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Church unity, unity, unity. Arrgh.


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I watched our church service online today. The one thing I've been hearing consistently from our church's pulpit is, "Unity!" We can't let "riots" or "coronavirus" or other "social issues" divide us. These things should be "less important" than our unity in Christ.

I understand the point. I might even agree if these were issues that didn't result in people losing their lives, either by police brutality or by carelessness in a pandemic.

I know there are lines over which these same people WOULD be willing to divide. But 157,000 dead human beings is not sufficient. I don't understand that. 

I suspect that if there were 157,000 preschoolers dead, and it was preventable, that would be something to divide over. But old people? Sick people? Apparently not?

[Removed this part because it was whiny. :blush:]

I hear prayers for "rioters who need Jesus" and "teachers who are tired of uncertainty," but no prayers for victims and family members of racial injustice and COVID-19. None. 

Mainly a vent but thoughts welcome as always. 🙂 

ETA: Question: what does church unity mean to you?

Edited by MercyA
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yeah...do they also preach unity in regards to pro choice people, and LGBT people? If not, it's not about unity. 

And am I hearing you right that they don't pray for the victims of Covid 19???? We have a "prayers of the people" part of the service, which always includes the sick and those caring for them, but now has Covid 19 specifically added. (names of the sick, who have requested it, are read where it says "list". 

... the sick, particularly those with Covid-19: that God will relieve their pain, restore them to wholeness, and guide all who are caring for them. We especially we lift before you the needs of: {List} The Lord is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his works.

Edited by Ktgrok
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1 minute ago, Terabith said:

How did Sunday School go?

I updated on that thread, but just fine. I only had two students, both from the same family, both masked. We had a good time, no drama. 🙂 

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9 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

yeah...do they also preach unity in regards to pro choice people, and LGBT people? If not, it's not about unity. 

And am I hearing you right that they don't pray for the victims of Covid 19???? We have a "prayers of the people" part of the service, which always includes the sick and those caring for them, but now has Covid 19 specifically added. (names of the sick, who have requested it, are read where it says "list". 

... the sick, particularly those with Covid-19: that God will relieve their pain, restore them to wholeness, and guide all who are caring for them. We especially we lift before you the needs of: {List} The Lord is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his works.

Yes. I have never, not once, heard any prayers for anyone with COVID-19. None that I remember, anyway.

That is a beautiful prayer. My mom grew up in your denomination and I love the Book of Common Prayer, especially the 1928 one. (Side note, she tried going back recently for a couple years but found it has changed significantly from her childhood. She'd love to find an Anglican church.)

We have people in our church who are pro-choice, I believe, but our denomination's position statement is pro-life. For me abortion is an issue as important as COVID-19, as it involves the sanctity of life. I would divide over it based on the official position of the church. 

Edited by MercyA
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A helpful thought when dealing with "church unity misunderstood" is to remember that "church unity" has another meaning too.

Church unity, as a concept, is used two ways: one is about how we treat each other (well) if/when we don't find ourselves in full agreement with each other. This one is about not pushing each other out, not pushing each other around, and not layering on covert (or overt) messages of rejection.

However: the other way to understand church unity is spiritually. Spiritually, Christians believe in the indwelling Holy Spirit in each and every believer. Since there is not more-than-one Spirit, and since the Spirit of life is a part of the life of all who have entrusted themselves to Jesus for salvation, then it follows that all believers (however different, or the same, however misbehaving, or not, however agreeing or disagreeing) are in reality *connected* deeply, soul-to-soul, with one another. And that we don't get any choice about that. And that we don't get any choices about who Jesus chooses to include in that. And that while we don't have to like it, and we don't have to like everyone's conduct, it none the less remains true. Our bond with each and every fellow believer is unbreakable -- by us -- because it was not made by us.

In order to truly divide from each other, we must divide from Jesus ourselves or force the other party to divide from Jesus. (Not reccommeded!)

So the, "How we treat each other" meaning flows from the, "Actually we don't get any say in the matter" meaning. Therefore it is both so much *more* than 'getting along' and also, it is robust enough to handle quite a big does of 'not getting along'. A forgiving attitude, good boundaries, boundless grace, but plenty of personal space can cover a multitude of this sort of thing.

You are not the only member of Christ's body who believes Christian love includes masking and distancing. Therefore you are not the only one having to tolerate uncomfortable intimacy with people who look down on you for it. I think you can do it. Jesus is handling it within his own body: he can help.

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Reading this, I do wonder if it might be helpful to your faith for you to visit some of the other virtual services churches who might be handling this differently. Imagine it might restore a little faith for you to hear other Christian churches praying for people affected with Covid, including patients, doctors and nurses, people affected by racial discrimination and all kinds of other injustices, etc. 

