Overcoming the Scandal of Division

Jan 25th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On this last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let’s consider the events of the past week, and petition the Lord to help us overcome the scandal of our continued division.


At the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis said the following:

“In the face of those who no longer see the full, visible unity of the Church as an achievable goal, we are invited not to give up our ecumenical efforts, faithful to that which the Lord Jesus asked of the Father, ‘that they may be one,’ … At the current time, even our ecumenical journey and the relations between Christians are going through significant changes, due to the fact that we find (ourselves) professing our faith in the context of a society and culture where the reference to God and to all that recalls the transcendent dimension of life is ever less present. [In the face of these challenges,] it is necessary that our testimony focuses on the center of our faith, on the announcement of the love of God that is manifested in Christ his Son.”

In that same article Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting Christian Unity, was quoted as saying:

The main problem that we have today in the ecumenical dialogue with all the Protestant communities, is the lack of a common vision of the goal of the ecumenical movement. We have two different views. The Catholic view, (which) is also the Orthodox view, (is) that we will re-find the unity in faith in the sacraments and in ministries. Conversely, the vision that I find today in the Protestant churches and ecclesial communities (is that) of the mutual recognition of all the ecclesial communities as churches. In this Protestant vision, the goal of ecumenism presupposes a different understanding of “church.” Rather than unity visible in sacrament and ministry, the Protestant vision sees “church” as simply a conglomeration or “addition [i.e. sum] of all these ecclesial communities.” This is the view of the ecumenical goal that is very very difficult for us. … I think that the Reformation … has some basis in the division between Orthodox and Catholic, and when we can find new unity between Orthodox and Catholics, I think we have a better basis for the discussion between Catholics and Protestants,” said Cardinal Koch.

This was reported in the following video:

In response, Matthew Block in a short article at First Things titled “The purpose of Ecumenism” wrote:

It’s hard to argue with the cardinal’s assessment. Some, indeed, many of the most prominent voices in mainline Protestantism seem to have approached ecumenical dialogue this way in recent years. They want merely for everyone to recognize everyone else as faithful Christians. “We’ll keep our church; you keep yours. And we’ll all just get along together, recognizing each other’s churches as acceptable alternatives.” There is a danger that real doctrinal differences may be underplayed or ignored in such an ecumenical framework, all in the effort to achieve “mutual recognition,” as the cardinal says, of each other as equal manifestations of the Church.

But this is to seriously weaken the vision of Christian unity evoked in Christ’s prayer in John 17. When Christ prayed that all Christians would be one, he didn’t have in mind a unity in which doctrinal differences remain—Protestants believing one thing and Catholics another, and yet the two somehow assumed to be in fellowship with one another. Instead, he prayed that all would be sanctified in the truth—truth which is found, he says, only in the Father’s word. We must agree on this truth, then, in order for our unity to be real. The goal of ecumenism cannot be unity in spite of differences; it must instead be to come to a point where doctrinal differences no longer exist, where doctrinal agreement has been achieved, and structural unity can therefore be enacted as a result.

Then at his General Audience on January 22, Pope Francis said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Last Saturday the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began and will conclude this coming Saturday, the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle St Paul. This invaluable spiritual initiative has brought Christian communities together for more than a century. It is a time dedicated to prayer for the unity of all the baptized, according to the will of Christ: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). Every year, an ecumenical group from a region of the world, under the guidance of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, suggests the theme and prepares reflections for the Week of Prayer. This year it was proposed by the Churches and Ecclesial Communions of Canada, and they made reference to the question St Paul posed to the Christians of Corinth: “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor 1:13).

Of course, Christ was not divided. But we should recognize with sincerity and pain that our communities continue to live in division that is scandalous. Division among us Christians is a scandal. There is no other word: a scandal. “Each one of you,” St Paul wrote, “says, ‘I belong to Paul,” or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ’I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ’” (1:12).

Even those who professed Christ as their leader were not applauded by Paul, because they used the name of Christ to separate themselves from others within the Christian community. But the name of Christ creates communion and unity, not division! He came to bring communion among us, not to divide us.

Baptism and the Cross are central elements of the Christian discipleship which we share. Division, however, weakens the credibility and effectiveness of our work in evangelization and risks stripping the Cross of its power (cf. 1 Cor 1:17).

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their disputes, but he also gives thanks to the Lord “because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge” (1 Cor 1:4-5). These words of Paul are not a mere formality, but a sign that he sees primarily — and for this he sincerely rejoices — the gifts given by God to the community. The Apostle’s attitude is an encouragement for us and for every Christian community to joyfully recognize God’s gifts in other communities. Despite the suffering of division, which sadly still exist, let us welcome the words of St Paul as an invitation to sincerely rejoice for the graces God has given to other Christians. We have the same Baptism, the same Holy Spirit who gave us the Grace: let us recognize it and rejoice in it.

It is beautiful to recognize the grace with which God blesses us and, still more, to find in other Christians something we need, something that we could receive like a gift from our brothers and our sisters. The group from Canada who prepared the texts for this Week of Prayer did not invite communities to think about what they could give to their neighbour Christians, but urged them to meet with one another in order to understand what they all can receive each from the others. This requires something more. It requires much prayer, it requires humility, it requires reflection and continual conversion. Let us go forward on this path, praying for the unity of Christians, that this scandal lessens and that it may cease among us.

On that same day Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University, wrote:

How seriously do we who are Christians take Jesus’ words recorded in John 17:23? Here we find Jesus praying to the Father on the eve of his crucifixion: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23; ESV) Given the suffering that awaits him in John’s account, we should realize just how important unity among his followers is to Jesus; it occupies his thoughts and prayers during his most troubling hours. In view of the Lord’s concerns, how important is Christian unity to us?

We can hide behind claims that Christians are invisibly united through faith in Jesus Christ even in the midst of visible disunity. I seriously doubt that Jesus had in mind invisible unity that was somehow divorced from visible unity. Invisible unity must be visible; otherwise, it is illusory.

