From Salvationist 20 January 2018
ONE IN HEART, ONE IN PURPOSE, ONE IN UNITED EFFORT
SOMEONE told me once that William Booth summed up the relationships between denominations in his day in the following way: ‘The Catholics look down on the Anglicans, the Anglicans look down on the Methodists, the Methodists look down on the Baptists, the Baptists look down on the Congregationalists, and the poor old Salvation Army looks down on the lot of them!’ He may not have said that, but if he did, no doubt it was with a twinkle in his eye and his tongue firmly in his cheek.
Nevertheless, Booth’s words reflect the fact that inter-church relationships in the 19th century were sometimes far from harmonious. When we look back over the 20th century and the first years of the 21st it’s not hard to see how far we’ve come and how significantly things have improved. Ecumenism is now an important feature of all the mainstream denominations, and relationships are generally healthy.
We are presently in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – an annual event that runs between the Feast of the Confession of St Peter on 18 January and the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul on 25 January. Many corps will be participating in inter-church studies, reflections and services during this week. And, as Territorial Ecumenical Officer Major David Evans emphasises in the interview on pages 12 and 13, corps are also engaged in a wide range of activities together with other churches in their communities. Some do this on an ad hoc basis, while others have entered covenant agreements to formalise their commitment to working together and making themselves accountable. We hear about two examples of this on page 14, where Captain Joanna Baker writes about the Murray Churches Partnership and Major Drew McCombe highlights the Cumbria Declaration of Covenant Partnership.
Not everyone is convinced of the need for ecumenical engagement. Some believe it is a distraction from our real mission – proclaiming the gospel and meeting human need. ‘Leave ecumenism to the ecu-maniacs and let the rest of us get on with the real work,’ they say. But actually, we can’t separate unity from mission; they are two sides of the same coin. As people see the Church united they are more likely to respond to our message of peace and reconciliation. And as churches unite in witness and work they can be more effective by combining resources and people power.
Unity in mission is now a key element in ecumenism. And the HOPE 2018 initiative gives us the opportunity to explore new ways of working together. In the interview with HOPE Together Executive Director Roy Crowne, on page 15, we discover more about it and are invited to get involved.
I began with some alleged words of William Booth. I’ll end with some actual words of Catherine Booth, who made a heartfelt plea for unity in mission: ‘God only knows how deeply I desire that all godly men could present one common front to the foe, that we might be one in heart, one in purpose and one in united effort.’ Amen to that!
From the Editor,
LIEUT-COLONEL JONATHAN ROBERTS
Check out our Article of the Week here.
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