Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Keeping our eyes firmly on the wrong place

In Saturday's Times there was an article by Rev. Nick Jowett of St. Andrew's Psalter Lane Anglican-Methodist Church, Sheffield, entitled We Must Keep Our Eye of the Pearl of Great Price(P.73). The subject, however, was not keeping our eyes on Jesus, but on the Ecumenical Movement.

This movement, which was set to create a single united denomination in the United Kingdom, has stalled, Jowett says candidly,
"The ecumenical movement is kept going mostly by people over 60 driven by nostalgia for the great days of the mid-20th century"
He deplores this, and perhaps he IS one of these people he speaks of. "The pearl is nothing less than ecumenical - that is, worldwide - unity." he tells us. But how is that 'unity' to be achieved? Well, Rev. Canon Jowett is also a theological liberal, "I am not the first person to think that, in spite of 2000 years, the Churches may only just be beginning to grow out of their dogmatic, aggressive adolescence," he says. Now I was brought up in the Church of England, on the Book of Common Prayer (affectionately known as the BCP), and in one of its prayers, the BCP leads the worshippers in praying that god may inspire the Universal Church with "The spirit of truth, unity and concord". Now THIS ecumenical spirit is what is worth having, for unity without truth and concord is no real unity at all. What the mixed denominations, including the great Ecumenical experiment, the URC, represent is really union without unity. I can speak from experience of two churches, of the same denomination, in the same town, that would have nothing to do with each other. One was extremely liberal, the other more traditional. So they sat in the same denomination, but would not acknowledge each other in fact.

On the other hand, if we have truth, then we are all in agreement together as to what the Bible teaches. Not in every little detail, but in the broad detail, as summed up in the Reformed confessions, for example (the consensus of the Westminster, Savoy and Second London Confessions, for example). Unless truth is the basis for union, error will be, and Christ is The Truth.

With agreement in the truth comes real unity, where believers are one as Christ is one with the Father, of one heart and one soul. Then comes Concord, agreement, not just intellectually, but an agreement that is full of love. The only true unity is this one of Truth and Concord. But how is it to be brought? The old BCP writers show their Christian spirit here, for it is only by The Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can unite the Church, not councils and synods. Now what does the Holy Spirit do? He points us to Christ, not to Himself, He glorifies Christ. And it is Christ, not some organic denominational unity that is the Pearl of Great Price. The Ecumenical movement has failed because it has traded truth for unity, and unity in error is a price that the Churches of Christ cannot pay.

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