Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. John 17:21

The World Council of Churches in Geneva and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome have jointly declared that January 18-25 is the Week for Prayer for Christian Unity.

In principle, there is a small but valid role for the sort of bureaucratic ecumenism attempted by the World Council, even if that organization is tragically flawed in its current form. For anyone interested in Christian Unity, however, I would point them not to Geneva, but to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (Gemeinsames Leben). Bonhoeffer writes in chapter one:

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it. …

There is probably no Christian to whom God has not give the uplifting experience of genuine Christian community at least once in his life. But in this world such experiences can be no more than a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim upon such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of acquiring them. It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together.

Chapter one of Life Together should be required reading for every seminarian.

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