Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 25, 1999
Unity can exist in diversity
Anglican pastor tells ecumenical service communion need not mean uniformity
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
God is calling Christian churches to a unity far greater than they already have, says an Anglican pastor.
But the Rev. Susan Storey said unity can no longer be associated with uniformity or merger of churches.
Speaking at an ecumenical prayer service to open the Week of Christian Unity Jan. 17, Storey, a Vegreville pastor, said the understanding of what kind of unity God is calling Christians to is changing.
"We are moving from the assumption that unity means corporate merger of churches to a discernment that we are being called to unity even in the midst of our diversity."
The concept of unity without uniformity can be difficult to grasp, she said.
But as a 1993 ecumenical document pointed out, churches are called to "a shared life within communion in unity and diversity, grounded in the unity and diversity of the Trinity," Storey said.
She was the main preacher at the prayer service. Held at All Saints Anglican Cathedral, the service was organized by a committee of the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic churches.
About 400 people attended the event.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity runs Jan. 24 to 31. Throughout the week, congregations hold biblical reflections, prayer services and pulpit exchanges.
Reflecting on the week's theme, God Dwells With Us, Storey said, "Because God in Christ dwells with us in the Church, we are one already as members of one family.
"But also because God dwells with us, we are impelled to seek a unity far greater than that we already experience as Christians."
Churches holding ongoing dialogues are on a "learning curve," finding that they need to first have a clear picture of their own histories as distinct churches as well as the circumstances that led them in separate directions, Storey said.
"We are discovering the gifts and strengths each of us as churches has to offer. When our humility permits, we also discover those areas where we can learn, and need to learn, from each other."
As churches continue to talk and work together, they also find that their areas of agreement as Christians are far greater than their areas of disagreement, said the Anglican priest.
She said that insight helped spur Anglicans and Lutherans to begin unity discussions in 1983. The two denominations will achieve full communion later this year. But, Storey pointed out, that communion does not mean uniformity.
"Full communion is understood as a relationship between two distinct churches or communions in which each maintains its own autonomy while recognizing the catholicity and apostolicity of the other, and believing the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith."
In some areas, Christians churches are working together. However, they have a long way to go to emerge fully from their denominational ghettos to consistently act together, Storey said.
She suggested several ways in which Christians could work together at all levels of Church life, including speaking with one voice on economic and social issues, holding joint retreats and parish missions, joint youth and programs and Bible studies, joint use of facilities, praying and worshipping together whenever and however possible.
"We are one in the Spirit. That oneness still needs to be made incarnate in Christ's body, the Church."