A Catholic Perspective: By Deacon Keith Fournier
“So that the World May Believe…” (John 17:21)
Vision for the Day: Recognizing that divisions in the Body of Christ were not the plan of the Lord, there is an official level of ecumenical dialogue occurring between the leaders of numerous Christian churches, traditions, confessions and communities.
Though that dialogue is important, it is insufficient.
Once agreement on a topic occurs, rarely do such agreements filter down to the lived experience of the faithful in the pew. Nor, do such agreements seem to be inspiring Christian cooperation among the lay faithful.
Over the past 100 years the Holy Spirit has been at work, in various and vital ways, among the lay faithful in the numerous Christian churches, traditions, confessions and communities. This work of the Holy Spirit has borne wonderful fruit and is intended for the whole Church.
It offers even greater promise as we walk together into the new missionary age of the Third Millennium. It empowers us to face the challenges together and encourages us to seize the opportunities with living faith.
Grass roots efforts among the lay faithful of the various Christian traditions have sometimes involved the lay faithful working together on projects dedicated to spreading the Gospel and infusing the culture with the values informed by the faith.
These experiences have taught us much. We have found one another as members of a family, joined in Jesus Christ and strengthened by the same Holy Spirit. We have also begun to pray together, not simply talk about it. When we do, we discover the same Lord lives in our hearts and is calling us to walk and work together, in Him.
What we have also found is that as we deepen and develop bonds with our friends from other Christian traditions, the walls of division are coming down, the wounds of the past are being healed, and we are coming to rediscover one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
This experience is hastening the fulfillment of the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ for His disciples recorded by the Beloved disciple John in the 17th chapter of the Gospel which bears his name.
We dedicate this summit to the eventual fulfillment of that prayer. In a special way, we seek to respond to these words of the Lord Jesus:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23, N.I.V.)
We have an opportunity at this Summit to affect Pastors, Leaders and Clergy across the broad Christian community. We hope, by God’s grace, to inspire, equip and encourage those who participate in the Lord’s continued leadership of his own flock to respond to the Holy Spirit.
Sheep follow their shepherds. The attitude of heart and faith filled actions of each leader will affect how their congregations think, believe, and act. We must walk the talk.
If the local leader really believes they are a part of the family that Jesus Christ founded and that the Body of Christ, which, though currently separated, is intended to be one, they will reflect that belief in their ministry.
If they know that the Prayer of Jesus will be answered because the Father always hears the prayer of His Son and that the Holy Spirit is at work to heal division among Christians, they will view other Christians differently.
If they believe that all who are baptized belong to the Lord and are all called to be holy, reflecting the Risen Jesus Christ to a broken world, they will help others to encounter Jesus in a way which leads to their ongoing conversion.
If they believe that every Christian is called to participate in the one mission of the Church, to share the saving message of the Gospel which is the answer to every human need, they will live as though God still loves the world so much that He sent His only Son.
When Christians encounter the Risen Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, something begins to happen which not only changes them from within, but calls them to share the Good News with others. They also begin to welcome other Christians as brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many leaders, in every tradition, do not live in a manner which reflects this reality. Too often we act as though members of the Body of Christ, in other Christian traditions, are enemies, rather than friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The hope of this Summit is that we can help one another change our way of life and ministry. That we can turn away from attitudes that promote division and allow the Holy Spirit to help us receive one another as brothers and sisters, Christians of other traditions.
When the local Pastors, Leaders and Clergy begin to see one another as brothers and sisters their hearts will change, their preaching will change and greater local opportunities which promote unity will follow. The result is that the “World” will see Christians acting as one and will come to believe. (John 17:20-22)
A Charismatic Perspective: by Dr. Bruno Ierullo
We Will Break Dividing Walls And Go Beyond!
