THE present world situation is one which must bring deep searching of heart to all Christians. Everywhere there is uncertainty, bewilderment, and anxiety as to the future. Vast changes are taking place, social, economic, moral and spiritual. We are at one of the great turning-points of history. For to-day the whole world is one world. For better or for worse we are all now thrown into close contact and relationship. No nation now can dwell secure in its own isolation. Whether we wish it or not, we are all members of one world community. What is thought and done in Russia, or in China, or in Africa, affects the life of all of us. Forces are at work the outcome of which no one can predict. We see reversions to philosophies long ago discarded, and attempts at economic reconstruction which rule out everything beyond the material. We see great movements which seek, by argument and by force, to destroy religion and to rob men of that faith in God which is the only basis of our faith and trust in each other. We see the continuance and the propagation of racial animosity, of an exaggerated nationalism, and of the influences which array men one against another in bitterness and strife. And widely over the world, as our present-day literature shows, those principles of moral and spiritual living which are grounded in the law of God and confirmed by all human experience are assailed and cast aside.
The issue before us is clear. The issue is between a world ruled by the forces and teachings of materialism and a world ruled by those spiritual ideals which alone give meaning and worth to human life and to man his true freedom. The issue is between a world ruled by force and fear and a world ruled by the spirit of love and brotherhood. It is between a world ruled by the powers of Paganism and a world ruled by the power of Jesus Christ.
That is the issue now before the world, and there is no other choice open to us. Where is there any spiritual power which can meet this world issue except that which the Christian Church represents? Where is there any call to world faith and world brotherhood except that which comes from the Christian Gospel? Where is there any guide who shows us the way, and who can speak to the heart of all humanity, except Jesus Christ? The Gospel of Christ was never more needed, it was never more menaced by forces both within and without, and it never had greater opportunity than it has now.
The Christian Church has the word to speak which the world now needs to hear. The Christian Church has the message of a righteous world order, the message which calls men to a fellowship of mutual service and to realization of their complete equality before God. The Christian Church is sent with the Gospel which has power to break down all barriers of race or caste or colour, and to unite the whole human race in one great family of God.
But in the face of the present world situation and world need, the Christian Church stands with its spiritual life enfeebled, its witness weakened, its message obscured, by its own differences and divisions. How can a Church which is itself disunited and divided preach the gospel of world fellowship? What power is there in a plea for the spirit of brotherhood made by those who are failing to show this spirit?
The Church is sent not only to preach the gospel of fellowship, but to show it in her own life. The Church's visible fellowship was to be the very proof of her divine mission, the evidence of the power of him in whose name she speaks. If men doubt the message of the gospel to-day, the chief reason is that the Church is failing to give them this evidence of its power. A disunited Church cannot give Christ's full message to the world. Its own inconsistency and self-contradiction are too evident. And in the present world situation this inconsistency. is more evident than ever. If the Christian Church is to do the work in Christ's name for which it is sent, if it is to meet the need and the hope of the world, it must find the way to heal its own divisions.
Who can doubt the influence, the spiritual effect upon the world, and the spiritual effect upon the Church's own life, of such a visible reunion of all Christians? But is the healing of the divisions and the union of the Church of Christ possible? Is this a practical possibility, or is it only the dream of religious enthusiasts? Is it possible for Easterns, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and the Protestant communions to come together in one united Church of God? Humanly speaking, this seems to be impossible. As we look at the wide differences between Protestantism on the one hand and Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and Old Catholicism on the other, at the differences among the Protestant bodies, and at the present official position of the great Roman Catholic Communion on this subject, the difficulties in the way of union seem to be humanly insuperable.
But the real question is not, Is union humanly possible? but, Is it the will of God? If union is God's will it is not impossible. And we know that it is his will. Unity is grounded in the nature of God himself, and the unity of the Church is grounded in Jesus Christ and in the fact of the Incarnation. Unity is inherent in the very idea of the Church as the New Testament scriptures clearly show us. The New Testament tells us that the Church is one even as God is one and the gospel is one.
Union is possible, and it will come, because it is God's will. If enough Christians in all Communions were truly and fully converted to Christ, the way to Reunion would open. Is such a worldwide spiritual awakening among Christians impossible? No believing Christian, Catholic or Protestant, will say or think so. Our duty is to believe in the coming of union, to desire it and pray for it, and to do whatever may be in our power to strengthen, in ourselves and in others, the spirit of faith, hope, and love which will prepare the way for it.
