More Than Talk About Unity

By Mark A. Taylor

Most biblical ideals are easier to talk about than to practice. I may be able to quote Bible verses about love or patience or forgiveness or grace. But just let the neighbor’s dog wake me with its barking or my coworker across the aisle talk too loud on the phone, and let’s see how I express those virtues!

Perhaps no value is easier to promote and also more difficult to experience than unity. Whenever I’m called upon to explain the Restoration Movement to someone who doesn’t know us, I’m faced with this reality. Soon into my explanation I must admit what has happened in our unity movement: We ourselves have become three distinct groups; and members of each group deal with the further splits, camps, and ideologies within their number.

But many are not content to accept this division. We remember the great effort in 2006 to bring together members of a cappella churches of Christ and independent Christian churches and churches of Christ. In his “Reflections” column this week, David Faust describes unity experienced then and since.

Dave said nothing about the Disciples of Christ, but at least a few efforts at conversation with Disciples leaders have been ongoing. One is the Stone-Campbell Dialogue, a gathering of 15-20 members coming from all three “streams” of the Restoration Movement. They’ve met for about 10 years to explore possibilities for unity; at their meeting this spring they agreed the conversation should continue. In fact, they’re proposing a five-year plan of gatherings under the heading, “God at Work in the Stone-Campbell Movement,” that would involve expanding circles of members from all three groups.

This is good. We cannot reconcile with folks we haven’t met. We seldom influence until we’re willing to listen. We can foster greater unity when we realize the unity that already exists.

In that spirit we point you to the first two essays in this week’s issue. A fellow whose life was first shaped in an a cappella church of Christ writes one. The second comes from a minister with a Disciples of Christ congregation today.

Each submitted his article to us unassigned, and each speaks only for himself; perhaps neither article fully represents the group described. But both lend insight into congregations whose heritage we share, even though we may know little about them. And both show possibilities for common ground where fellowship and the pursuit of unity can happen.

A watching world too often dismisses Christianity because of its many divisions. Our light will grow brighter as we get to know more folks like these fellows and congregations like the ones they describe.

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