Yesterday R.C. Sproul posted the following:

Jesus prayed that those who would believe on Him would have a unity that unbelievers could see, that they might learn various things. He asked the Father that believers would be “made perfect in one . . . that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” The love, concern, and compassion that we have one for another should be so atypical of the world that they serve as definitive proof that Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher but the second person of the Trinity, sent by God. This unity should also testify to the world that God loves believers just as He loves Christ. The clear demonstration of a supernatural work going on in the midst of the people of God shows the love, favor, and grace of God.

On this final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in the liturgy we remember and celebrate the conversion of St. Paul. This conversion inspires us with hope that even the most zealous of persons fighting against the truth to the point of persecuting those walking in the truth, can be turned by the grace and mercy of God, and transformed by the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. If God can do so with Saul who became Paul, how much more so can He effect similar transformations among Christians presently divided against each other? The captain of the king’s army could not even conceive how God could do what Elisha said God would do the very next day. (2 Kings 7:2) With the eyes of faith Elisha saw that with God all things are possible. Hence we too must pray and work diligently, with eyes of faith in the power of God, knowing that with God all things are possible, with unflagging hope that by God’s supernatural help this goal can be attained, and that this self-sacrificial love from Him and for Him and for one another is the power of God in us by which He works to unite us to Himself and to one another in His divine unity.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on us, your wayward children.
In our pride and vanity, we have followed our own ways,
And separated from Your perfect unity into so many quarrels and factions,
Thus creating scandal, and besmirching Your Holy Name.
Though the world is supposed to know You through our love for one another
And visible unity,
We have given only lip service to this love,
While dividing from each other in fragmentation upon fragmentation,
And then rationalizing or ignoring our divisions.
Please forgive us.
Forgive us for our schisms, for our failure to love
Even to the breaking down of the walls that divide us.
Please heal the divisions we have made,
And now make us each effective instruments of such healing.
Please cure the blindness by which we fail to see our divisions as divisions.
Allow us to see again that in union with You we are brothers and sisters
Having one Father in Heaven.
Give us courage to face and address that which still divides us,
Rather than avoid this unpleasant difficulty in cowardice, sloth, or self-deception.
Cast away from us the indifference by which we talk only to and amongst ourselves,
Or exalt ourselves above others.
Show us the path of true ecumenism, of grace, charity, and respect,
Relentless in pursuit of unity in the truth and love
Of the gospel You delivered once for all,
A supernatural unity for which You even suffered and died on the cross.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit,
And renew our Pentecost so that in and through us the confusion of Babel may be undone
First in our own house, among us who seek to follow You as Christians,
So that we may step out boldly, learn each other’s languages,
And together proclaim one gospel,
As a united and shining city set on a hill before the whole world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a comment »

  1. Giulia Cirillo reported the following from Pope Francis’s homily of Friday, January 24:

    All Christians, always, should follow the path of reconciliation, the Pope said, because that is what Jesus taught us, because Jesus showed us the way. In order to enter into dialogue, the Pope explained, it’s important to be meek, to be humble, even after an argument or a fight. It’s important to “bend”, to be flexible, so as not to reach breaking point.

    However, the Pope recognised, it’s not easy to build dialogue, especially when we’re divided by resentment. It’s not written in the Bible, he said, but we all know that to be meek, to be humble, we have to swallow a lot of pride – but we must do so, because that’s how we build peace, with humility.

    Humility may be hard, Pope Francis said, but allowing resentment to swell in our hearts is much worse than attempting to build a bridge of dialogue. When we allow resentment to grow, we end up isolated in the “bitter broth” of our own rancour. To be a Christian, instead, is to always be the bridge.

    It’s important, Pope Francis continued, not to let too much time pass after a storm, after a problem. It’s important to build dialogue as soon as possible, because time allows the walls of resentment to grow taller, just as the weeds grow taller and get in the way of the corn – and when our walls grow tall, reconciliation becomes so difficult!

    On the evening of Saturday, January 25, the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis said the following at Vespers:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). The urgent appeal which Saint Paul makes at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians, and which has been proclaimed at this evening’s liturgy, was chosen by a group of our fellow Christians in Canada as the theme for our meditation during this year’s Week of Prayer.

    The Apostle was grieved to learn that the Christians of Corinth had split into different factions. Some claimed: “I belong to Paul”; while others claimed: “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas”, and others yet claimed: “I belong to Christ” (cf. v. 12). Paul could not even praise those who claimed to belong to Christ, since they were using the name of the one Saviour to set themselves apart from their other brothers and sisters within the community. In other words, the particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others.

    Amid this divisiveness, Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be in agreement, so that divisions will not reign among them, but rather a perfect union of mind and purpose (cf. v. 10). The communion for which the Apostle pleads, however, cannot be the fruit of human strategies. Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5). This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realize that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity.

    As we find ourselves in his presence, we realize all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, appealing to the text of Saint Paul which we have reflected on, significantly states: “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communities present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ were divided”. And the Council continues: “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

    Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ. Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. In the course of their own lives, both came to realize the urgency of the cause of unity and, once elected to the See of Peter, they guided the entire Catholic flock decisively on the paths of ecumenism. Pope John blazed new trails which earlier would have been almost unthinkable. Pope John Paul held up ecumenical dialogue as an ordinary and indispensable aspect of the life of each Particular Church. With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

    The work of these, my predecessors, enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ. We can say also that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the Successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future. As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills.

    In this climate of prayer for the gift of unity, I address a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening.

    Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).


  2. Interesting to see a quote from RC Sproul in this…do you think that he had in mind Roman Catholics in his post on unity? He’s written a lot about what he considers to be the errors of Rome…

  3. Paul, (re: #2)

    I think he meant all who trust in Christ. For Sproul that might include some Catholics, but only Catholics who [from Sproul’s point of view] do not affirm the teaching of the Council of Trent on justification. My point in including his statement is to highlight that he too, as a prominent Reformed leader, recognizes and affirms the importance of visible unity among Christians. Of course he might not agree with Catholics regarding who is truly a Christian, but nevertheless, that too would be one of the matters about which we ought charitably to strive for unity in the truth, even visible unity in the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  4. To what extent do you believe “Constantinianism” (government enforcing religious conformity with the sword) was the cause of “Christian unity” prior to the reformation?

