2nd September 2017
Breaking aware from the church breaches unity, whether actively undertaken (and arrogantly) or passively in indifference, or through the fancies of ‘cunning and craftiness’ . Such breaks may occur from the top as well as the bottom; from leadership as well as those who are led. To break from heresy may mean simply and courageously remaining steadfast, walking in truth. The confessing church is the remnant church. Proof of unity is holding to the once revealed apostolic testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ, walking and practising His supreme command to the Church, to love by obeying His commands.[ii]
The confessing Church has always been reformed from within and when reformed it is always a truer expression of what it was in the beginning. Reformation reverts to type. Founded on apostle and prophet, endowed with its primary gifts the Church finds its unity in the fullness of Christ.
Because the Church has always lived and functioned in a hostile environment, it must continually reform towards true unity. Luther called this the Babylonian captivity of the Church, necessitating the true Church to throw its chains off and be true to the Scriptures, reforming itself after the teaching of Christ. Most of the denominations in existence today, are from historic ruptures, the process of finding the truth and maintaining true unity, albeit with pain.
The unity of the Church is not found in social or political diversity. Diversity rightly belongs to the way of life of the open society and the secular state, apparent in Western democracies. But the quality of this diversity in daily life depends upon the unity of the Church that alone can sustain its quality. Clearly put by a Nigerian Bishop interviewed on ABC Religion Report “The Church is there to sanitise society. If the Church fails to do that, that Church is corrupt and has no reason to exist. When people turn away from the teaching of Jesus Christ, that is corruption and it is more pernicious than poverty”. The unity of the Church is in its preaching of the Gospel and its practice. “It is when the Church fails to preach the Gospel, that corruption will pervade society.”
The Church is not called to mirror the diversity of the world or catch up with the political correctness and social constructions of the day developed by lobby groups. It is mandated to keep the unity of the Holy Spirit, and by exercising diversity in spiritual gifts the church can protect society to enjoy a healthy diversity.
If the Church absorbs the world’s ways of gossip, reviling, suing, distrust, sexual promiscuities, unnatural relationships, it corrupts its own heart. Its dignity bleeds and its power to restrain evil is lost. In the prophet’s words it becomes a ‘worthless thing amongst the nations’.
This is how we should understand our calling as congregations within the Uniting Church, particularly our ACC fellowship. Let us thirst for the Spirit, hear His voice today, meet regularly, encourage each other daily, realising that each one of us has a unique role in building up the Body in beautiful unity.
Rev. Ian Clarkson is a UCA minister in South Australia
[ii] 1 John 5.3