SOURCE - LETTER: Dr Peter Ashton, Montgomery - "The Treasury"
DATE: May 2013
The historic difficulties of forming a united Church in this country are well known, and I am not qualified to comment on the theological hurdles that have been held with utterly sincere conviction by those with different views and which have made movement towards unity impossible.
I come from a position of believing that Church disunity is a scandal and that Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was his will that Christians should be "one" (John 17: 20-23). In my lifetime there has developed a deeper understanding and respect between those who have held apparently incompatible positions, and it is arguable that never since the Reformation has there been a greater degree of friendship and tolerance between the Churches. That does not necessarily imply an acceptance of the way that other churches express and hold their faith, but it does mean a searching for that which unites us in Christ.
It is that which is the basis, and the only basis, on which we are called upon to come together. Everything else must be of secondary importance. That is not in any way to dismiss the need for a structure; clearly that is essential, and I for one am very grateful to those who are gifted in that direction. Inevitably this will be a very difficult task and will involve a great deal of heartache and for some a very sacrificial giving up of strongly held traditions.
It troubles me that we might allow the differences over the proposed structure and organisation of the United Church to divide us. I would contend that for the majority of those who attend services, it is not the organisation of the Church nor is it theology that brings them there. They come for a variety of reasons but primarily because they feel at home and find God in and through the worship. True unity is when we recognize the validity of these differences and respect the conviction in which they are held, but share in the faith we hold so dear, knowing that that which unites us is of eternal value.
I believe that we have a God given opportunity to come together, accepting each others sincerely held differences not as a barrier but as an enrichment of our total witness to the world. We may continue to hold onto our cherished beliefs and convictions, accepting that others
have been led differently, but doing so as a united people so that those outside may know that we are together in being sent by Christ to proclaim His Gospel of love.