I think it's a very good point.
In the sixties and seventies and even a bit later I loved the jumping-up-and-down -clapping -to- a -full-music -group-playing-in -the -nave -while-toddlers -run- up -and -down style of worship. I even played an instrument or two myself. For the last twenty years or so,however, I've gradually been finding I prefer more and more the quiet sort of service we hear on Radio Three that would have been recognised hundreds of years ago.
I am happy to 'attend' services online too, with no need even to get dressed, let alone to dress up.

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:30 pm

I went to our monthly Parish evensong this evening. A traditional BCP service, which has all the aspects of music, liturgy and ritual of a very traditional Anglican kind. I think that the service is beautiful and I off course celebrate the BCP tradition, which my parish upholds.

We have two BCP Communions a week, along with a wider variety of modern services. I was used to small attendances at BCP services, but ours are attended by an average of 25 (Sundays) and about 15 midweek. The surprising thing is that the Sunday, 8am BCP Communion has a number of families with fairly youngish children attending, which I wasn't used to before joining this parish.

We don't do politics, we do mission and worship, well done, the Sung Eucharist (Common Worship) is a joy to take part in, a decent choir, including many younger people and an average attendance of over 70. Multicultural with a large migrant community bringing huge diversity, but faithful Anglicans from Africa and elsewhere, joining in and filling many roles within the parish.

I'm not old fashioned by any means, believing that there's a place for everyone and all types of worship in the Church, but I do believe that we ignore our traditions at our peril.
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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:06 pm

Yes, Ernest.
The government got something right when they authorised use of new forms of worship so long as there was a BCP service once a month.
When I attended my first BCP service as an adult in 1995 ( I hadn't been to a church that regularly used the BCP since I was a child ) the young curate said, 'This is our culture' which struck home to me for a reason.
Earlier in the day I'd had a friendly encounter with a Muslim Pakistani Yorkshireman while we were interviewing applicants for a nursery nurse's post. He'd been going on and on about some of them fasting for Ramadan. In the end I'd surprised him by telling him it was Ash Wednesday and we were all fasting, including the not-so-gaudily dressed Anglican Sunday School teacher, but we had a tradition of not making a song and dance about it. She was the one who got the job. I'd felt obliged then to make an effort to get to an evening service. :)

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Beth
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Post by Beth » Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:14 pm

I think presentism is a word-response to globalisation, Joyce, which has eroded our sense of place and history. I don't know a huge amount about it myself. One of the things I like about i-church is the opportunity to learn about a tradition and do that in my own time, while following my own path = the best of both worlds

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Tue Jul 29, 2014 7:22 am

Beth wrote:I think presentism is a word-response to globalisation, Joyce, which has eroded our sense of place and history. I don't know a huge amount about it myself. One of the things I like about i-church is the opportunity to learn about a tradition and do that in my own time, while following my own path = the best of both worlds
Beth, I wonder if globalisation has done what you describe?

I haven't lost my sense of place or identity, but have in fact become much more aware of the wider world and it's people. I've been fortunate to travel around the world, visiting different countries and continents, the only one I haven't been to is Africa.

Surely globabisation is more about the concentration of power into a smaller and smaller circle of people or corporations, which disenfranchise regions, people and governments. The fact that this happens, doesn't seem to me to remove our identity or sense or place, rather it reinforces it and people become so much aware that they actively seek to be identified by or with it. In the UK, the move to independence by the Scots is just one symptom of it. I know that as someone from London, now living in North Kent, I still identify with East London where my family has been rooted for well over 450 years, having migrated from Buckinghamshire at that time. It goes back further there.

We need a sense of identity and place, whether from our family roots or when we settle and identify with a place. I do identify with Kent as a county, but remain at heart an East London lad, who has migrated through good fortune and God's blessings to somewhere greener and with more space, not being overcrowded in tiny flats or shared houses. I realise how blessed that I've been and thank God for those blessings daily. It's of course a pity that many more aren't able to do the same.
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Beth
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Post by Beth » Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:12 pm

The dictionary definition of Presentism is "an attitude toward the past dominated by present-day attitudes and experiences."

When I said "place and history" I meant in the Boolean sense of both together. I wasn't very clear and my thinking was also clouded with emotion because I've personally had very odd experiences of non-belonging where I live. I think how we think of place has changed, and the histories we tell have been affected by this.

When I spoke about Presentism in the religious remit, I meant that the textual approach to Christianity where I live seems to have been eroded. If I visited my local Anglican parish were they use sung liturgy I would no doubt be corrected, but in general one form of spirituality isn't well distinguished from another. I worked for a Christian charity alongside Christians of all denominations, and "present day attitudes and experiences" did, indeed, seem to be more important and hold sway over traditions and (bible-based) beliefs.

Where I live, the local Baron, Lord Mostyn, owns much of the land. The family estate have huge influence over Christian institutions in this area, and provide jobs and economic development. They are curators of the past in a very real way. Having said this, they're very rooted in the present biographies of the administrators, as the obituary of the 5th Lord Mostyn shows (we're now on our 7th after an untimely death last year).

The global/local push/pull has been very evident to me as a Christian who connects every week to services in America, and logs on here, to a place run by the diocese of Oxford. I don't actually travel, however, and in general churches in the area are better linked with Christian expressions of national and international communities. For example, they attend conferences, brick and mortar services, missionary events, music concerts and take-up job opportunities. Some of these entities represent Christian globalisation to me, yet I'm also eager to join the fray and avail myself of their joys!

