United We Stand, Divided...is just the way it goes?
Last night, a group of people from my church gathered at a friend's house for discussion. Our priest was there, and he brought a friend of his, a Roman Catholic priest. It was a great evening, full of both fun and seriousness. At one time, the talk naturally turned to unity. The question was asked (I'll paraphrase): "All this about having different communions and different rules is just stupid. We'll be all together in Heaven, so why don't we just do that now?"
I agree, it is stupid. It's silly to be divided: it's the scandal of the church, and one that has done greater damage, I would wager, than any scandal that has recently rocked either the Catholic or Epicopalian churches.
The reason that we are divided is that we have different theology and beliefs about what the Eucharist is and does. These are serious and important differences.
There are two ways of achieving unity. One is to disregard our differences and go for the good stuff of unity, and do everything together. Not that this is a bad desire, but we'll get to that in a minute. The other way is to go along with the seperateness for now, and do hard work on coming to a common understanding of the Eucharist. After all, there's a truth about it, and we all want to get to the Truth, so we're working toward a common goal.
If we go with plan number 1, then we do achieve same practice, but not unity. We will still be divided, and the same questions will keep coming up, and the splits will continue.
If we go with plan number 2, then it may take us centuries to restore unity. But, if we work toward Truth, then it will be real unity, not just commonality of practice. Then, when the questions about the Eucharist come up, we might have some answers, instead of breaking apart again.
So raise your glass, and let's have a toast to unity, and then get on with the hard long work of bringing it about, through the work of the Holy Spirit.