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Unity and Diversity: Debate is not Disunity

From Paul Cameron, EO:

I was strangely attracted by a recent article in The Weekend Australian by Labor Party elder and luminary, John Faulkner. Putting politics aside (and I hope all readers have the capacity to do so, and to engage the principles espoused that resonate with us), the article contained reflections that connect with our deeper story as a renewal movement and could therefore be read this way:
“in a healthy political party (or church or network of churches), all voices are heard”. Churches of Christ “has long known that unity is strength. But debate is not disunity. Debate is diversity. And if unity is a (Churches of Christ) strength, diversity is (our) wealth”…

Or, to put it another way, and to quote from Jürgen Moltman, “the church is on the move in free solidarity and critical fellowship”, (The Church and the Power of the Spirit, 2nd. Ed., SCM, 1992).

What I wrote last year in the Annual Report, as background to the 2010 visual theme, also deserves another run:

‘Unity in diversity’ is one of the old slogans of our movement. There’s no doubt we have the diversity. Most Sundays I find myself in a different church affiliated with Churches of Christ in Vic/Tas. And every one is different! That’s all part of the richness of the Churches of Christ story. It’s like a phrase I read this year in a book by John Franke, ‘interdependent particularity’. To me that well describes our family of churches. Autonomous and individual, but not isolated and independent; a better word is interdependent. Individual and particular, because each church is located in its own particular context, with its own history, and its own opportunities, aspirations and challenges; but at the same time connected to the other, giving strength to each other and receiving strength from each other as we carry out God’s mission together.

Hence this year’s visual theme of a strong rope. It contains many strands. Each is unique, and each is valuable in their own way, but particularly in what they are together. Without one strand, or if one strand is stressed in some way or the other, the rope is not able to fulfil the purpose for which it was designed. Over time, as other strands are woven into the rope, it is further strengthened and further enriched.

For biblical reflections on these themes, see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

At times I wonder if rather than living out the Way of Jesus with a healthy and rigorous “interdependent particularity”, we instead fall for the spirit of this consumerist, militaristic, self-focussed age, and seek to live with an “independent pecularity”.

The latter may be a sin we need to repent of, on our way towards fulfilling our Common Mission: To be a movement of the people of God gathering around the central figure of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, living out his Way in our local contexts and inviting others to do the same.

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How does debate feel to you in your church?  Like diversity?  Or like disunity?

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