I wrote this blog post for my church’s website and I’m now publishing it here. It talks about the sectarian spirit that infected Australia in past generations and briefly describes how the churches in my town are getting past it and working together.
I am too young to remember the “bad old days”, but they happened within living memory. Even in the ’50s and ’60s priests weren’t letting their parishioners attend weddings and funerals in Protestant churches, and the ill feeling was returned in petty and shameful ways.
But two world wars of fighting together against common enemies taught us to see ourselves not according to the flavour of our religion, but according to our common nationality. We weren’t Catholic or Protestant, but Australian. And this common identity forced us slowly to reexamine our religious convictions. Believers came to see themselves as Christians first and to see the members of other churches as brothers and sisters in Christ.
And so the churches in Leeton have set themselves free of this sectarian spirit and developed a decades long tradition of working together. That spirit rests on three convictions:
1. We are not ashamed of the things that we believe in, even of the things that make us different from each other. We stand up for what we stand for, and we do not abandon our core beliefs and values.
2. We respect each other’s different traditions and emphases, and we respect each other’s right to speak their mind among their own communities.
3. But more importantly, we cherish the things we have in common: One heavenly Father, one Lord, one Spirit. One message of good news for the sake of the one kingdom of God. One holy, universal, and apostolic Church.
And so our unity rests not on pretending that there are no differences between us or in confecting some compromise Christianity that has no depth, no past, and no legacy for the future. We don’t pretend to believe in something that no one believes in. Instead our unity rests on the things we share that dwarf the things we don’t. In this spirit, we do not just do the minimum that is possible. Instead, we make even the hard things possible in mutual love and submission in order to work together for our one Lord Jesus Christ.
And so with the Creed we confess one holy, universal, and apostolic Church.