Cats and Dogs Living Together:
Christian Unity for Catholics and Protestants
Dimensions of Catholic-Protestant Conflicts
Theological (especially ecclesiological): from common heritage to incompatibility
What makes the Church: Christ through the apostolic succession? Christ through the Word and sacraments? Christ through spiritual gifts?
Natural theology versus theology of the cross
Sacramental theology: Salvation in communion versus justification by faith
Differing expectations of discipleship
Mutually exclusive visions of the character and visible shape of Christian unity
Historical: from institutional unity to institutionalized division
Luther's eschatology of Roman apostasy versus Rome's understanding of heresy
Bitterness over failings in medieval Christianity or Protestant responses
Wars of Religion and 1648 'Peace' of Westphalia (cuius regio eius religio)
Modernity as a third way to order and knowledge
Cultural: from deference to truth to deference to social identity
Northern Europe versus southern Europe
Europe versus the rest of the world
America-as-Protestant versus America-as-plural versus America-as-inclusive
American Protestant minorities-become-majorities versus American Catholic majorities-become-minorities
Christendom versus post-Christendom
The Character of Christian Unity: A Few Key Texts
Ephesians on the unity we have: Unity-in-Christ (1-3) and its consequences for us (4-6)
John 17:20-23 on the will of Jesus: His unity is his disciples' mission
Galatians 6 on restoration to common life as fulfilling the law of Christ
World Council of Churches, New Delhi, 1961, on the unity we seek, which
is being made visible as all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Savior are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully committed fellowship, holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel, breaking the one bread, joining in common prayer, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all and who at the same time are united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all, and that all can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls his people.
The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity
Sins against Christian Unity
1 Corinthians 1 describes tendencies prevalent, even dominant, today:
Denominationalism: we relish our factions' distinctiveness over our confession of our common Lord
Consumerism: we put our desires and sensitivities before worship on God's terms
Loyalism: we express loyalty by colluding with a heritage or social group and distancing from others
Quietism: we react to denominationalism by silencing evangelism
Relativism: we react to loyalism by trying to bring everyone under our institutional umbrella
Activism: we react to consumerism with social action that neglects the Church
Responses in Hope of Unity
Reaffirming the vision of New Delhi:
unity of apostolic faith and doctrine, not inattention to doctrinal discipline
with forms of common teaching across our churches?
coordination of witness and service
with interdenominational missions?
with service with the goal of building up the whole church?
reciprocity of membership and continuity with the apostolic past
in contexts of full communion, with truly common church life?
in contexts of imperfect communion, with common prayer and mutually supported signs of unity?
Our various fellowships have particular obligations in the joint ecumenical task:
Local churches, to pray, study, serve, witness, and (to a degree) worship together
Denominational structures and ecumenical agencies, to return to a view toward the whole Church
Structured fellowships, to re-examine the true quality of their structures' indispensability
Our various fellowships have special responsibilities in the joint ecumenical task:
The Roman Catholic Church (Princeton Proposal paragraphs 65-66)
Evangelical Protestants (67-68)
Eastern Orthodox (69)
Our embrace of the Lord's unity will be penitential and hopeful