One quote stands out among several in a news release posted some time ago on our Web site*. An impassioned member of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue reflected on the words of Christ whose prayer for unity is recorded in John 17:
Apparently Christ thought the unity of his followers was the single most important evidence that he truly came from the Father, that he was divine. And this makes unity compelling—an absolutely compelling thing—not a backburner issue. Unity is at the heart of what the whole gospel is about.
Unity is at the heart of the annual discussions convened by a group that calls itself the Stone-Campbell Dialogue. As the news item on our Web site reports, the group met again last November on the campus of Emmanuel School of Religion “to assess its work over the past decade and to look to the future of these conversations.”
Talking is an important preliminary step toward unity. How can we break down barriers with someone we don’t know, can’t call by name, won’t speak to? Talking does not require agreement, but it does give opportunity for disagreements to be understood.
And when talking is accompanied by listening, it can lead to something more than words. Those talking can agree actually to do something. They can experience a measure of the unity they’ve been discussing, and a watching world can see some degree of unity restored.
Many readers of Christian Standard experienced this as they participated in one activity promoted by the Dialogue. Believers from around the world—members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a cappella churches of Christ, and our group—joined in Great Communion unity celebrations October 4, 2009. The services happened close to the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell’s publication of Declaration and Address, the manifesto for unity that many say launched the American Restoration Movement.
Talking doesn’t eliminate differences. Sometimes talking only makes clear that differences cannot be resolved. Some believe that today’s three “streams” of the Restoration Movement have moved too far apart ever again to be one.
Perhaps this is true. But members of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue have not yet given up on seeking ways to experience unity. Surely this is something still worth at least talking about.
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*See the release at christianstandard.com/2010/12/stone-campbell-dialogue-continues-progress-toward-unity/