I can only imagine what it was like during King David’s reign when they sang the glorious Psalm 133. Perhaps musically it was not exactly like the well-respected worship leader, David Ruis’ contemporary rendering. However, the first time David Ruis played that song in our church the atmosphere was electric. I can only see the image of God’s face smiling over us and the words flowing into my spirit, “these are my children, whom I love.”
During that time, when the outpouring of God’s Spirit started to flow into what was once a small church, the nations started to visit us on a daily basis. Every night, we would ask people, “Where are you from and what church background are you from?” So many people from different nations and church backgrounds came to celebrate God’s presence in our midst. Many walls and for some, all walls of inhibitions and suspicion were coming down, and Jesus was truly the center!
That was just the beginning for me, and I will never forget it; it is imprinted in my heart, and it goes deeper year after year with every United In Christ gathering. Unity is a place of commanded blessing!
In our informal United In Christ dialogues, we start to befriend one another and have opportunity to build relationship with one another as pastors and leaders. In simple terms, we create an atmosphere to learn how to love one another as we are commanded by our Lord and Savior, Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-40. I am amazed, that for many leaders, this becomes the beginning of discovering the vastness of the riches within of the church body at large.
Others seem compelled to pursue some form of reconciliation with other church leaders. As we begin to pray, this often becomes a connecting point. We acknowledge that we have indeed hurt one another with our words and actions. I believe the Lord smiles over us when a spontaneous flow of God’s Spirit impresses on us to pray for one another and ask for forgiveness. We have seen countless priests praying for pastors and vice versa, as well as different leaders of different church backgrounds representing the body of Christ praying for one another and growing in great appreciation one for another.
I believe it grieves the Lord’s heart when the Body of Christ is separated by misunderstanding and judgments. One of the great “diffusers” of our fears of one another’s differences is having a clear understanding of the grandness of celebrating the diversity of the Body of Christ.
An unknown author once wrote: “Diversity is Divine; division is diabolic.”
When we, as pastors and leaders of different backgrounds, meet together in United In Christ gatherings and there is a “Unity in the Spirit,” it is a good thing! God seems to be saying, “I have not created you all to be the same.” It is not about uniformity or conformity in structure or theology, but a celebration of differences— the gifts that all the parts of the “Body of Christ” bring and uniqueness of each part. We can agree to say I need you as much as you need me, and together we are made whole and make up the whole body of Christ (1 Cor.12:12).
At times in United In Christ gatherings when there is a real sense of love and union and when walls have come down relationally, we are truly able to go beyond our conversation of why one operates so differently and so outside of one’s paradigm. To a degree, there is nothing unhealthy in focusing on the “walls of separation” and trying to bring clarity and understanding that sits right with each other. However, in this process, we are not speaking of a type of compromise in the lowering of our individual beliefs in order to bring a false sense of unity and agreement.
When United In Christ gatherings are divinely inspired in an intercessory way, we may focus on tearing down “ancient walls of separation,” as we stand in the gap as intercessors in identificational repentance and forgiveness. This intercession, at times, begins the process of pastors and leaders working together with a common desire. Or other times, we immediately start to work together in the follow up or outcome of our gatherings.
The ultimate goal of these gatherings is to respond to the prayer of Jesus Christ to his Father for his disciples, “that they may all be one … that the world may believe” (John 17:21).
As we face the challenges of our world today, we should continue to explore our common ground in multiple ways that pertain to our faith in Jesus, as well as areas that divide us.
We have had the privilege of being in an official dialogue promoting Christian unity and have learned that as we continue these gatherings:
We will continue to have an appreciation and love for one another.
We will become more like the body of Christ in the image and likeness of God, Triune in nature.
We will enter into the bridal purification stage that awaits Jesus as the Bridegroom.
We will develop a common witness of Jesus as our Saviour of the world and the Lord of all in evangelizing a lost, dying world.
We also will work together on ethical issues, including justice, peace, and the sanctity of life, in accordance with God’s purpose and to the praise of God’s glory.