It is not necessary to elaborate the practical evils of the divisions among Christians, the waste of time, energy, and resources which they cause. We see these effects of our disunion in every community. But, serious as the practical effects are, the moral and spiritual effects are still more serious. Our divisions bring religion into disrepute. They are a grave obstacle to the faith of men. In the face of sin and evil they divide the forces that make for righteousness. They forbid and prevent united action in the name of religion. In the United States our religious divisions have given us a system of public education for the children of our whole land from which God and religion are excluded. Many of them grow up without religious instruction of any kind, and more than fifty per cent, of our people do not even profess to be identified with any form of religion. Among great numbers in the Protestant world the multiplication of religious bodies has gone far towards destroying any belief in the Church or reverence for it as a divine institution. The rival bodies with their differing creeds and organizations and propaganda have hidden from view the one Church of Christ, and have left many with little idea of what the Church should mean to them, and with little clear faith in the Christian gospel. Under present conditions, can we wonder if men feel that the message of the gospel is uncertain, or if they conclude, as many do, that all matters of creed and belief are of small importance? We see constantly the results of our divisions in the loss of moral power in bearing witness for Christian truth and righteousness and in the forfeiture of the Church's leadership in grave social issues. The Church does not speak with united voice on such great fundamental questions as peace and war, marriage and the family, racial prejudice, and Christian moral standards.
In the Mission fields, as we all know, the effect of our divisions is even more harmful. There, in the work of evangelization, the evils of our divided state come into full view. We shall never bring the world to Christ through the witness of rival and competing bodies. What success would the first messengers of Christ, the Apostles themselves, have had if they had gone forth to the world with separate and conflicting gospels? A disunited Church cannot evangelize the nations or preach Christ in his full truth and power. Jesus Christ has power to save the world. His love and truth will prevail. His Kingdom will stretch from shore to shore. All the nations are to bow before him. But the nations will not be won to Christ by a divided Church. The divisions among Christians are a grave injury to the work of Christ, and they are also an immeasurable loss to the Church's own spiritual life. Every part of the Church suffers spiritual loss through our separations from one another. We are suffering the loss of that love, joy, and peace which our Lord prayed might be given to his disciples, and also the loss of that fuller realization and vision of the truth which our oneness in Christ would bring us. For their own true development, the different types of Christian character and spiritual experience need all to dwell together and to be associated in the life and fellowship of the one Church. Denominationalism is naturally one-sided. It tends inevitably to over-emphasis of some principles and neglect of other principles. Each type of Christian needs contact with the other types. Each group needs to share the special spiritual experiences and the special spiritual gifts of the other groups. Who can measure the loss to the life of the Church through the separation of the main principles for which Catholicism stands and the main principles for which Protestantism stands? Catholicism stands essentially for authority, order, universality, for the sacramental principle, for the social and corporate expression of Christian life, for emphasis on the divine claims and the divine side of religion. Protestantism stands essentially for spiritual freedom, for the right and duty of private judgment, for the free access of each soul to God, for emphasis on personal spiritual experience and on the human side of religion. The truth is not that one of these principles is true and the other is false, but that both are true. Each of these principles is true, each is of the very truth of the gospel, each is necessary to the life of the Church. The New Testament stands for each of these principles with equal clearness and fulness. Left to itself, organized separately, each principle may be disproportionately emphasized. Each principle needs the other to supplement it and complete it. In the words of a great Christian teacher, the late Dr. William P. Du Bose, "The Church is a divinely organized and constituted unity-a unity within which, by free interrelation and interaction, different points of view, impressions, emphases, perspectives, and so theories, doctrines, systems, etc., may correct, supplement, and complete one another and bring all to the essential and sufficient unity that not only belongs to them but can come only through their all-sided contributions. Incidentally we may say of sects in Christianity that their evil is expressed in the word itself; they are organized and isolated differences and diversities. Their partial and emphasized good is withdrawn from communication to and influence upon others; their deficiencies, ignorances, or errors are removed from supplementing or correction by others. They are destructive of that oneness in Christ which is the essence and definition of Christianity, which is ours in spite of our differences, and within which our differences would quickly melt down into not merely pardonable, or permissible, but even contributive and completive diversities."