    I have other questions related to this, but one at a time.

  5. Dear Erik,

    Called to Communion provides these comment boxes as places for dialogue. Dialogue is a conversation intended to resolve a problem. As our Posting Guidelines state, “the comment boxes at CTC are for discussing the corresponding posts or articles, not a forum for merely voicing one’s opinion or expressing oneself. Please stay on topic.”

    This post is about our need to petition the Lord to help us overcome the scandal of division. So comments need to relate to that post and, for this topic in particular, need to be offered in the spirit in which this post is written. Furthermore, they need to be true dialogue, that is, genuinely oriented toward resolution of a problem. I believe you are looking to make a point you think you have on Constantinianism and Catholicism, by way of interrogation rather than dialogue. Please join us in prayer for Christian unity.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  6. Bryan Cross,

    I have found myself frustrated and perplexed recently by the topic of ecumenism. My father is a “Word of Faith” preacher who is caught up in the charasmatic movement. Since my conversion to Catholicism I have made great strides conversing with my old man and trying to reason to the truth. This past week he attended Kenneth Copelands minister conference in ft worth. A RC priest (apparently also WoF and charasmatic) who is great friends with Pope Francis provided a video message from Pope Francis to Kenneth Copeland ministries from Rome. In the video (played on a jumbotron) our Pope gave a basic call for Christian unity. He also stated that “our argument over faith alone ended in 1999”. We need to recognize that were all saved Christians and pray for one another. Mr. Copeland then praised his holiness and made another phone video of all the ministers in Dallas Texas praying for the pope. You can read a little about the WoF “in” with Pope Francis here….


    Copeland told his congregation that “we have been praying for this to happen for a long time! Now, its finally happening.”

    How did all of the translate to my father? Not as a call to communion… but as a pat on the back! A vindication. An acknowledgment. A recognition that “were all saved and we shouldn’t be devisive over the little stuff”. I believe that praying for Christian unity is wonderful…. but is ecumenism the answer? I’m skeptical….

  7. Bryan,

    Thanks for sharing this. It reminds me of a quote in Karl Adams book, The Spirit of Catholicism (1935):

    When dark clouds of prejudice and misunderstanding obscure the fair image of our Church, we Catholics often must admit our guilt: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. It is due in no small measure to our imperfections and frailties and sins that those dark clouds arise and conceal the countenance of the Bride of Christ. When God allowed great sections of the Church, containing an abundance of most noble and valuable elements, to separate from us, He punished not them only, but also us Catholics ourselves. And this punishment, this penal permission of God, should , like all His permissions, cause us to look into ourselves and impel us to repentance. It should be imperative ‘Do Penance.’ The Spirit of Jesus is incarnate in the Church; we should all impress that Spirit on ourselves, and especially the spirit of love and brotherliness, of loyalty and truth. And then it cannot be but that God, though after long wanderings and difficult inward crises of the western soul, will graciously grant that we may all unite again, that our inward union with Jesus may become an outward fellowship also, that we may be one flock under one shepherd.

  8. Dear Kenneth,

    I didn’t see that jumbotron video, but believe I recognize the cause of your concern. I think your concern is over affirming beliefs of those not in visible unity with the Catholic Church *without* simultaneously qualifying the affirmation (something like, “but hey, don’t forget, extra ecclesiam nulla sallus!”). I don’t quite see how that leads to skepticism over ecumenism, however. It seems (rather) like a simple critique about the prudential judgment involved in the giving of un-qualified statements.

    Dialogue is a process that takes time and mutual patience, care, and perseverance. We can begin helpful and healthful dialogue by expressing a point of common agreement to a person with whom we are not perfect unity. If we attempt to start dialogue by expressing why we think the other person is wrong, that may be off-putting — something of a show stopper.

    We can’t settle differences if we can’t start dialogue. So I’m trying (myself) to learn about ways to get good dialogue going.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  9. Tom,

    It is my understanding that (in general) ecumenism is the practice of giving un-qualified statements and documents to those not in full communion with the Church in order to foster unity. Pope Francis has sort of embodied this view on ecumenism since his pontificate began. In Article 6 of UR we are told that ‘the participation of Catholics in ecumenical work is distinct from preparation and reception into the Church [of those who] desire full communion.’ That is, ecumenism is something other than evangelization or catechesis, but UR does not explain precisely what that something is. In fact, no one seems to know what ecumenism is supposed to be. Thats another part of my skepticism. Catholic author Christopher Ferrara wrote

    Any Catholic doctrine will fit nicely into the template phrase ‘X means that…,’ where X is the Catholic doctrine in question. Thus, the Immaculate Conception means that from the first moment of her conception, the Blessed VIrgin Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin. Likewise, transubstantiation means that at the moment of the Consecration the substance of the bread and wine are miraculously changed entirely into the substance of Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — so that nothing of the bread and wine remains, but only the appearances of these.

    “Applying our template to ‘ecumenism,’ however, we immediately encounter an intellectual dead end. The phrase ‘ecumenism means that’ cannot be completed, just as the phrase ‘an elephant means that’ can’t be completed. Ecumenism, like an elephant, cannot be defined as an abstract concept, but only described or indicated, as in: that is an elephant. Ecumenism, like an elephant, is a thing, or rather a collection of things known as ‘ecumenical activities.’ Ecumenism certainly is something, just as an elephant is something. Ecumenism is, so they say, ‘a movement for Christian unity.’ But movements are by their nature contingent and ever-changing things, and no Catholic can be obliged to believe in a ‘movement’ as if it were a definable Catholic doctrine….