I suppose this consumerism I've briefly described has, at times, seemed like presentism to me. I've studied the Christianity of the past at University, and yet this is a qualification no-one has really taken seriously as a part of my background. In fact, if anything, its left me rather more marginalized than before. Perhaps I appear to be less malleable? Perhaps I don't know how little I know? A little wisdom can be a dangerous thing!

The obituary of the 5th Lord Mostyn, will give you a sense of how the Baronetcy affects life in my particular corner of the county (as a sidebar, half our Olympic torch runners in 2012 were Russian businessmen who paid the council handsomely for the privilege. This is a curious example of globalization I was disappointed by...):
http://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/ju ... obituaries

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Ernest
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Post by Ernest » Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:32 am

Beth,

There are real elements of truth in how you describe the Christian experience in your life and how it presents to the world. We need to be in the world in our own contexts, or we become isolated from it, something which would quickly make Christianity a rather exclusive sect. By being in the world, we are able to witness through prayer, example and action that while were in the world, we are set apart from it by our faith and belief in something 'other' than the world.

That 'otherness' allows us to have that necessary foot in the world, while continuing to be part of God's Kingdom and through us, that Kingdom can be brought closer to the world. Ultimately Revelation tells us that eventually all will be one, where we're all in the Kingdom, made new. This is what we're waiting for and struggling with the world as it is, to see it come to that perfection promised. Building the Kingdom of God here and now.

Church needs to be in touch with people, or their witness is pointless. We can't reach out to people if we continue to present to people in ways that are not not accessible, understandable or relevant to them in their context. We need to offer hope that there is actually something that we have that they can share and to draw them through our liturgy and worship in ways that are meaningful and importantly for them, understandable.

So worship develops, and moves towards people, rather than remaining static and unchanging. But once we've drawn people in and gained their attention, than we have the time to introduce them to the beauty of more traditional worship and liturgy. We guide them towards Jesus Christ by using his teaching in the Gospels to help them to see what is good and to be discerning enough to reject what is bad.

All of this take time, patience and love. Love that leads to hope and finally belief. Love that shows that our 'otherness' is something worthwhile and a good place to be.

Jesus told the Apostles to go and to make disciples. In the early days, it was simpler in many ways as they had their 'lived' experience of Jesus and the Holy Spirit poured into them to witness, as time has passed, that lived experience is only available through the witness that we give through our lives, that is Presentational Christianity at it's best.

When we live well as disciples, alongside people, it will be attractive to others and will draw people in. We need to have the confidence to speak well of God and Jesus Christ, but to also live the words that we breathe.
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Beth
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Post by Beth » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:34 pm

Thanks Ernest. Condoling words. (If there are any mistakes in the dates I wrote in my post it's because I mis-remembered an article I read recently in a national newspaper. The general gist is correct to the best of my knowledge.)

One of the interesting factors of globalization is the variability of strains we call Christian must be far greater than previously. As long as we know it hasn't always been this way I have no problem with this! My own Christian history is checkered with exposure to different denominations, cultures and historical periods, and then, as you say, there's the livable process of discipleship which is a process of iteration that probably should be immersive.

I think, though, when you feel, as I do, you have to fight for the right to "flourish" as a Christian and a citizen, then this represents a frontier of the kingdom of God, which, for some reason is, for a time, a battle ground. I don't honestly know what the flash points are. I may have a few vague ideas!

I feel assured it's right to express my identity as a Christian with small acts of participation online, though I find unity with a brick and mortar church problematical for the time being. In theory I am allied with churches that have campuses in actual places (as well as church communities that don't, like i-church). Until I visit them I won't feel I can give testimony fully to these multi-site buildings, despite knowing friends of good character who go, and who I trust.

I'd like to meet up in real life with Christians I know online, and attend, at least once, the churches they represent. That's my own concession to unity. I'd like my story to be absorbed by the whole of a church to a greater degree than it is now, even if that' simply over a coffee with one person (eventually). Obviously I'd have to tell and retell it time and again if I were to be part of a church because conversation is fluid and my testimony touches on all the areas of my identity that possibly could come under scrutiny over the course of casual conversation. If I'm not to be mute I'd better learn to reveal or to parry.

To be known and to heal and to look forward with faith to a shared future with common goals would be wonderful :) . i-church seems a good preamble to that ultimate move, and certainly helps me clarify my personal vision :wink:

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Joyce
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Post by Joyce » Mon Aug 04, 2014 1:41 am

'Presentism' seems like a good word for what historians tell us to avoid. I see what it means now although I'd never come across that word for it before. We have to make an effort not to view previous generations' behaviour with our eyes. I should say it has to be avoided when reading the Gospels while appreciating the timelessness of much of what it teaches.
I have heard it said that there was never a greater difference between churches than that between the Church at Jerusalem and the Church at Antioch. If there had been unity in the days of the apostles there would have been no need for most of the Epistles :)

Do you ever 'attend' the Deddington services on the webcam, Beth ? There's a B and M that can be visited personally too. It looks like an interesting parish.

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Beth
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Post by Beth » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:56 am

No, Joyce (not yet!). I had a look online and the webcam looks very interesting. I'll tune in next week and see what happens! Every new thing I try improves my confidence. Thanks for the tip-off!!! :biggrin:

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