We are seeing to-day the practical evils and the spiritual loss of our divisions, but this is not all that we need to realize. Our divisions are contrary to the mind of Christ. Our disunion is not only waste and loss, it is sin, and it is sin in which we are all involved. It is Christ's will that is being thwarted, it is Christ's work that is being hindered, it is Christ's truth and power that is being hidden from the world by the separations and divisions among Christians.
We need all of us to realize more clearly the sin of our disunion. We need not enter into the causes of the divisions. The question for us is not how did the divisions begin, but how may they be brought to an end. There have been faults enough on all sides. All Churches have sinned. All have made grievous mistakes. All have been guilty of sins both of omission and commission.
God has used our divided Christendom more than we had any right to expect. Multitudes have been brought to Christ in each generation. Much has been done in Christ's name for the blessing of mankind throughout the world. But what would have been the progress and the blessing to the world, if the unity had been kept! The history of our divisions leaves no room for any Church to boast. There is no communion on earth, Catholic or Protestant, which is not a sharer in the sin. There is no Church which has done all it might have done to prevent it, or to end it. The loss of our unity is the common fault of all of us. As the learned and devout Roman Catholic, Moehler, wrote, Catholics and Protestants "must stretch a friendly hand one to the other. Both, conscious of guilt, must exclaim, We have all erred."
When we face the New Testament teaching as to the Church, the sin of our disunion is clear. The Church is not a voluntary society of believers associating themselves together for religious purposes. The Church, as shown to us in the New Testament, is constituted not by the beliefs or the will of men, but by God himself for the accomplishment of his eternal purpose for mankind. The Christian Church is built on the Incarnation and is the means which God has appointed for bringing to himself all mankind in the fellowship of his dear Son. It is the divine society formed by our Lord to be the means and the visible evidence of his continued presence and work in this world. As there is but one Christ, and one life in Him, and one Holy Spirit, so there is, and can be, but the one Church. We find this teaching as to the Church, implicit and expressed, not only in a part of the New Testament but all through it, in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles. The teaching may be familiar to us, but do we grasp it? Do we take in its meaning as St. Paul and the New Testament writers declare it to us? Do we believe it? If so, we shall realize the sin of disunion. Unity, the New Testament tells us, is the very nature of the Church, a unity which is spiritual but also visible for the world to see and recognize.
The one Spirit is to be manifested in one Body, and the one Father and the one Lord in the one Baptism and the breaking of the one Bread. In our Lord's own prayer, recorded in St. John's Gospel, the petition "that they all may be one" is four times repeated. His prayer to the Father for his disciples is that they all may be one, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." And the acts of our Lord correspond with his prayer. He provides that the spiritual unity of his disciples shall have visible manifestation. He forms a society into which his followers are to be gathered, and this society he calls His Church. He chooses and trains its first ministers, appoints visible observances for it, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are to be continued for ever, and promises to be with it "alway, even unto the end of the world."
This is the Church of the New Testament as the Apostles and all the disciples knew it, belonged to it, and preached it. The New Testament tells us that the gospel and the Church are inseparable. It is the Church which gives the gospel actuality and effect. The gospel did not end at the Ascension. The gospel declares to us the continuance of Christ's presence and work in this world, and the Church is Christ's own appointed means for this. The very proof of the gospel is in its power to bind men and women of every sort together through the Church in a new life of fellowship with Christ and with each other. This is the truth which St. Paul sees and declares with such power. He will hear of nothing which obscures this or conflicts with it. Christ and his Church, he declares, are not two, they are one. There can no more be two Churches than there can be two Christs. Not for an instant will he allow that there can be two bodies and one Spirit. It is this which he is insisting upon in his letter to the Galatians when he cries, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
As the Apostle contemplates the divine truth and meaning of the Church, he can find no words adequate, no terms strong enough to express it. His words still burn and glow as we read them. He adds phrase to phrase and figure to figure, as he strives to make clear the splendour of this truth and the revelation that it gives us of God's goodness and love. His great desire and longing is to make all men see "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
To all of us, in all Communions, St. Paul's words come to-day as a direct challenge and a clear condemnation of our disunion. "I hear," he says," that there be divisions among you." "Is Christ divided?" "Mark them which cause divisions." "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you." "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. "
In the New Testament teaching we see the mind and will of Christ. For us as Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, this is conclusive and commanding. If our Lord means us to be one in a visible fellowship, we cannot rest content in our state of disunion. What action is possible at the present time? What are the practical steps which will prepare the way? What can we do to help create the spirit and atmosphere of approach towards union?
1. We need all of us to realize the sin of disunion, not only its practical disadvantages, its waste, and its loss, but its sin. We must pray and work for Reunion because Christ asks it, and because our divisions are contrary to His will.
If we are to make true progress this must be the first step. The true desire for union will grow only in the soil of penitence. In every group we must cast aside any feeling of our own superiority. We must think of all Christians, of whatever name, as our brothers in Christ. Each Communion must confess its own sin, its own shortcomings and failure, its part in creating division or helping to continue it, its lack of a real desire for unity. We must grow in the spirit of humility, faith and love. It is this spirit in all of us, and in all Communions, which will draw Christians together and heal the wounds in the Body of Christ.
2. We must keep clearly before us the meaning of union and the New Testament teaching as to the Church. Our work is not to create unity. Unity is from God. It is God the Holy Spirit who creates unity. It is God the Spirit within us who joins us to Christ and to each other. Our unity in Christ exists now. It is hidden and obscured. It does not fulfil the will of Christ or make his work effective in this world. But in spite of all our divisions it exists. Baptized into Christ and joined to him by faith, we are all members one of another as we are sharers of his life. All Christians are one in Christ. And therein lies the sin of disunion. We are not manifesting our unity. The world cannot see it, and does not believe it. We are contradicting it by our separations and divisions. Instead of manifesting our unity in Christ we are denying it-and so denying him-before the world.
Christian union does not mean that we are to create unity, and it does not mean that we are to create a new Church. As the New Testament shows us, there is only one Church and there can be no other. Every baptized person in the world, to whatever Christian denomination he may belong, has been made a member of the one Church, which is the Body of Christ. Our baptism did not make us Methodists, or Roman Catholics, or Presbyterians, or Lutherans, or Anglicans. Our baptism made us Christians and members of the one Church which Christ himself founded and of which he is the Head. Union means that we shall all claim our full heritage and our place in the visible fellowship of the one holy Catholic Church of Christ.
The Church will again stand united in a visible fellowship which the world can see. It will not be a new Church, the marks of its life and fellowship will be the same as those which held all Christians in visible oneness in Apostolic days and through all the centuries of the Church's undivided life. And the three great means and links of the Church's visible fellowship were the Apostolic Faith, the Apostolic Sacraments, and the Apostolic Ministry. From New Testament times onward these three institutions, the Apostolic Creed, Sacraments, and Ministry, were the means and marks of the Church's fellowship, and, in spite of the divisions which have occurred, they are still continued and held as essential by the vast majority, at least three-fourths, of all the Christians in the world.
The Church which Christ founded, and which his Apostles and disciples continued, brought forth the New Testament, the Creed, and the Episcopate, all under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit; and the Episcopate was developed and established earlier than either the Canon of Scripture or the fully formulated Creed. If we should accept, as many of us do not, all the surmises of some modern scholars as to the Ministry in the sub-apostolic period, it would still remain true that for at least thirteen hundred years, from before the middle of the second century, no other but an episcopally-ordained Ministry was known in the Church, and therefore that no other form of Christian Ministry is, or can be, historic in the sense that this is. The reunited Church must have "a Ministry acknowledged in every part of the Church as possessing the sanction of the whole Church," and, as the Archbishop of York said recently in his address to his synod, "only by the universal acceptance of the historic episcopate can there come to be a ministry thus acknowledged by every part of the Church, and it ought only to come so." By means of the Apostolic Ministry, everywhere accepted, the Church was, in Bishop Brent's words, "held together in the fulness of organic life, worldwide, and all-embracing," and the Ministry cannot be thought of as a mere matter of government or outward organization. These three great institutions of Christian faith and life, the common Creed, Sacraments, and Ministry, come to us as the sacramental means and the visible signs of the Church's spiritual unity. It was the Church of Christ, united by these visible bonds of fellowship, which overcame the power of the Roman Empire, which faced martyrdom for three centuries, and which spread the gospel over all the then known world. It was the Church held in visible fellowship by these signs and means which won unparalleled victories for Christ and which had spiritual power to unite men and women of all races and all kinds, Jew and Gentile, master and slave, cultured and unlearned, in closest unity and fellowship in the Body of Christ.