    Question; How is one to begin profitable dialog (profitable being defined as dialog that leads to conversion) with one who has encountered ecumenism (as unqualified statements attempting to foster unity) from an authority in the Church? Say, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga or even Pope Francis himself? My dad was thrilled that the Pope seemed to be “on their side” and so I just went with it, not knowing how to reply. My response was “yeah…. I guess it can be good not to focus on things that divide us……. ” Nobody wants to be the guy that always brings in the “but hey, don’t forget, extra ecclesiam nulla sallus!” but perhaps that is the only thing to do for the people who experience this kind of ecumenical activity?

  10. Dear Kenneth,

    I find the Catholic Encylopedia definition of ecumenism to be agreeable and uncontroversial for Catholics:
    “Ecumenism: Includes the Catholic Church together with the many other religious communions which have either directly or indirectly, separated from it.”

    That is, Catholics and Protestants doing things together, without necessarily thinking the other side has actually changed ranks, is ecumenism. It is not the practice of giving unqualified statements, and there’s nothing inherently unecumenical about qualifying our assertions. In due course, we would necessarily have to qualify our assertions, i.e., explain to one another the fullness of what we believe.

    It must often be the case that the party to whom Church leaders are speaking already know the qualifications. As an analogy, consider diplomats who spend so many words describing how much Nations X’s and Y’s interests align or overlap, without spending any (or many) words on each other regarding their differences. Each side is well atuned to the other’s competing interests, but talk focusing on those would be unproductive, or invite a deeper rift. That is all an exercise of prudential judgment. The diplomats may not achieve perfection in their dialgoue, but might often do well. I assume for the sake of charity that Catholic and Protestant (and Orthodox) leaders often manage the most prudent course, even if they make imprudent decisions from time to time.

    Now, it’s another matter entirely how uneducated or undereducated people receive the words of a Church leader who was speaking to an educated audience. If a Protestant thinks Pope Francis is “on their side,” they may be partly right and partly wrong. If he thought Pope Francis agreed with Protestant ecclesiology, he is quite wrong, and I would bring that up with a person if they were using their perceived papal sancation as a reason to stop considering Catholic claims. I would expect the same of a Protestant if they saw me under the impression that a prominent Presbyterian scholar actually believed in papal primacy, or the like, and I thereby stopping considering Protestant claims about truth.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  11. I was discussing unity a few days back with a fellow Evangelical who shared that Christ’s call to unity is more nuanced than it’s portrayed here.

    He shared, that the call for unity is a “smokescreen to attempt to excuse blatant wrong-doing throughout and the consequent divisions over it.” He goes on to argue that in addition to being called to be one, we are also explicitly told to have nothing to do with Christians who blatantly sin (1 Cor 5:11). And brings up an apparent contradiction between the Pope’s recent comment, “division is shameful among those who name the name of Christ” and the words of Christ in Luke 12:51-53, “… Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No I tell you, but rather division…”.

    How does the Catholic call to unity handle both Christ’s call to unity in John 17 with Christ’s fervor for division in Luke 12, alongside Paul’s admonition to both avoid division, and have nothing to do with evil doers?

  12. Cara, (re: #11)

    Surely we can agree that Christ’s prayer for unity is not a prayer for a “smokescreen to attempt to excuse blatant wrong-doing throughout and the consequent divisions over it.” The unity for which He prays in John 17, and the division He refers to in Luke 12, and the division St. Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 5:11 are not mutually exclusive, as if Christ were double-minded, or as if Christ and St. Paul were at odds with each other. The division Christ refers to in Luke 12 is the division of allegiance, between those who love Christ above themselves, and those who love something else above Christ. Each person in the human race falls into one of these two categories, and in this respect Christ comes to bring division, i.e. a divine judgment concerning the heart of each man, separating them all into sheep and goats, those on His right, and those on His left. As He says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt. 10:37) The Catholic Church affirms this truth. Denying this truth would be to affirm indifferentism, namely, either that all men are going to heaven, or that there is no such thing as mortal sin, or that it doesn’t matter what you believe and how you live, or whether or not you love Christ, you’re still going to heaven. Hence the Church condemns indifferentism. It does matter eternally whether you die in a state of grace or die in a state of mortal sin.

    Similarly, St. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 5:11 are about this very same separation Christ speaks of in Luke 12, i.e. between those living for Christ, and those living in grave sin. Here, however, St. Paul is speaking to the Church, and admonishes them to put out from them those fellow Christians who without remorse or repentance are engaged in these grave sins he lists. Such persons are not to be allowed to receive communion with them. This is called excommunication, and this too is something that the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Persons in grave sin are not to receive the Eucharist, and persons publicly known to be in grave sin and without repentance, are not to be given the Eucharist. (Here’s an example from four days ago.)

    But the division of men into those who love Christ more than anything else, and those who do not, and the Church discipline that excludes unrepentant persons in grave sin from receiving the Eucharist, is fully compatible with the full visible unity for which Christ prays in John 17. In other words, we don’t have to choose between affirming Luke 12 and 1 Cor 5:11 on the one hand, and living within (and calling others to pursue) the full unity for which Christ prays in John 17. That full visible unity involves the three bonds of unity. (See the section titled “The Nature of the Unity of the Catholic Church” in “The “Catholics are Divided Too” Objection.”) Christians can enjoy all three bonds of unity while at the same time recognizing and affirming the distinction between those who love Christ and those who do not, and while withholding the Eucharist from those living in grave sin. Recognizing the difference between those who love Christ and those who don’t, and guarding the Eucharist from those in grave sin, does not require that Christians divide up into myriads of sects and schisms. On the contrary, by dividing up into sects and schisms, we make part of the purpose of guarding the Eucharist more difficult, because we make it seem that if one wants the Eucharist even while be disciplined by one ecclesial community, one can just go to the next ecclesial community down the street, or start one on one’s own. Only when the Church manifests its full visible unity, such that schisms are recognized as such, does exclusion from the Eucharist manifest fully its disciplinary force.

