Christians of all traditions encouraged to pray for unity

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Photo by impactmatt on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Josh Valley, CCC Communications intern

This article originally appeared in the print edition of ChristianWeek, and is posted here with their permission and that of the author.

On any given Sunday morning, it would be hard to find an evangelical church that isn’t proclaiming Jesus as King through hymns or contemporary worship songs. Evangelicals often think of Jesus as King; this theology shapes the way we worship.

“But centuries before evangelicals entered the scene, Christians in the Orthodox tradition were proclaiming Jesus as King through the arts,” says Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). On any given Sunday, it would be hard to find an Orthodox church that isn’t painted with beautiful pictures of Jesus as King with crown and sceptre.

Two very different Christian traditions, both proclaiming Jesus as King. One through thinking about Christian theology, the other through artistic expressions of Christian theology.

Even though differences in the church can—and often do—lead to divisions, Christians would do well to remember that “there is only one Christ and one salvation,” says Dr. James Pedlar, Assistant Professor of Wesley Studies and Theology at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. And because there is only one King, “there can only be one church.”

Father Damian MacPherson, Director for Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Affairs for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, has participated in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) for the past 15 years and has organized the city-wide event in Toronto each of those years. The WPCU is a week of celebration and fellowship that reminds Christians around the world about Christ’s plea that all His disciples will be one.

Experiencing WPCU events has given MacPherson insight into the “fact that disunity in the church is a scandal to the gospel.” As Christians gather as one and pray for unity, he says the hope is that they will see this scandal and be inspired to “do whatever is in their means to overcome this and work towards the unity that Jesus prayed for [in John 17].”

However, evangelicals—in general—have been slow to take up the cause for Christian unity. Pedlar says this is because there is “a major dividing line” among evangelicals in their understanding of the gospel.

Whereas some stress the relative importance of doctrinal purity in their faith, others value Christ-like transformation as the most important aspect of the gospel. Where you stand determines how you approach Christian unity, and causes like the WPCU.

But Hamilton hopes this will change. She notes that believers of various backgrounds have been involved in the WPCU for more than 100 years. “We want to make sure all traditions are represented and included in such an important Christian initiative.”

Historically, the WPCU has been celebrated from January 18 to 25—the traditional days marking the ministry of the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. But Hamilton “invites and encourages churches to hold prayer services for Christian unity anytime of the year.”

For more information about the WPCU, visit www.weekofprayer.ca.

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