Union does not mean that we are to create a new Church-"other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." The united Church will be the one holy Catholic Church of Christ into which all of us have been baptized, it will be the same Church that the New Testament shows us and of which St. Paul tells us such glorious things; and the means and links of its fellowship will be those which we see in the undivided Catholic Church, they will be those which are still continued and held as essential by the vast majority of Christians all over the world, they can only be those which will join in visible unity the Church of the ages past with the Church of the present and the future, the Apostolic Creed, Sacraments, and Ministry.
The difficulties to be met in regard to the non-episcop-ally ordained ministries of the Protestant Communions are great, but they will not prove insurmountable. The Lausanne Conference on Faith and Order, at which all the larger Protestant Churches of the world were represented, gave indication of this. The way must, and will, be found to show full recognition of the spiritual reality and power of the Protestant ministries and of their devoted work for the souls of men, and also to hold faithfully to the principle of episcopal ordination and to the threefold order of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, including the full truth of the ministerial priesthood, as these have come to us from the undivided Catholic and Apostolic Church.
There are great difficulties to be met in regard to the developments which have taken place in the Roman Catholic Church during the period of its separation from the rest of Christendom. There will be much for all of us in all Communions to learn, and some things for us to unlearn, much for us to be willing to receive as well as much for us to give, as we approach the day of reconciliation, and as that day comes nearer the way will be shown to us.
Union will not mean the surrender of any existing body to another, or the absorption of any existing body in another, and it will not mean the creation of a new united Church. It will mean the absorption of all of us into the one Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ's own foundation, of which all baptized Christians of all Communions in all the world are already members. It will mean defeat for none, and victory-victory in Christ-for all. All that we shall lose will be our sectarian divisions. All will be richer, and none will be poorer, as we share in the fellowship and all make our spiritual contributions and receive new gifts of grace and power through sharing the spiritual experience of others in the worldwide Church of God.
3. We must face the differences and difficulties which separate us from one another frankly and fully, and without evasion of any sort. We must state our differing positions to one another with entire candour, not in the spirit of controversy, but with the desire and the hope of mutual understanding. This was the object of the helpful and fruitful Conference on Faith and Order at Lausanne in 1927, another meeting of which is to be held in 1937. The cause of union is not helped by well-meaning but ambiguous statements which cover up fundamental differences. Such statements accomplish nothing and lead only to disappointment and misunderstanding. Union when it comes must be real. It must mean agreement in the things that are essential to Christian faith and life. And the first step towards such agreement is a clear understanding of one another's positions. Some of the differences are unimportant, but others are of vital importance and must be met. And why should we not discuss these things together freely as Christian brethren? We must all be loyal to the truth which we believe God has given us to see. No Christian communion can surrender or compromise that which it believes to be a part of the revelation received in Christ. No Christian will wish another to be untrue to his sincere convictions. But each side must try to understand the position of the other side. We must all try to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential, and between our principles and our prejudices. We must all be willing to learn from others. We must open our minds to the possibility of our being able to accept truths which are now strange to us. Protestants must be willing to learn from Catholics and Catholics must be willing to learn from Protestants. Only the help of the Holy Spirit can make this possible, but it is the help of the Holy Spirit that we are promised in our efforts to seek the truth in love. And while we strive towards mutual understanding and unity in essentials, let us realize that unity cannot be attained merely by a scheme of agreements. What we need is the spirit of unity and brotherhood. It is the spirit of unity and fellowship which brings agreement more than it is agreement which brings unity. It is the Spirit of the Lord which "maketh men to be of one mind in an house." As we study and face our differences together, the Spirit of God will show all of us things that we do not now see. We shall discover that some of the difficulties are less serious than we had thought and that some of the positions which we had supposed to be mutually exclusive are not so. We shall move^ towards union not by the path of exclusion but of inclusion, not by narrowing the opportunities of spiritual experience but by widening them, not by surrender of truth but by reconciliation of the truth seen and witnessed to by opposing sides.
