that all of them may be one, Father,
just as you are in me and I am in you.
May they also be in us
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one —
I in them and you in me —
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me."
- John 17:20-23 (TNIV)
An important part of our disciple-making mission as 21st century Christians is to work toward Church unity. Actually, it's more than important; it's essential. Just as we need to be actively pursuing the spread of the gospel through verbal witness and social witness, we need to be actively pursuing ecumenical involvement with the aim of "complete unity".
Why? Because it was the prayer of our Lord that we be "brought to complete unity".
Why did Jesus pray this prayer? That the world might know the gospel. As the world sees a disunified Church, our witness is damaged. When United Methodists work against Baptists, or Roman Catholics work against Pentecostals, or Lutherans work against Presbyterians, we are hurting not only our effectiveness, but we are hurting our Lord, who desperately desires unity.
More than simply agreeing not to work against one another, we need to actively pursue working together. Folks in our communities need to know that the UM pastor, the RC priest, and the Episcopalian vicar are all "on the same page", and view themselves as part of the same team, not as competitors (deliberate "sheep stealing" is a grave sin, and one for which God will demand an accounting).
Today, I'm happy to say, I will be meeting with other local clergy...all good people...to discuss how we might work together more formally. Our hope is, of course, to accomplish something for the gospel...and to proclaim to the people of Jefferson Hills and Pleasant Hills that we are one. We have our doctrinal specifics, to be sure, but we all share the same Lord, and everything else is subordinant to him.
Ecumenical work is not only the work of clergy. Our laity need to be actively engaged as well...or the whole thing is just a show.
How are you actively pursuing Church unity? How are you equipping others for this task? These are important questions as we seek to be faithful and fruitful.