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6 minutes ago, MercyA said:

Yes. I have never, not once, heard any prayers for anyone with COVID-19. None that I remember, anyway.

That is a beautiful prayer. My mom grew up in your denomination and I love the Book of Common Prayer, especially the 1928 one. (Side note, she tried going back recently for a couple years but found it has changed significantly from her childhood. She'd love to find an Anglican church.)

 

She might see if there is an ACNA church in her area - Anglican Church of North America. It is not in communion with the Episcopal Church, it splintered, but it more traditional. Or if it is more the service than the stance on certain issues, she could try a Rite I service, instead of Rite II. That one is closer to the 1928 BCP. Many churches offer both - the Rite 1 service is usually the early service. 

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1 minute ago, Ktgrok said:

She might see if there is an ACNA church in her area - Anglican Church of North America. It is not in communion with the Episcopal Church, it splintered, but it more traditional. Or if it is more the service than the stance on certain issues, she could try a Rite I service, instead of Rite II. That one is closer to the 1928 BCP. Many churches offer both - the Rite 1 service is usually the early service. 

Thank you! She has looked. There is one meeting in another denomination's church on Sunday nights, I believe, and she and my dad might try it after virus numbers are down in our area.

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8 minutes ago, bolt. said:

You are not the only member of Christ's body who believes Christian love includes masking and distancing. Therefore you are not the only one having to tolerate uncomfortable intimacy with people who look down on you for it. I think you can do it. Jesus is handling it within his own body: he can help.

Truth. Thank you. I should not have complained about that. Removed that part of my post.

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8 minutes ago, bolt. said:

A helpful thought when dealing with "church unity misunderstood" is to remember that "church unity" has another meaning too.

Church unity, as a concept, is used two ways: one is about how we treat each other (well) if/when we don't find ourselves in full agreement with each other. This one is about not pushing each other out, not pushing each other around, and not layering on covert (or overt) messages of rejection.

However: the other way to understand church unity is spiritually. Spiritually, Christians believe in the indwelling Holy Spirit in each and every believer. Since there is not more-than-one Spirit, and since the Spirit of life is a part of the life of all who have entrusted themselves to Jesus for salvation, then it follows that all believers (however different, or the same, however misbehaving, or not, however agreeing or disagreeing) are in reality *connected* deeply, soul-to-soul, with one another. And that we don't get any choice about that. And that we don't get any choices about who Jesus chooses to include in that. And that while we don't have to like it, and we don't have to like everyone's conduct, it none the less remains true. Our bond with each and every fellow believer is unbreakable -- by us -- because it was not made by us.

In order to truly divide from each other, we must divide from Jesus ourselves or force the other party to divide from Jesus. (Not reccommeded!)

So the, "How we treat each other" meaning flows from the, "Actually we don't get any say in the matter" meaning. Therefore it is both so much *more* than 'getting along' and also, it is robust enough to handle quite a big does of 'not getting along'. A forgiving attitude, good boundaries, boundless grace, but plenty of personal space can cover a multitude of this sort of thing.

You are not the only member of Christ's body who believes Christian love includes masking and distancing. Therefore you are not the only one having to tolerate uncomfortable intimacy with people who look down on you for it. I think you can do it. Jesus is handling it within his own body: he can help.

That’s how we do it too. Our church has the official motto of “Unity to Maturity In Christ”. And the explicit understanding that unity means unity in the gospel and striving for the same purpose, NOT dividing over smaller differences in areas secondary areas or worship style or whatever, but holding the same core theology for the same end purpose. It means discipleship, brotherly love, earnest prayer, and worship with a focus on Christ and not self. It also means allowing for individual variation in some areas of spiritual freedom. 
 

Adhering to the clear commands in scripture for the purposes of our Heavenly Father and loving one another first in any area where there is a divide, seeking to test everything by scripture and not by personal feelings. 
 

There may be many things people wouldn’t prefer about our body, but the deep and consistent warmth and love for one another for Christ’s sake is a hallmark of the body. And unity to maturity in Christ is what all the ministries and preaching and community groups reach for. That covers a whole lot more than mask or no mask, and I appreciate the maturity and kindness with which they’ve handled these differences in the body, by focusing on the greater purpose and heart behind why we even gather at all.

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2 minutes ago, MercyA said:

Truth. Thank you. I should not have complained about that. Removed that part of my post.

You are allowed to complain! How else would people know what you need to hear that will help you? I commented for solidarity, not to make you feel like you said something wrong!

You are allowed to feel the tension. You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be angry because you are being mistreated, locally and in reality, by people who should be loving you better than that. You are allowed to feel alone because that's a legitimate part of what's happening for you. Cosmic answers are helpful, but they don't invalidate your original and/or ongoing emotional life.