The united Church will be greater than any of the existing communions or all of them together. Its unity will not mean uniformity. It will show a Catholicity richer and fuller than any that we now see. It will include all the spiritual treasures of the first days, and those of every generation since. It will include all the spiritual contributions, the deep experiences and lessons, of the period of our divisions. It will include all the elements of divine truth now held by separated bodies. And it will have place in it for all the truth that is to be made known to us in the future as from age to age, in the light of advancing knowledge, the truth and the glory of Christ become more and more clear.
4. We must always keep in view the fact that Christian Union must include the whole of Christendom, and not only a part of it. Christian union does not mean a union only of Protestants on the one hand or of Catholics on the other. It means the union of all of us. It means the coming together of all faithful Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, in visible unity in one worldwide Church of God. Nothing less than this can be our ideal. Nothing less than this will answer the prayer of our Lord "that they all may be one." Nothing less than this would be Christian union. Intermediate steps there may be and must be, the union of those bodies which are most closely related and between which there are no important differences of Faith or Order. Every such union is a step on the way. But we must keep the full ideal and goal always in sight, the goal which Christ himself holds up before us. However far off it may seem, we must work for this ideal. We must do nothing for the sake of supposed local or temporary gain which is inconsistent with the true ultimate goal, or which will lessen our power to help towards its attainment.
We are called now, all of us, Protestants and Catholics, to take a worldwide view of the Church of God. The great task before us is the reconciliation of Protestantism and Catholicism.
In this task a sacred opportunity and responsibility is laid upon the Anglican Communion by its uniquely central position among the separated bodies of Christendom. It seems that God has set the Anglican Communion in the middle place for the very purpose of reconciliation, and we shall serve the cause of union not by departing from our Catholic heritage but by holding faithfully to it. In common with all the Catholic communions of the world, the Anglican Communion, as its official formularies show, holds to the necessity of episcopal ordination and the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood. The Anglican Communion would not help the cause of union if it should abandon the Catholic position as to the ministry and adopt the Protestant position, and such action on its part would be profoundly deplored by those leaders in the Protestant bodies who have the ideal of worldwide union before them. If any individuals or groups in the Anglican Communion take action of this sort they are not taking a broad view of the issues involved, they are taking a local and limited view. They are not thinking of the Church of Christ in worldwide terms and of the opportunity given to the Anglican Communion to serve as a mediating influence between Protestantism and Catholicism. We shall not help the union of the Church if our efforts to heal one of the divisions have the effect of creating or widening others. As urged by the Lambeth Conference, "in all partial projects or reunion and intercommunion the final attainment of the divine purpose should be kept in view as our object; and care should be taken to do what will advance the reunion of the whole of Christendom, and to abstain from doing anything that will retard or prevent it." In every effort and movement for union the Anglican Communion must be true to the responsibility laid upon it by its central position among the separated religious bodies of the world.
It is sometimes urged that as a step towards union the clergy of the Anglican Communion should join with the ministers of Protestant bodies in holding united Communion services. The answer to this suggestion is twofold. First: this would not be a step towards union. For the Anglican clergy, this action would be the rejection of the Catholic position as to the ministry and adoption of the Protestant position, and disregard of their accepted obligations as ministers of their own Church. Second: the way is not yet spiritually prepared for intercommunion. The desire for united Communion services we must all most deeply share. It is indeed true that all Christians, all disciples of our Lord, should be in communion with one another and that we should all kneel together at the altar of God to receive the Eucharistic Gift. But none of us, Protestants or Catholics, are yet spiritually ready to claim this great blessing.
Intercommunion is the goal towards which we are striving, the consummation of our progress towards union. It is not a mere expression of Christian feeling. Intercommunion is the full sacramental expression of achieved union. We cannot with consistency, or reality, join in this great sacramental expression and declaration of visible unity while we still continue our divisions. In the present situation, united Communion services would be in effect the accepting and sanctioning of our existing divisions. To quote again words used recently by Archbishop Temple: "To adopt intercommunion in the sense of receiving the Eucharist at one another's Communion services would have the effect of obscuring the main necessity for achieving the visible union of the whole Body and would tend to suggest that the existing conditions can be made quite satisfactory." We are still divided. We are still separated from one another in the Body of Christ. What we are called to do is so to heal our differences and end our divisions that we may be ready for the realization and expression of our visible unity in the blessing and joy of intercommunion. While our disunion continues we must suffer the loss which it entails. Our lack of intercommunion is a poignant reminder to all of us of the sin of our divided state. And we need this reminder. We need all of us to realize more truly the sin of disunion. In South India, in America, everywhere, the Anglican Communion must be true to its heritage and to the opportunity given it to aid in the reconciliation between Catholicism and Protestantism, and so to help towards the union of the whole Church of Christ. It will not help the cause of union by cutting itself off from Catholicism and identifying themselves wholly with Protestantism.
