Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister


leave a comment »


I’ve been to a lot of topical bible studies on “Unity” and it’s always uncomfortable. The implicit application is that we should all agree with one another and never argue. There are verses :

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Most recently, I ran into it in the Presbyterian Book of Order

F1.0203a The Unity of the Church

Unity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Just as God is one God and Jesus Christ is our one Savior, so the Church is one because it belongs to its one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone. There is one Church, for there is one Spirit, one hope, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5–6).

Because in Christ the Church is one, it strives to be one. To be one with Christ is to be joined with all those whom Christ calls into relationship with him. To be thus joined with one another is to become priests for one another, praying for the world and for one another and sharing the various gifts God has given to each Christian for the benefit of the whole community. Division into different denominations obscures but does not destroy unity in Christ. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), affirming its historical continuity with the whole Church of Jesus Christ, is committed to the reduction of that obscurity, and is willing to seek and to deepen communion with all other churches within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church

So for ordination in the PC(USA), I will have to sign off that I am going to “strive to be one” and uphold the unity of the one church and not particular denominations…

What in the world does that mean?  I’ve always heard it interpreted (as it seems to be in the BOO) that we should be agreeable, and try not to have denominations split over theological differences. We should never argue, we should get along.

If so, it raises the question of how? How to I “strive” to agree with someone with whom I disagree? At least Jesus in John had the good sense to ask God for unity of the church and not tell the disciples to try it. But so many church groups seem to take it as instruction including my own, they just won’t tell me how!

I think this commitment has become a meme because of anti-intellectualism. I think saying “we have a commitment to unity” is a kludge that is used by people who are uncomfortable with thinking about complicated things to reduce it all to love, love love without daring to parse what that means. I think the answer to “How?” that nobody will voice is “Turn off your brain”

But what if it meant the opposite?

What if it was not a mandate to be disingenuous, pretending to agree with everything, or to be wishy washy, believing whatever is popular or whatever it appears we are supposed to believe in the group. What if it was really a mandate to believe what is true and defend it earnestly and in a compelling manner? What if it meant we had to argue, had to encounter the other, had to let our ideas come into conflict with others so that we could find out what was really true.

What if Paul’s command was not that we would have no theology, but instead that we would all have good theology together? What if Jesus’ prayer was not that we would shut up but that we would be able to speak openly?

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (….) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Explicit, God-Given differences. Unity of faith equated with knowledge of God. That in turn equated with maturity. Real-talk as an essential part of it. NOT being wishy washy children lacking theological convictions.

Suddenly the epistle takes on a tone I find much more palatable and actionable.


Written by RyanGaffney

May 20, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: