>One holy catholic and apostolic Church
>I love the Church. It hasn’t always been this way, but it is true. I do love the Church. I love the Church Universal, made up of all the saints who have already gone on to their reward (the Church triumphant) as well as the saints who are alive on earth today struggling to love their Master as best they can (the Church militant). I love the varied traditions of the Church: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant. I love the global Church, made up of saints from all seven continents (assuming that at least one of the scientists in the Antarctic is a believer). I love the various denominations within my own Protestant subset of Christianity: Reformed, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Baptist, Nazarene, Mennonite, Friends, Foursquare, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, etc. I love the saints in all of their “-isms”: Calvinist and Arminian; Charismatic and Cessationalist; Dispensationalist and Covenant; Transubstantiationist, Consubstantiationist, Spirtual Presence-ist and Symbolist; Post-millenialist, Pre–millenialist and Amillenialist.
I admit, however, that I disagree with so many of the saints on so many things. In fact, I probably disagree with every saint on at least one thing. I describe myself as a Protestant Evangelical Charismatic Christian. You could tack on that I am an Arminian who holds to Covenant theology and that I have Amillenialist tendencies as well as a leaning toward Spiritual Presence in regard to the Lord’s Supper. I am firmly attached to these beliefs and I honestly don’t believe that those who disagree with me are correct when it comes to our points of contention. It remains to be said, however, that I love those saints, my brothers and sisters, with whom I disagree.
There is a famous quote that is often attributed to St. Augustine (though I do not know if it is truly his) which sums up our the prescription for the current state of our diverse and multifaceted church: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Well said Augustine (or pseudo-Augustine as it may be). It is my heart’s cry that Christians around the world would be reconciled to one another in brotherly love. I do not desire (and I doubt that Christ desires) the different factions and traditions within the Church to put aside all disagreements and form one giant lukewarm, wishy-washy conformity. We should celebrate our differences (even celebrating with heated debates!) and thank God that so many people of so many backgrounds and traditions can bow down beside one another and worship one Lord. Let us not compete with one another, or spread gossip about one another, or deride one another, or assume the worst of one another. Let us note our differences, discuss them, debate them and argue over them, but then pray together, break bread together and worship together thanking our one Triune God for His other saints who are so darn odd.
In the Nicene Creed we confess to belief in “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Of course the “c” in “catholic” is a small c, meaning universal. Let us not get hung up on that. Instead, note that Christians of all traditions (with the exception of those non-creedal traditions, who would still share this belief if not the creed) confess to believing in one universal Church. No matter how different we may be, we are far more similar to one another than to the rest of the world. We share the worship of the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same indwelling Holy Spirit, the same baptism by the names of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the same meal in which we remember the suffering of our Lord on our behalf.
In Ephesians 4, St. Paul calls on us to maintain the unity of the Spirit found in the bond of peace. He reminds us that we belong to one Body of Christ and are children of one Father. Jesus prayed that all of His disciples would be one as He and His Father are One, and stated that the mark by which we would be known to the world as His disciples would be our unity. Have we failed? Perhaps, in some ways. I do not want to be overly negative about the condition of the Church; the Church belongs to Jesus so I trust that He has not allowed it fail in the least. Still, perhaps we should each consider our own hearts and pray that God will unite His Church and teach us to love one another.