    So the short answer to your question is that the unity to which Christ calls us is not an all encompassing unity that includes or conflates within itself evil and sin. Rather, the unity to which He calls us is a unity in the faith and worship and hierarchy He established by which defining and defending the very distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, virtue and vice, sanctity and sinfulness, good and evil, communion and excommunication is made possible and maintained, and without which these distinctions are obscured.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  13. Pope Francis: “Christian divisions are a scandal”

  14. N.T. Wright, on what he calls “the main problem in the Western Church:”

  15. Our initial response to recognizing the scandalous nature of our divisions might be to engage in dialogue about the doctrines about which we disagree. But shortly thereafter, if we’re sufficiently observant, we notice that this doesn’t work. This has not only been tried repeatedly; it has been shown to be utterly inadequate for resolving our disagreements. And if we observe these kinds of dialogues with an eye not so much to determining which side is right, but to determine precisely why the dialogue regularly reaches an impasse, and thus why the participating parties fail to overcome their disagreements through this type of dialogue, we find that the participating persons are not realizing or focusing on the role that second-order disagreements are playing in their reasoning, and which underlie their first-order disagreements. So, for example, while the participants are trying to resolve their disagreement concerning a particular doctrine, they are unaware of and overlook their paradigm-level differences and their respective theological methodologies that arise from these paradigm-level differences. Understandably, then, they grow frustrated at their failure to reach agreement at the first-order level, and eventually give up, not realizing that dialogue about first-order disagreements is futile so long as there are paradigmatic and methodological disagreements at the second-order level, and these second-order level disagreements remain unrealized and unaddressed.

    Persons seeking to resolve their disagreements through dialogue must, in order to overcome this problem, be aware of the second-order differences that underlie their first-order disagreements, and must understand the paradigmatic character of their disagreement. This means that they must not merely learn each other’s doctrines; more crucially, they must also learn each other’s paradigms. Then the conversation can take place at the second-order level, comparing paradigms, comparing the coherence of the paradigms, comparing the fit of the paradigms to the data, etc. So ecumenical dialogue, in order to be successful, has to involve mutual recognition of the importance of first learning the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement, and the respective paradigms themselves, before entering into the activity of mutually comparing and evaluating their respective paradigms. And we have to be committed not to enter into first-order dialogue as though there is no underlying paradigm difference. In the proper order for resolving the disagreement, the second-order level disagreements have to come first.

  16. Bryan (#15),
    Very well put. The question I have is whether you have any practical suggestions on how to further dialogue when, at least in my experience, the inevitable first-order objections to the paradigm-level differences arise. Specifically, we can talk about the Catholic paradigm and try to help a Protestant understand it, but to me the inevitable response is something along the lines of, “Well, ok, that’s a coherent approach but it can’t possibly be true (infallibility, etc) because the church teaches X which is *clearly* wrong.” So even understanding the paradigm seems to lead back to addressing those first order differences, or else the paradigm seems to be (in the Protestant eyes) little more than a philosophical construct which, no matter how beautiful, simply isn’t true. Usually the claim that the church teaches X ends up, when the paradigmatic issues are exposed, actually being that the church does *not* teach X or that the church teaches X but it is not clearly (or even at all) wrong; in that sense, being able to show one of these two with the aid of a solid understanding of the paradigm is helpful and perhaps that’s (at least partly) your point. I’m just wondering if you have further suggestions on that issue of, even when we’re trying to look at paradigms, there seems to be a need to look at first order issues before one can even grasp the possibility of a paradigm being worthy of consideration.


  17. Jeff (re: #16)

    Thanks for your comment/question.

    but to me the inevitable response is something along the lines of, “Well, ok, that’s a coherent approach but it can’t possibly be true (infallibility, etc) because the church teaches X which is *clearly* wrong.”

    At this stage in a discussion, it is critical to realize that the “x is clearly wrong” claim typically presupposes a particular paradigm, and thus presupposes precisely what is in question. So that means that when this happens, the participants have not yet fully realized the critical role being played by the second-order level disagreements. The person making the “x is clearly wrong” claim hasn’t yet grasped the other paradigm, because if he had, he would see that from the point of view of that paradigm, x is not clearly wrong.

    So even understanding the paradigm seems to lead back to addressing those first order differences,

    One has to understand the place, role, and justification for the first-0rder differences within their respective paradigms. And that requires first understanding the respective paradigms as paradigms, not merely as sums of doctrines to be evaluated [according to the standards of my own paradigm].

    or else the paradigm seems to be (in the Protestant eyes) little more than a philosophical construct which, no matter how beautiful, simply isn’t true.

    The “simply isn’t true” judgment typically takes place long before we’ve even gotten to the point of understanding the respective paradigms, their coherence, and their relation to and fit with the data. So, what I’m saying is that the “simply isn’t true” judgment is being made prematurely, and the proper response, in such a case, is to show how that “simply isn’t true” judgment presupposes the contrary paradigm, and thus presupposes precisely what is in question at the second-order level. That’s what takes place day in and day out here at CTC.

    I’m just wondering if you have further suggestions on that issue of, even when we’re trying to look at paradigms, there seems to be a need to look at first order issues before one can even grasp the possibility of a paradigm being worthy of consideration.

    Undoubtedly certain practices, beliefs, and persons can prompt an interest in a way of thinking and living that one would otherwise not consider worth the time of day. (Think about the common effect of reading the Church Fathers, and how that prompts investigation into the Catholic question.) But, again, what I’m saying is that what shuts down these kinds of initial ecumenical dialogues, and makes them unprofitable and unfruitful, is a failure to recognize the role that second-order level disagreements (and thus paradigm level differences) are playing under the first-order disagreements. This is why, for example, merely exchanging proof-texts already presupposes a belief unique to one paradigm (i.e. perspicuity), and evaluating Catholic doctrines by way of one’s own interpretation of Scripture likewise presupposes a Protestant paradigm, and is thus question-begging. Or merely quoting encyclicals or ecumenical councils, by Catholics, is equally unhelpful, because such things have no real authority in the Protestant paradigms.

