Index About Relations with other Churches




Relations with other Churches


Jesus said: 'I pray not only for these but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me' (Jn 17:20-21). His prayer was for unity amongst his followers, and he makes it clear that disunity threatens the credibility of the Christian proclamation. Because of this, all Christians have a duty to promote unity within their own churches and between the churches.

Opinions have differed as to the best method of achieving this. I have often heard it said (most often by the people who are the least committed, to be honest) that all the churches are more or less the same and the best thing is to drop those doctrines that divide us. The attitude behind this is that it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as in some way or other you aim to follow Christ and to live a reasonably good life.

This is not exactly the attitude of the New Testament: 'Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God' (1 Jn 5:5), 'Let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned' (Gal 1:8). It does matter what we believe, and watering down Christianity, until we end up with something so bland and meaningless that it can offend no-one, is not the answer. Jesus himself was aware that his coming would provoke disagreement and division: 'Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division' (Lk 12:51).

So if unity between the churches is not to be achieved by any sort of watering-down, what is the alternative? To keep things simple, let's just speak of 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' for the time being. If they are more or less opposite extremes, you might reasonably expect that the more catholic you are, the less protestant you must be, and vice versa. It may work like that for people who see these words only as social or political 'labels', but it doesn't work if we're talking about genuine religion. The more a Catholic becomes truly a person of prayer, with a deep relationship with Christ, a sincere love of others for Christ's sake -- the more he or she will have in common with a Protestant of similar commitment. The saints on either side can recognise and respect the faith, holiness and virtue they see in others, even when they disagree about certain details which they still believe to be important. It is people who are lukewarm or indifferent who need to reinforce their identity by violently opposing those from other churches.

What does this mean in practice? (1) We must to follow Christ as closely as we can within our own Church, allowing him to deepen our faith and commitment. (2) We should take all possible opportunities to work and pray together with Christians of all persuasions, so that we can get away from the misleading impressions which arise from the fears and suspicions of the past, and so that we can really appreciate the depth and sincerity of their faith in Christ. I suspect that it is this sort of 'grass roots' contact and working-together which will, in the end, do as much as any amount of high-level discussions between experts (important though they are) to bring about unity between the churches.

Regular meetings take place with Christians in the area, particularly, Church of England and Baptist. We pray together, plan some joint events and visit each other's churches for a variety of Services.


Ceop

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A parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.
CIO Registered Incorporated Charity Number 1173050.