Friday, June 12, 2015


Common Witness

Dale Coulter:
When most Christians think of ecumenism, visible unity immediately comes to mind. Most of the effort to realize this goal has been between those occupying liturgical and sacramental traditions. The first steps were to try and move beyond anathemas of the past, and this has had some success. The fractures within Protestantism, coupled with other developments such as the move to allow women bishops in the Church of England, however, suggest that the movement toward visible unity is in stasis. While it remains an important goal, it seems farther removed than ever.


Common witness represents a genuine form of visible unity. Grounded in a common baptism and spirituality, such a witness is an extension of the good news that the triune God invites humanity to experience divine love and friendship with God and one another. All ecclesial traditions currently hold that the Christian life is about a transformational journey. From the dawning of grace in the soul to final union with God, this journey always occurs as members of the people of God who sojourn together toward glory.

All ecclesial traditions further hold that baptism marks the entrance into the people of God who are called to be a God’s new race in the world. Christian existence is the common mission to proclaim the Incarnate Son in the power of the Spirit who extend their shared life with the Father to a world mired in the disease of sin. The communion of saints who make up the City of God is a genuine visible fellowship that becomes the extension of triune life in the world. Just because this “mere” fellowship is not yet a complete realization of visible unity does not mean that there is no communion.


Finally, all Christians should work toward a common Christian culture. The church calendar provides the skeletal outline of this approach insofar as it reminds Christians of a heritage composed of many saints and martyrs from the full diversity of the City of God. It also provides a common space to celebrate historic Christianity in a way that calls all Christians to draw from the riches of the churches. Imagine for a moment a world in which Christians celebrated one another and worked together at the local level. Such a witness might just be the prophetic word needed for this time.
From a purely tactical standpoint, our enemy in culture is exploiting our divisions. Never has theis been more plainly illustrated than in the defeat of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. The problems with Mormon theology not withstanding they are of a common witness into culture. Yet the Obama's campaign exploited the theological division and his election victory embolden our opposition int he culture wars.

We have to do better or we will continue to lose.


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