The week between the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I am participating in two events for this observance in 2024: I am a guest on “A Seat at the Table”, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix’s weekly livestream with Bishop Dolan; and a participant in the annual Arizona worship service tonight at 6:30 pm at St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church in Scottsdale.
We begin every service of Baptism or Confirmation with the proclamation that “There is one Body, and one Spirit; there is one hope in God’s call to us; One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism; One God and Father of all.”
One. It is a word we say a lot about the church. We are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
And yet we look around and must recognize the real divisions within and between churches.
I have been spending time this week thinking about some old terms: the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.
The Church Militant is the church on earth. “Militant” may be an archaic way of putting it–but we are the church that is active in the struggle against sin and the vanities of the world. The Church Militant is fractured–into denominations, and within denominations sometimes between local churches or provinces or dioceses. It is hard to fully be one on Earth–and while I believe in ecumenical dialogue and shared agreements between churches, I do not think that these earthly divisions are inherently bad. I pray for greater church unity, but I would not want to sacrifice some of the particular charisms and theologies of the Episcopal Church in order to achieve earthly unity.
The Church Triumphant is the church of the saints before us – and I believe the reality of the Church Triumphant is that it is actually one. This is the church in which all our theological language about unity is realized. This is the church where the things that divide us on earth will be resolved through the power and mercy and grace of God.
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.