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Unity is just a buzzword if it's not reciprocal. The fact the protests are called "riots" in your church demonstrates that unity is not what they are actually striving for. Often when the word "unity" is used in a church setting, what is actually meant is "conformity." 

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6 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

 Often when the word "unity" is used in a church setting, what is actually meant is "conformity." 

Exactly what I was thinking. "Unity" is sometimes used to persuade people, "Don't rock the boat; don't disagree openly; don't be disruptive." But if you follow a table-flipper... sometimes that is exactly what ought to be done.

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The only church unity that exists is the Universal Church around the world which is the true bride of Christ.

Within that there are divisions of country, culture, race, history, customs, literacy. I used to think we see church separate from that, when I came here I understood that I saw the church through my culture.

The christianity of a person with access to things like different versions of the Bible, concordance, study bibles, sermons and teachings by different people like America vs an educated person like my parents in my native country who read the bible in our language with one version of the Bible in the language, no concordance, study bibles vs a person who cannot read or write looks very different in my experience. I said, christianity and not faith because faith in Jesus Christ is universal among all christians. 

That is the beauty of Christianity for me, that we are different with our own baggage from around the world, yet we worship the Lord and belong to the Universal church on earth.

But our own walk with Christ is going to look very different and that is ok.

Some of us have to wander to find our Lord again, some are in the same church for generations, some have to leave the church but all these walks are valid and no one has the right to say this is the "right kind of christianity" even if it is from the pulpit especially mixing politics. The Lord knows the heart and He and He alone will judge. 

The pastor is a person, he is just a person with a job who is supposed to point us to Christ. Like all people, he or she may fail and sometimes people have to leave church. That is ok to because in the end, Christianity is just Christ and you, not church, congregation, pastor, denomination or theology. 

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24 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Unity is just a buzzword if it's not reciprocal. The fact the protests are called "riots" in your church demonstrates that unity is not what they are actually striving for. Often when the word "unity" is used in a church setting, what is actually meant is "conformity." 

Yes! One time a Sunday School teacher touched on this topic, and it was really helpful for me to hear it. He said, "Unity is not uniformity" among other things.

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To me, if you make "unity in Christ" a goal, it's the wrong goal.  The goal is living the life Jesus calls us to live.  If we do that, then unity will happen, but not always in the way we expect it, or even with whom we expect it.

 

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34 minutes ago, J-rap said:

To me, if you make "unity in Christ" a goal, it's the wrong goal.  The goal is living the life Jesus calls us to live.  If we do that, then unity will happen, but not always in the way we expect it, or even with whom we expect it.

Well said, and I agree. 

What would you say to someone who says unity should be one of the main goals of a church, and quotes verses like these? (I just skimmed the top 10 or so.)

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17 minutes ago, MercyA said:

Well said, and I agree. 

What would you say to someone who says unity should be one of the main goals of a church, and quotes verses like these? (I just skimmed the top 10 or so.)

I don't disagree with those verses, for sure, and I believe they reflect God's ideal state for us.  But I think they all need to be interpreted in the broader picture of God's love for ALL of us, His hope for unity in Christ among everyone (not just our church community), and always within the larger context of a type of self-sacrificial love.  Love is, after all, the main point of God's message.  Above all, we are to love (Col 1:14).  Everything we do is to be done in love (Cor 16:14).  We are to imitate God by living in Christlike love (Eph 5:1-2).

 

 

 

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It might help to remember that Paul corrected Peter, probably pretty forcefully given the way it's written down.

Was Paul hurting the unity? No. He was defending the church's destiny. Unity doesn't have to mean quiet submission to whoever's in charge when something is wrong. It had better not.

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I wanted to add a little more to what I said earlier.  (Also, I really like how elroisees explained it!)

I don't believe seeking unity means keeping silent when something is wrong.  Again, I think we always need to view the circumstances in question through the lens of God's broader, overriding message of loving one another.  How can we do that best?  That message needs to be the lens through which we view everything.  Doing that contributes to God's vision of a far broader unity.   Jesus was the perfect answer of living that kind of life, of course.

As an extreme example of this, you can look at German theologian/pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke out against the German Christian church for siding with Hitler.  He really worked hard to work with them and open their eyes, for a long time.  That didn't work.  

Sometimes there is not a perfect solution that makes everyone happy, or that feels completely right.  It can be rather messy.  But hopefully if we use God's broader message of unselfish love (like what Christ did for us) as our compass, we will at least be heading in the right direction.

 

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It's hard to have unity if part of the church is acting in a way that is dangerous to the other half. 

Hard to feel unified if you can't come to church due to people acting in a way that could kill you. 

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