Over the years of conflict in the Episcopal Church, we have often heard the statement that “what unites us is greater than what divides us.” If that is the case, then our unity is a foregone conclusion. If it is not, then our institutional unity is a lie. Carl Braaten, in the book Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism says this about unity, and I think it’s something important for our Bishops and the rest of us, to keep in mind:
Bishop James Pike I hope we won’t let any feelings of negativity toward Bishop Pike to hinder our appreciation for what Braaten says. was once attacked by certain conservative Anglo-Catholics For not regarding episcopal succession as essential for the validity of ministry and sacraments. He quipped back that while Episcopalians have apostolic succession, other churches seem to be having apostolic success. To have apostolic success, it would seem that emphasis on evangelical truth must take priority over ecclesiastical unity, as important as unity is. A reunited church of the future that subordinates the truth of the gospel to the unity of the church would only set the stage for a new rupture as severe as the Reformation schism. Christian faith seeks unity in the truth of Christ and refuses to be indiscriminately joined with those who seek unity merely for the sake of convenience and who have become indifferent to the question of truth. The unity of the church is something that must derive from unity in truth. A visible continuity in the structure of the church is not sufficient compensation for any lack of unity in the gospel of Christ. Community can only be founded on unity of faith. […] Consequently, in a certain sense we cannot create unity, we can only recognize it. How do we do that? We don’t do it by looking at each other but by looking toward the gospel. If it is the same gospel we see, then the church is already one. Carl Braaten, Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism, 32
If this goes in one direction, i.e. seeing the same gospel leads to unity in fact, then isn’t it safe to assume that not seeing the same gospel leads to disunion in fact? So…what gospel are we looking toward in the Episcopal Church?