The Anglican Communion must be true, not to its own faith, for it has no faith of its own, but to the faith which comes to all of us from the undivided Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. The Anglican Communion must bear their witness for a Catholicism which "combines the full heritage of the continuous Catholic tradition with that of the Reformation and of modern knowledge," a Catholicism which is wholly evangelical, which emphasizes the need of personal conversion as strongly as the need of sacramental grace, which is not disproportionately concerned about externals, which proclaims faithfully the social message and implications of the gospel, and has for its aim the bringing of the kingdom of God on earth through the grace and power of Jesus Christ, a Catholicism which, in the words of that great Christian and bishop, Charles Gore, is "scriptural, liberal-spirited and comprehensive, but always Catholic." 5. We must believe not only in the possibility of the union of the whole Church of Christ, but in the certainty of it because it is the will of God. It will come because God wills it. It may require a miracle of divine grace to accomplish it. But we believe in miracles. The whole of the Christian gospel is a miracle. The difficulty of bringing men and women into full fellowship in Christ is no greater now than it was when the Gospel was first preached. God the Holy Spirit has the same power to-day that He had in the days of the New Testament. The union of all Christians now would not be more wonderful than that love and brotherhood which the Church showed, and which won the reverence of the world, in the early centuries. And the difficulties in the way of union may not prove so invincible as we imagine. As to the possibility of a reconciliation between Protestantism and Catholicism, so qualified a witness as Professor Harnack writes: "If one objects to it that at this time no one can imagine how and under what forms Catholicism and Protestantism can ever draw near to one another, it is to be remembered that three hundred years ago no one could have conceived beforehand how Lutheranism and Calvinism could have been fused together. And yet we have to-day the Evangelical Union, and thousands know themselves as Evangelical Christians without any suspicion of that opposition which once bade Lutherans and Calvinists contend more bitterly than Lutherans and Catholics." In a recent article Professor Adolf Keller of Geneva, a leading Protestant scholar and a pupil of Professor Harnack, tells of the great change which has taken place in the relationship, and the attitude towards each other, of Roman Catholics and Protestants in parts of Europe. Dr. Keller gives as one of the chief reasons for this change on the Protestant side the fact that Protestantism is awakening to "the nature of the Church as founded by Jesus Christ," and that the meaning of the word Catholic "is again being discovered," and he states that "the Ecumenical movements and the contact with the Anglican Church have stimulated to a certain extent such a reconsideration of the Catholic conception of the Church as against an individualistic one." Professor Keller stresses also the fact that Protestants and Roman Catholics are being drawn together in their common struggle to defend the Christian heritage against the attacks of Neo-Paganism and Secularism. He writes that the relationship on both sides is being "softened by a spiritual fellowship beyond theological formulas, and a yearning for unity in Christ which is a fundamental article of our Christian faith." On the Roman Catholic side he says that the change shows itself in a recognition by some influential teachers that the Reformation had become necessary, "that the criticism of the Church at that time was deserved, and that certain truths had been brought to light again by the Reformation." "The new Dictionnaire Theologique Catholique, for instance," he says, "gives a much more tolerant and sympathetic judgment on the Reformation than former utterances have done, and reflects at the same time a rebirth of the best in Roman Catholic piety." "One of these modern Roman Catholic writers," Professor Keller tells us, "says that both Churches have to say mea culpa, both are under God's judgment, both trustees of a common Christian heritage, both having an ultimate responsibility," and he adds, "Such statements would gladly be corroborated on the Protestant side as well as the hope expressed by the same Roman Catholic writer that through the mystical power of purification both Churches may come nearer together by coming nearer to Christ."
