Prayer for the Unity of the Martyrs

Pope Francis recently spoke of an “ecumenism of blood.” He was referring to the martyrs of the Christian faith – those who actually die for  faithfully following Christ. I wrote a blog about his statement a few weeks ago. I believe that it summarizes a kind of “bottom line” for true ecumenism. If we can suffer and die as one people, named through our following Christ together, then surely we can find more Spirit-given ways to pursue our unity in the one, holy, apostolic faith that we confess together both in life and in death.

A dear friend, who is serving in Boston and is a graduate of the first ACT3 Missional-Ecumenical Cohort Group, participated in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Boston a few weeks ago. The video that follows is of the entire event which he gave to me via a link to this site. I encourage you to set aside an hour-plus of your time, if you have a real desire, and watch this video so that you might take in this very impressive prayer service for unity.

If we are “in Christ” then we are Christians first, not Catholics, Orthodox or Protestants first. Why is this so hard to understand? I am a Christian who happens to have lived my journey as a baptized Christian in a Protestant context. Today I am a reforming catholic Christian who happens to be ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). But my true identity, first and foremost, is that of CHRISTIAN. I follow Jesus Christ thus it is his name I take in my baptism.

I am reminded, whenever I write words like these, of St. Paul’s words to the divided church in Corinth:

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”

Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power ( 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, NLT).

Christ is not Orthodox. Christ is not Catholic. Christ is not Protestant. I know there are real differences in our understanding of how to practice the faith given to us by Jesus. But do these differences mean we must oppose one another as Christians?

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