In conclusion, a great day is on the horizon. May I encourage you to engage pastors and leaders in your area and invite them to the Summit. We are starting with pastors and leaders, as we believe that this will affect the body of Christ at large.
I end with David Ruis’ song. May this be our prayer:
There is a place of commanding blessing
Where brethren in unity dwell
A place where anointing oil is flowing
Where we live as one
You have called us to be a body
You have called us as friends
Joined together in the bond of the Spirit
Unto the end
Father, we join with the prayer of Jesus
As you are so let us be one
Joined together in unity and purpose
All for the love your Son
We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls in the name of your Son
We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls
And we will be one
A Pentecostal Perspective
Dale M. Coulter
In the opening verses of Ephesians the Apostle Paul announces the rather grandiose claim that God’s plan is nothing less than to unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). The unity is to be achieved firstly by Christ’s breaking down the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles so that strangers and aliens become citizens who have access to the Father through the Spirit (Eph. 2.13-18). It is the church that is being built.
In light of this claim, Paul calls his readers to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4.3), which they can do by virtue of the gifts lavishly poured out on the new commonwealth God has established. As any Pentecostal knows, these gifts translated into the ministers through whom the saints are equipped and established. Each part of the body works in concert with the others through the gifts that the Spirit distributes to the whole. These gifts give rise to clergy as well as empower laity.
When the body of Christ is torn, all believers suffer. What we must do is allow the gifts the Spirit continues to distribute to draw us back to unity once again. One of the central messages of Ephesians is that the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to unify and build up the body. This must happen on the ground as priests and pastors discover the Spirit’s witness in each other’s testimony and thereby become gifts to one another.
As anyone involved with the ecumenical movement will know, the movement toward unity occurs when individuals in different ecclesial bodies become gifts to one another. It is in this exchange of gifts that the entire communion of the saints is built up and strengthened.
The Spirit’s bestowal of gifts corresponds to renewal. Indeed, the lavish distribution of the Father’s love through the Son in the power of the Spirit becomes the means by which the church renews herself in the world. It usually happens on the ground through renewal movements or revivals that break out as persons join together in prayer and common cause to seek Christ.
One can see this happening in the eleventh and twelfth-century monastic movements that transformed the medieval church. Out of those movements came great preachers like Bernard of Clairvaux and visionaries like Hildegard of Bingen. The same movement that began in the eleventh century continued into the thirteenth giving rise to a Francis of Assisi and a Dominic de Guzman, the founders of the Franciscans and Dominicans. It is amazing to think that the renewal movement lasted for well over a century and its effects remain with us today. The Spirit breathed life into the body by gifted men and women who then become gifts to others.
The same could be said of the various revivals out of which the global Pentecostal movement arose. Men like William J. Seymour and women like Pandita Ramabai became channels of the Spirit’s power in the United States and India. As a result renewal came about to the churches and this renewal continues to bear fruit over one hundred years later.
These events remind us that the Father continues to pour out gifts upon the people of God. The purpose, however, remains the same. The gifts come into the lives of individuals by the power of the Spirit and these persons in turn become gifts to others. Yet, simultaneous with the reception of the gift is the call to build up the body for the sake of the unity of the faith and the faithful. In other words, to deny the call to one body is to deny a purpose that is central to all the gifts. We are called “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
It is with this in mind that we come together for this clergy summit. As ministers of diverse ecclesial bodies, we seek to exchange the gifts of God with one another that together we might once again renew the churches. This is how we will change the culture. It will occur when Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox come together around a common vision of a new evangelization in the power of the Spirit.
In one of her hymns, Hildegard of Bingen proclaimed that “The Holy Spirit is the life-giving life, the mover of all things, root of the world-tree and wind in its bows.” Let the Spirit once again become the wind in the bows of the world tree by unifying all believers—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—in the bestowal of gifts that allow them to become gifts to one another. Veni Creator Spiritus.