It is not impossible for sincere Christians to agree as to the essentials of Christ's gospel. It is not impossible for us to follow the old maxim "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." And as the day of union approaches this will become increasingly evident. In the spirit and atmosphere of union many of the difficulties which now look formidable will disappear, not that we shall be indifferent to the truth revealed in Christ or to the things vital to his Church-this, as believers in Christ, we cannot be-but in that atmosphere we shall all of us see his truth more clearly and be guided to judge truly as to what is vital and what is not. As we look at these things from the standpoint of the Ecumenical Church they will have a different aspect and significance. The important thing now is for all of us, Protestants and Catholics, to keep the true ultimate ideal and goal always in sight, to think of union in worldwide terms, to have before us the vision of the one united Church of God. It is a heavenly, God-sent vision that is given to us, and in God's own way and time it will be fulfilled. The doors seem now to be opening to it. The whole world situation calls for it. The need of the world is demanding it. All effective movements for human welfare-social, economic, moral, and spiritual-must now be on a worldwide scale. Men are seeing that a world that is one needs a world religion. Their minds are open to the ideal of the one Catholic and universal Church as witnessing to the common Fatherhood of the one God and to the unity of humanity. Union will come because it is God's will, it will come because it is the will of Christ for his Church, and it will come because the world needs it. It will come because only a united Church can bring in the kingdom of God. This is the need, and the hope, of the world: the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. And this is the mission of the Church, the purpose for which it is sent.
But a disunited Church cannot fulfil this mission. In its divided and weakened state the Church has largely lost the vision of it. As Bishop Gore wrote, "Since the Reformation broke up the visible unity of the Church, and the spirit of individualism, both in the Churches of the Reformation and in the Catholic Church, obscured the doctrine of the kingdom of God on earth and made the Church appear as little else than a piece of spiritual machinery for saving the individual soul for another world, its social function has been almost forgotten." It is indeed the mission of the Church to save individual souls, to bring men and women to Christ one by one in true conversion, but the Church is sent not only to redeem individuals but to redeem society. The Church is Christ's organ and instrument for the building of his kingdom here on earth. The Church is sent to bring in the day of justice and brotherhood and peace in all the world. And this mission can be fulfilled only by the witness and the spiritual power of the whole united Church of Christ. The union of the Church is certain. We know that it will come, and must come, because the very meaning of the gospel is love, and union will be the expression and manifestation of that divine love which Christians are called and commanded to show to each other and to all men. Love is the summing up and the soul of the gospel, love to God and love for one another. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples." We are to show to each other the love that is shown and brought to us in Christ. And it is in the fellowship of the Church, in the visible unity of the Body of Christ, that we are to show this love one to another, and to manifest it to the world. It is love in the hearts of all of us that will make us one.
At what time, and under what conditions, God will fulfil his purpose we cannot know. Union may still be long in coming, or it may come sooner than any of us imagine. A world catastrophe may bring it. It may be that the forces of paganism and materialism now so powerful in the world will compel us to realize the need of brotherhood among Christians and the sin of our disunion. We have even now seen religion under ruthless assault and Christians in great numbers suffering persecution and martyrdom. Not long ago most of us would have said that such acts against God and religion were not possible in these days. But whatever the conditions, or the delays, the union of the Church of Christ will come. The vision will be fulfilled. It will be fulfilled because it is from Christ himself-and he is at the right hand of God. Our part is to keep before us the ideal of worldwide union, to believe in it and to do what may be in our power to prepare the way for it. The all-important thing is the spirit of love and unity and the desire for such a visible union as shall be agreeable to the will of God. The union of the whole Church will come, and the chief means of its coming will be prayer-prayer in the name of him who prayed that his disciples should all be one. When Christians everywhere, both Catholics and Protestants, lift up earnest prayers for union, the time of its coming will be brought near. The spirit of division in men's hearts and of disunion in the Church can be cast out only by the power of prayer.
Why should we not now send up prayers aft over the world for the union of the whole Church of Christ on earth? Why should we not send up from all our altars and from all our prayer meetings, from every group of whatever name in Christendom, the prayer, "O Lord Jesu Christ, who saidst unto thine Apostles, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: Regard not our sins, but the faith of thy Church; and grant to it that peace and unity which is according to thy will, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end "; and with this also the petition which our Lord gives us in his own words, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven"?