By Mark A. Taylor
Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way,” summarized the mind-set of the generations that followed him. Still today we could think of it as a theme for our times. Now personal choice is claimed as a right, and marketers of everything from flip-flops to family sedans try appealing to the consumer’s quest to be unique.
In such an atmosphere, religious pluralism has only increased. Talk-show hosts and best-selling authors speak of spirituality. But no one in the mainstream spotlight dares suggest Jesus is the only way to God, the only reliable source of truth.
Even among those who agree on Jesus, too many seem to have settled for division. Instead of working toward unity, they just work around their denominating disagreements with the resignation Republicans and Democrats display when they meet for a Memorial Day parade. “This is just the way it is. Diversity is good. You do your thing; we’ll do ours. We don’t have to agree to get along.”
As long as we look first at ourselves and our differences, division among Christians will never improve. But if we would instead concentrate on Jesus and his priorities and his difficult demands, we could take significant steps toward unity.
Unity, we know, was the prayer of Jesus. And unity was Thomas Campbell’s plea in his Declaration and Address, published in 1809. Next year, as we celebrate its 200th anniversary, we should re-examine its principles and the bold possibility it proposed: “one church.”
A good beginning point is the book introduced by our lead article this week. One Church is available for only $10.99 from Leafwood Publishers at www.leafwoodpublishers.com (1-877-816-4455). It surveys the origins and history of Declaration and Address and offers a modern restating of its 13 propositions.
We can do more than read, however. We can act. With the division of this unity movement into three distinct, disagreeing factions, our plea for “one church” rings hollow with many Christians, let alone secular cynics. An ad-hoc task force meeting to promote this bicentennial is suggesting a step toward unity.
A “Great Communion” celebration October 4, 2009 will commemorate the 1909 centennial Communion service in Pittsburgh as well as the Declaration bicentennial. It is the perfect opportunity for members of instrumental, a cappella, and Disciples congregations to observe Communion together. Perhaps this simple and foundational act can prod all of us to understand what we must change in our worship and Christian work to “do it his way” in days ahead.