    So what I’m saying is that ecumenical dialogue, in order to be fruitful, has to shift to the second-order level.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Thanks for those thoughts Bryan.

  19. A complementary viewpoint to Bryan’s examplary clarity night be: ecumenism is patience. It takes time, self – denial and hoping against hope to build up trust. Grace builds om nature, I believe someone wiser than I once said, and we need to give time and space for the old wounds, which are personal, social, cultural etc to heal. We do this together, not apart, si ce humanly speaking we all exist as one human family and also, in any case in the Christian ontology, all Baptised are already related mystically, even those who are unaware or mistakenly deny this fundamental unity. It is analogous to the “normal” development of faith within the Church; it takes time and patience. This is called ecumenism.

  20. Bryan (re #15):
    Could you speak to an issue that I grapple with? NT Wright (rightly) speaks of this problem being a central one. However, the unity he alludes to (one that almost sounds democratic in nature) seems anything but inherent to Christianity- but rather merely “accidental” to a particular time or place (as he says, he saw somewhat of a common Christian outcry concerning 3rd world debt). Whereas, Catholics understand our unity as fundamental to the nature and constitution of the Church, Wright seems to dream of a unity that comes about because of political or social convenience. Any insights?

  21. Hello Herbert, forgivw me for butting in, especially as I lack Bryan’s patience, clarity and consistency!

    We believe in the unity of the Church in her essence, yes.

    But we do not believe in a static Church, rather in a living Church, which remains the same through time soley because constantly united to God through the Eucharistic renewal happening daily and hourly.

    So what even non-Catholics long for is this personal and corporate “exisitential” unity that we can experience ad clearly pointing back to the Eucharistic heart of faith, a dynamic “constitution”, not merely on paper.

    For this we need theoligans and the great Council, yes, and also primarily saints who make this unity visible, let’s say, credible.

  22. Herbert (re: #20)

    I’m on the road, and don’t have time to give your question the time it deserves. But I wonder whether something I wrote in 2011 might possibly answer your question: “Ecclesial Unity and Outdoing Christ: A Dilemma for the Ecumenism of Non-Return.” If that doesn’t answer your question, then please let me know, and I’ll try to respond when I get a chance.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Michael & Bryan (re 21&22)-

    Thank you both. Michael, I invite and appreciate your thoughts.

    Bryan, I especially appreciated this passage from the article you directed me to. It seems to speak directly to the type of unity and charity Wright describes. And it helps me to make sense of it as a worthwhile unity despite the fact that it is something other than the unity essential to the catholic faith.

    By his own efforts man can effect only a man-made unity ordered to earthly, temporal ends. Unity of this sort is not in itself evil, nor is the pursuit of such unity in itself evil. Natural virtues are not evil, and neither is the man-made peace that results from peace-treaties, human alliances, human compacts, man-made clubs, organizations, corporations, or other such agreements or societies. But the sort of peace and unity achieved in those cases is not a supernatural peace or a supernatural unity. They are each instances of a merely natural peace and natural unity.

  24. Ron Fancher, who is “working towards a BS in International Business from Biola University” and is also a contributor to The Evangelical Outpost, today wrote, “In Defense of Denomination.” Ron is writing in response to the “many voices within the Church that can be heard calling for a single, unified Body.” He intends his article to be a defense of denominationalism. There is no need for unifying the denominations, according to Ron, because we are all already united in one Body, one Church. The plurality of denominations, and the differences between them, are mere diversities within that one Body. The call for unifying the denominations would eliminate that diversity, he claims. His article ends with the following claim, “we all stand beneath [Christ]: one Body, under God, indivisible and wonderfully different—a collage of grace and love.”

    In my opinion there are four fundamental problems with Ron’s article.

    (1) The article engages in faulty reasoning.

    For example, Ron infers from Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:50 that unity in love for Jesus is all the unity Christians need, and thus from this passage infers that we do not need unity of faith, unity of sacraments, or hierarchical unity. But that conclusion does not follow from that verse. Ron uses an argument from silence (a fallacy) to infer that Jesus doesn’t “care” what “clique” the man belonged to, and thus that the “only thing that mattered” was that the man believed in the power of the name of Jesus. However, Jesus not saying anything in this passage about the doctrinal, sacramental, and hierarchical unity of the Church is fully compatible with His establishing these three bonds of unity in His Church, and willing that His followers be united through these three bonds. Moreover, an argument from silence does not trump St. Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians in which he exhorts them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

    Likewise, in his article Ron uses an argument from silence in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Specifically, Ron claims that because when the Samaritan woman asked Jesus where one should worship God, Jesus didn’t “address the question,” therefore, according to Ron, what matters is the “dominance of the Father over all said differences.” Again, this is a basic logical blunder. The conclusion does not follow from the premise. Jesus’s answer to the Samaritan woman is fully compatible with His desiring all His followers to be united in faith, in sacraments, and in hierarchy. Again, one cannot rightly use an argument from silence from John 4 to trump what Jesus explicitly says in John 17 about the importance of visible unity among His followers, as Tom and I have explained here.

    (2) This article treats the Scriptures as if there is no authoritative Tradition regarding their interpretation, and thus engages in the “solo scriptura” approach.

    None of the Church Fathers drew the conclusions Ron draws from the two passages of Scripture he uses here (i.e. Luke 9 and John 4). On the contrary, while fully aware of these verses, they repeatedly inveighed against schism, as I showed here. Ron’s implicit conclusion that schism is ok is another example of the failure of “solo scriptura” on account of the denial inherent to Protestantism of the authority of Tradition, explained here.

    (3) The article implicitly construes the claim to be the Church Christ founded as “preach[ing] our denomination over Christ.”

    If Christ founded a visible Church, and that Church continues to exist to this day, then that Church’s claiming to be the very Church Christ founded is not “preach[ing] our denomination over Christ,” as I argue in the last couple paragraphs of this article. Hence this assumption on Ron’s part begs the question (i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question) with regard to the Catholic claim to be the Church Christ founded. There is no good justification for ruling out a priori the possibility that Christ founded a visible Church, and that contra ecclesial deism, this Church has endured without interruption from AD 33 to the present day.

    (4) The article conflates the distinction between diversity and division.

    Ron has no principled way of distinguishing between diversity and division, because he has no magisterial authority in his paradigm. So he appeals to the importance of diversity in the Body as implicit justification for what are actually divisions in matters of faith, disagreements regarding the sacraments, and schisms among the hierarchy. He claims that when Rob Bell or Joel Osteen err, the Pope can clear things up, and that when Church leadership becomes corrupt, sola scriptura can “right a listing ship.” The problem with that claim is that if the Pope has such authority, then sola scriptura is false, because sola scriptura leaves ultimate interpretive authority with the individual, while apostolic succession (by which the Pope has authority) does not leave ultimate interpretive authority with the individual, as Neal and I showed here. Ron conflates the distinction between diversity and division again when he makes a pragmatic argument based on the fact that the lack of diversity is harmful to purebred dogs. Because he has no principled distinction between diversity and division, he treats the weakness of the lack of diversity, as though it justifies divisions in faith, sacraments, and hierarchy.

    Ron also conflates the distinction between diversity and division when he writes:

    how can I—a young man raised in the Alaskan cold—expect an African, or a Filipino, or even another young man from Georgia, to have the same church experience I do? Just because a person doesn’t like grape juice Communion doesn’t make them wrong; just because someone abstains from alcohol entirely doesn’t make them right. It just makes them different.

    Ron rightly recognizes that he has no authority to stipulate that everyone else worships as he does. But from Ron’s lack of authority, it does not follow that no one has the authority to determine what is legitimate and illegitimate in matters of worship, doctrine, morality, etc. Yes, just because someone does not “like” grape juice Communion, that doesn’t make it wrong. But from that truth it does not follow that the use of grape juice rather than wine (or the use of corn dogs rather than bread) is just adiaphora, or a matter on which we may rightly have diversity. In Ron’s paradigm, there is no living apostolic authority, and hence no principled, non-arbitrary way of distinguishing between diversity and division. Hence, by default, every difference becomes mere diversity, even though by special pleading Ron tries to appeal to the Pope to keep Rob Bell and Joel Osteen in line (while appealing to his own interpretation of Scripture via sola scriptura to keep the Pope in line when necessary).

    When magisterial authority is rejected, and the authority of Tradition is therefore lost, what are actually heresy and schism can come to be conceived of and celebrated as a blessed gift of diversity. Just as the concept of schism is lost when visible-Church ecclesiology is replaced by invisible-Church ecclesiology (see “Branches or Schisms?“), so the concept of heresy is eventually lost when magisterial authority is replaced by painted magisterial targets around each person’s interpretive arrow, because in such cases we know enough to know that ‘heresy’ can’t be just whatever doesn’t conform to our own interpretation of Scripture, which is why Ron urges carefulness regarding “where we draw” the line of heresy. It is trivially true that care is needed regarding determining heresy. But if “we” are the ones who draw the line, there is no line; there are only lines, one for each man’s opinion. And so the concept of heresy fades, and eventually becomes lost and forgotten or merely decorative. In order to address problems of disunity, we absolutely must have a principled way of distinguishing schism from branch, and heresy from adiaphora.

    On account of these four errors, Ron’s case for denominationalism is problematic. In order to address our disagreement regarding whether denominationalism is good or not (and thus whether we ought to be pursuing full visible unity), we would have to consider together these more underlying points of disagreement.

  25. Bryan,

    In your comment above, I find the article in discussion fascinating. The “scandal” – to use the subject of this article – is that denominationalism never plays out the way he describes: we are all different, no one has authority, and kumbaya. No “new church” plant, mega-church, or mainline protestant church in a community positions themselves as “an option for your spiritual appetite.” While denominations may appear to be like Applebees, Outback and IHOP (come hungry, leave happy), no one starting a denomination, preaching on Sunday, or walking through the door to worship would think, “who cares why I’m here, they’ve got food.” Even a “church” that positions itself so is being selected for precisely the laissez-faire approach they dogmatically take.

    Thus, going to church on Sunday is not like pulling up to a bar and predictably ordering Coors Light on draft. Instead, Sunday morning is filled with dogma, dictates, conviction, and claims of exclusivity. People expect the best meal in town, or at least that the food is safe to eat.

    Style is not a big enough category to justify or explain away all of the “diversity.” Instead, people are looking for substance, and even the rejection of a style at a “church” is many times framed in the context of a substantive disagreement. So, one cannot have it both ways. Diversity cannot be a catch-all to describe why we “really are all in the same boat” while at the same time describing the very same reasons we walk onto different ship decks, with substantive conviction, on Sunday.

  26. The video below is being talked about in a number of places. (See, for example, Dale Coulter’s article in First Things.) Because some people assume that if I post a video that means I agree with everything said in the video, let me say that there are a few things claimed in the video about which I do not agree (see, for example, what Brantly Millegan says here). But nevertheless, the video is most definitely worthwhile watching, and the open and charitable sort of dialogue manifest in the video is exactly what we have been praying for to occur between Catholics and confessional Protestants. The video begins with some words in the first few minutes by Kenneth Copeland. The second part of the video (starting in the 4th minute or so) is a talk by Anglican bishop (Anglican Episcopal Communion of the CEEC) Tony Palmer. Then, in the 31st minute of the video, Pope Francis gives a video message to the group. I recommend listening to Tony’s story prior to listening to Pope Francis’s message, because it provides a helpful context for understanding what and Pope Francis says in the video, and why he says it:

  27. Bryan, these are confessional Protestants? What exactly are they teaching at Covenant Seminary?

  28. Darryl, (re: #27)

    and the open and charitable sort of dialogue manifest in the video is exactly what we have been praying for to occur between Catholics and confessional Protestants.

