Wednesday, November 01, 2017
Celebrating Christian Unity
Is he done with the Reformation, you ask? Nein!, the blogger responds. I realize that this is the third Reformation blog entry in a row but another important issue as we acknowledge Martin Luther and the birth of Protestantism is how, 500 years later, we can be reconciled as Christians.
In the gospels Jesus offers a prayer "that all may be one," which is the motto of the United Church of Canada. Yet through the centuries Protestants and Roman Catholics have sadly been divided, and even fought wars over their divisions. Within Protestantism there are a bewildering number of denominations, many insisting that they are "the way, the truth and the life" rather than Christ, with a special "in" on theological wisdom. Honestly, it is the disgrace of Christianity that we do such a lousy job of getting along and actually listening to one another.
In light of this some Protestant leaders have said that we are observing the Reformation rather than celebrating it. The positive news is that the relations between Protestants and Catholics are arguably better than they have been at any time during the past 500 years. Over the past twelve months there have been several occasions when Pope Francis has been conciliatory, in ways that his immediate predecessor, Benedict, couldn't muster. The Atlantic Monthly describes one of these occasions:
This sense of fellowship, if not full unity, has carried through to the Reformation festivities. Last October, Pope Francis met with Lutherans in Sweden to express longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed,” hoping that one day, Lutherans and Catholics can once again share the celebration of the Eucharist, or the consecration of bread and wine as Jesus’s body and blood. Most remarkably, their joint declaration acknowledged that “the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the Church’s life”—a stunning sentiment for a pope to express in a country where Catholic convents were banned until the 1970s.
Differences matter sometimes, and we may never get beyond agreeing to disagree on some points. At the same time we can engage in another reformation, one in which we discover what we are able to celebrate as Christians. A little humility would serve us all well.