hand playing piano

I chase it, or perhaps the Holy Spirit pushes me toward it, but it has always seemed to me that it was an ideal we strive for; a mandate from Christ.

When I studied at the Ecumenical Institute I was introduced to the theological assertion that as Christ prayed to the Father that we may be one” that there is, in fact, Christian unity as a theological “given.” We are already one faith and the work of the ecumenical movement is towards the visible unity of one faith.

I dont know that I agree, but how do you argue with your esteemed professors from the World Council of Churches? Surely they would know much more about Christian unity than a pastor from Ohio, United States of America!

I joke, but I do find that I have a curiosity about the nature of Christian unity. Is it a mandate by Christ, beyond the possibility of humankind but possible by the Spirit which makes a way out of no way? Is it a theological assertion; a truth yet to be made visible? I find that I have situated myself liminally between the two. Christ said The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” (John 17: 22-23) While the scripture seems clear here, it runs against my lived experiences, it seems almost impossible to perceive.  A childhood saying bounces around my head: It is what it is, and it aint (is not) what it aint (is not).” Christian Unity seems to me something that both is and aint.

I find the same curiosity about the 2022 Global Ecumenical Theological Institute theme Christs Love (Re)moves Borders.” Is it a mandate, or is it a theological assertion of fact? My curiosity again situates me in-between. I truly believe, and have experienced, Christs transformative love move and remove borders but in ten months of living with Christians from around the globe, I never fully experienced the institution of Christs love, communion, with all of my classmates. My countrys name, the United States of America, seems increasingly a misnomer as deep divisions are felt and seen in nearly every aspect of modern life. As I write this, our country flies its flag at half-mast because 21 people were murdered in an elementary school, but even our grief is not unified. We cannot even grieve together.

Christs Love (Re)moves Borders: Is it a mandate or a fact? Either way it is prophetic.

You may level at me the same criticism that Paul leveled at the Corinthians: Has Christ been divided?” but just as surely I ask you if the Body of Christ has fully been united. It both is and it aint.

Herbie Hancock, famed Jazz pianist, tells a story about playing a concert in Stockholm with legendary Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. While Davis is about to reach the climax of his solo Hancock plays the wrong chord. It sounded like a complete mistake.”

Miles Davis paused for a second and played notes which made Hancocks wrong” chord, right. Davis didnt hear it as a mistake, but heard it as something that happened. Jazz is a conversation and Davis was an exceptional listener.

In the conversations that will occur at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, I pray that we are exceptional listeners. In my experience of preaching, pastoral care, and listening to jazz I have learned that as much is said in the silences and absences as is said in the substance of a conversation. I pray we are attentive to what is said and left unsaid in the conversation; I pray we are attentive to the borders we acknowledge and those which we have yet to discuss. I pray we play notes that make the wrong chords right.

Whether Christs Love (Re)moves Borders” is a mandate or a theological truth I am not entirely sure if there is a practical difference between the two. Either way it requires deep listening from us. Either way it requires action from us. Either way it is a gargantuan task for the churches.

About the author :

Rev. Jack Veatch is an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ, USA. He serves as solo minister at Evergreen Christian Church in Colorado. He studied at Bossey Ecumenical Institute during the 2019-2020 academic year.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.