    Saying that the open and charitable sort of dialogue manifest in the video is exactly what we have been praying to occur between Catholics and confessional Protestants does not mean or entail that the persons in the video are confessional Protestants. To spell it out more clearly, the sort of open and charitable dialogue manifest in the video (among persons who are not confessional) is exactly what we have been praying to see occur between Catholics and confessional Protestants.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  29. Bryan,

    This video touched me profoundly. Thank you.

    He will complete this miracle of unity!

  30. I typically don’t click on YouTube links.

    But for what it’s worth, I can appreciate your church setting aside a week to pray for Xian unity. I don’t really think in terms of setting specific weeks aside like that, as I also don’t tend to orient myself around a church calendar or anything (i.e. feast days or other such things are a mystery to me, but whatev).

    My point, is that furthering Xian unity is always a good goal. So yeah.


  31. Andrew (re: #30)

    I don’t really think in terms of setting specific weeks aside like that, as I also don’t tend to orient myself around a church calendar or anything (i.e. feast days or other such things are a mystery to me, but whatev).

    The Old Testament has a liturgical calendar centered around the most significant events in redemptive history; it connected the people to their past, annually reminded them of God’s marvelous saving deeds, and returned them to a kind of participation in those glorious events. The New Covenant does the same. Refusing to celebrate Easter is, performatively, denying the resurrection of Christ, just like denying the holiness of Mary denies the deity of Christ (because as any Old Testament Jew would know, wherever God dwells is holy). And so, inversely, celebrating Easter affirms the resurrection of Christ. Becoming incarnate is not merely taking on matter, but also entering into a world that God Himself set up with heavenly bodies “for signs and for seasons” (Gen 1:14). Rejecting the liturgical calendar is, in that way, docetic, because it performatively denies that Christ came into and lived within measured time, and/or denies that the community of His followers were human enough to care about and commemorate the days and times in which Christ accomplished marvelous deeds as they cared about keeping track of their own age since birth, and that of their family members. Today, for example, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, traditionally the day Christ changed the name of Simon to Peter, and gave to him the keys of the Kingdom.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Bryan, ok, thanks for sharing all that.

    In church on Sunday, we celebrate the resurrected Christ(you know, worship on Sunday, not Saturday, and all that). I’m not disagreeing with you. But am sharing why maybe I’ve grown up the way that I have, as only ever a protestant, and why it was done how it was in my particular church settings.

    Take care.

  33. “During his Sunday morning service, Ulf Ekman announced the he and his wife, Birgitta, are converting to Roman Catholicism.”
    Well, for us in the Old World, the reverberation of this might be comparable to that of Jason Stellman’s decision (or even Scott Hahn’s back then) in the US, as it is the Pentecostal (as well as Lutheran) branch which is domininating the Protestant domain here rather than Reformed denominations, which, unlike the situation in the US, have not been particularly strong in most of Europe.

    Some of the reasons he has stated seem to correspond with the topics discussed in this website, even though it is not the question of authority (or the paradigm of Sola Scriptura vs. the Church), which he has referred to expressis verbis:

    “We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next. We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak.”

    As an add-on, I wonder whether Pope Francis’ recent message to Pentacostal Christians (represented by Rev. Tony Palmer) might have been the final straw in Ulf Ekman’s decision…

  34. Thanks Jan (re: #33)

    There’s more on this story at Ekman’s site: “Pastor Ulf Ekman to be accepted into the Catholic Church.” The Blaze also has a story titled “Non-Denominational Megapastor Stuns Congregation With Personal Revelation.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  35. The last sentence under the second link, “Word of Life has around 3,300 members.”, is misleading. In fact, it is the congregation in Uppsala (built from the scratch), kind of Ekman’s “HQ”, that has around 3,300 members. In the countries of the former Soviet Block, Ulf Ekman is believed to be instrumental in converting to Christ tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people, now gathered in a network of charismatic (third-wave) communities.

  36. “I have come to realize that the movement I for the last 30 years have represented, despite successes and much good that has occurred on various mission fields, is part of the ongoing Protestant fragmentation of Christendom.” – Ulf Ekman (source)

  37. Tony Palmer, the Anglican bishop who speaks in the video in comment #26 above, was killed in a motorcycle accident today. Please pray for the repose of his soul, comfort for his family and friends, and a continuation of the ecumenical work in which he was instrumental.

    Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


  38. Following up #34 and #36 above: Ulf Ekman explains “How I moved from my megachurch to Catholicism.”

  39. Bryan:

    I had been to Livets Ord (Word of Life) in Sweden, and have been so happy about Ulf Ekman’s conversion. If I might, in another interview, Ulf says:

    You’ve said you had an experience in your youth when you suddenly became aware of the divisions among Christians and began crying. Can you tell me about that?

    Well, it was very unusual. I was there with a friend. He is now actually head of one of the Lutheran low church movements. We were both students at that time. We were talking about the Church and the problems in the Church. This came very suddenly over me, the feeling of the sorrow that Christ has over all the divisions in the Church. It was something that came in one way unexpectedly, something that I didn’t really process. I think it was in my heart, but life was going on and I was involved in many different things. But it has been there underneath the surface for many years.

    Lord, that we may all weep for Christian unity so that the world may see Christ. Amen.

  40. Today, at mass in Istanbul, Pope Francis spoke about the difference between diversity and division, pointing out that mere human efforts lead to division and [denominationalism’s] uniformity-within-denominations, whereas the Holy Spirit inspires diversity-within-unity:


    [T]he Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring aboutunity. When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenization. If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.

    The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life. The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient. (source)

    It is worth considering that merely human attempts at diversity lead to division, and that merely human attempts at unity lead to uniformity, while by contrast the Holy Spirit’s work leads to diversity within unity, without division or uniformity.

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting