When must we break unity?

Jan 17, 2018 by

by Phil Colgan, Australian Church Record:

At the recent Synod of the Sydney Diocese two important motions were passed concerning the wider Anglican communion. The first affirmed our Archbishop for attending the consecration of Bishop Andy Lines as a Missionary Bishop for the UK. The second expressed our sadness that the Scottish Episcopal Church had broken communion with us, and other faithful Anglicans, by their decisions concerning so-called “same-sex marriage”. In those debates, the importance of unity in the church was raised as an argument against these actions. Such arguments need to be heard and considered. Unity is highly valued in the Scriptures and so it should be valued by us (e.g. Eph 2:11-22, 4:1-6, John 17:20-23). Indeed, is there any more difficult issue for Christians than when to break unity with people who claim the name of Christ?

However, we also see in the Scriptures that there is no value in maintaining a false or institutional unity simply for unity’s sake. The unity that God longs for us to preserve is the unity that we have by virtue of our common faith in Christ. It is a unity created by the fact that we share the Spirit of Christ.

Accordingly, the unity that Paul calls on us to eagerly maintain in passages like Ephesians 2 is a unity built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). That is, it is a unity built on a common faith drawn from the Scriptures. The diversity that Ephesians then calls us to celebrate is a diversity of ethnicity and of giftedness – a diversity that is overcome by a non-diversity of faith. Paul’s end goal is that we would all reach unity – but it is a unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son (Eph 4:13).

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