By Heidi Pitts, Director of Communications
Unity is not uniformity, as St. Paul reminds us with his metaphors on the body of Christ. Every community experiences differences of opinion. Sometimes, the things about which we disagree are minor and easily overlooked; for instance:
Cilantro: delicious garnish or soap-tasting leaf of death?
Most realistic presidential drama: West Wing or House of Cards?
Toilet paper: over the top or from the bottom?
But not all differences can or should be simply ignored or patiently accommodated. Sometimes, they present a deeper challenge to our tightly held beliefs about who we are, who God is, or how the Church should act. The people presenting those challenges may be our bishop, or our priest, or a person in our parish with whom we’ve never actually spoken. Sometimes, it would be easiest just to walk away rather than work through the disagreement, and the question becomes: what holds us together in the Church?
Recently the elders leading the Reclaiming Jesus movement proclaimed, “We believe we are one body.” This diverse group of people came together around a declaration calling Christians to greater unity in the love that Jesus demonstrated for all people. As the Rev. Jim Wallis said,
The Good News of Jesus Christ – his life, his death, his resurrection, his teachings – must be our light that we shine amid this current darkness…We daily see the dehumanization of entire groups of people, based on their race, their economic status, their immigration documentation, their gender, their sexual identity, their nation, or their religion. This declaration says that we are all made equally in the image of God!
Even before the Reclaiming Jesus movement began, our diocesan leaders chose “Unity in the love of Christ” as our theme for this year. The Episcopal Church in Western Oregon is a place for us to learn more of what it means to live out the all-encompassing love of Jesus that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached:
Love the neighbor you like, and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with, and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor. Your black neighbor, your white neighbor. Your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor, love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.
When we gather for Eucharist, we are learning how to do this. When we allow our hearts to be changed by a Diverse Church anti-racism training, we are learning how to do this. Young and old, U.S.-born and immigrant, clergy and laypeople, we are all learning what it means to be knit together in one body, loving God and loving our neighbor.
This editorial was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of In Conversation, the semi-annual magazine from the Diocese of Oregon. Click here to read more stories from In Conversation online.