The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Tag ecclesiology

What's the most important form of Church unity?

When pressed, I think most Christians would admit that there is an "invisible" unity of the Church. We as Christians are members of Christ's body and sealed by the Holy Spirit. That is the work of Christ and not of the church. Therefore we Christians are ontologically unified.

The real question comes up in regards to "visible" expressions of Christian unity. What shared characteristic makes any two congregations unified? There is no single answer, and I think different traditions would say different things. I'll propose this non-exhaustive list of possibilities for the most important manifestation of Christian unity:

  • Hierarchy
  • Liturgy
  • Canon
  • Orthodoxy (or common confession)
  • Mode of baptism
  • Charismatic practice
  • Understanding of communion (or the sacraments in general)
So what must another congregation have in common with yours in order for you to consider the groups unified?

Speaking of Civility

I came across this Covenant for Civility on the Sojourners site. It is intended as a pledge for civility within the church, and has been signed by representatives from many and various Christian groups and traditions. I think the content of the covenant is laudable, though I do have two quick nitpicks.

First, I would consider using another term than "civility." I'm not sure that the civis or city is the best metaphor for church internal relations. Perhaps "congregationality" or "ecclesiality"? They don't have the same ring, and are perhaps tautological. But I think another term would work better, especially when this matter is placed alongside the matter of national civility in discussions on the Sojourners blog.

Second, I'm not sure that this deals adequately with Jesus' "whitewashed tombs" language in the gospels. Perhaps Jesus is the exception to the rule of civility, because he certainly was not civil on certain matters. And I think there are times when Christians ought to be "uncivil" for the sake of conscience (though perhaps there is a distinction between incivility and civil disobedience). But I do think that civility is a Christian value in general (e.g. "seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile", "render unto Caesar").

Overall I think this is an important effort for Sojo, especially if it is calling for greater civility in our national life. We as the church need to do a bit of work to get our own shop in order on that matter before we present it to the nation.