January 17, 2017, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu released a statement calling for repentance for the disunity created by the Reformation.
The archbishops called upon Christians to “remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love.”
Certainly, there was damage done to the unity of the visible church. But should unity of the church have been preserved at the cost of truth and freedom of conscience? Today’s ecumenical movement is pushing for “Christian unity” but at what cost? There seems to be more concern about achieving external unity than a concern for oneness with Christ.
What Kind of Unity Will Please God?
Will a human-made unity satisfy God? The Bible is clear that there are conditions to the kind of unity that is acceptable to God. Jesus Himself said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Should all Christian churches come together just because they all call themselves “Christian”? Not unless they are all doing the will of God. How can those who teach obedience to God unite with those who teach disobedience to God’s commands?
What ecumenical proponents tend to forget is that there can be no unity between truth and error. It is unity between truth and error that is “in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ” who said, “If you love Me keep my commandments.” Those who willingly break His commandments and teach others to do so also, demonstrate a willful defiance to the authority of Christ.
Required Condition for Unity
When Jesus prayed for unity it was in the context of obedience. In the section just before Christ’s prayer for unity we read these words: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (John 17:6). What passes for “Christian unity” today is simply conformity based on externals – sharing the name “Christian,” speaking in tongues, or having concern for the social welfare of humanity, for example.
The archbishops of the Anglican church missed the mark when they blamed the Reformation for damaging the unity of the church. Instead, they should have blamed the anti-Christian teachings of the Catholic church for severing the church from Christ its Head.