Christian faith is about the alternatives of life and death rather than about abstract doctrinal and philosophical forms. This does not mean doctrine is unimportant. It simply means it is not life itself. The church is where divine life is to be lived on earth by the outpoured Spirit who creates in us the living prayer of Christ who is the Son of the eternal Father. To be a Christian is thus to participate in the life of the Trinity, not simply to give mental assent to doctrines or emotional loyalty to a form of religion.
If this is true then faithfulness to the church is not the same as loyalty to our national or cultural identities. We are not American Christians, German Christians, Greek Christians or French Christians. We are Christians! We must not become prisoners to national, local or ethnic identities. Such identities have their place in the human reality and realm. They are not inherently evil. But the catholic identity of the body of Christ means that we love and serve the whole Christian community, not one small part of it. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew declared in an address in 1993 at the British Museum, "It is time for us to begin to reconcile nationalism and ecumenism." Amen!
This requires, the Patriarch said, an honest engaging in historical memory, both celebrating the heritage of our past and looking at that same past with a critical eye for what needs repentance. We must never sit easy with our past or present but bring all of it under Christ's authority and into communion with all our brothers and sisters as we seek to become the public expression of the Trinity through our life together.
Speaking at St. Peter's Basilica in 1997 Patriarch Bartholomew said we must learn how to share as Christians, not as something that we can exploit in order to reproach one another but rather as a commitment to learn how to responsibly serve each other in the body of Christ. This requires you and me to give sacrificially of ourselves to further collaboration while we continue to work for deeper expressions of unity.