27 November 2019

God’s Divided People: Biblical Lessons for the Church

The recent observance of the 502nd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation should once again prompt us to reflect on the unity of God’s church amidst so many divisions. Christians everywhere can point to Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John’s gospel: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21), yet wonder why this cannot be a present reality. It’s not just that churches are organizationally distinct but that they do not enjoy full communion with each other, erecting barriers preventing their members from recognizing outsiders as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course, some church bodies deny that God’s church is divided at all. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the one holy catholic and apostolic church founded by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. Other communions are officially in schism from this one true church, and their members constitute at most separated brethren in imperfect communion with Rome. The Orthodox Churches, while organizationally more pluriform, return the favour, claiming that Rome, along with every other ecclesiastical body, is outside the one true church, embodied in global Orthodoxy.

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