A broad Church
A very familiar phrase is “We are a broad church” which secular organisations -especially political parties – regularly use to show that an organisation can contain a wide range of beliefs, styles and opinions. The Christian faith is quite literally that. Around 2.5bn people are Christian (around a third of the World population in fact), and they are part of up to 45,000 separate denominations – quite an incredible figure. The vast majority belong to churches in the 5 main Christian families of Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy and Restorationism (including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Church of the Latter Day Saints/ Mormons etc).
Even here in our own parish, we have 5 separate churches who pray, worship, praise, honour and submit to Jesus and God not together but as similar but decidedly individual church families. Although it is sad that as a faith, Christianity has splintered from its early days, into congregations of different styles of worship and even belief, we should be strengthened by the knowledge that there are more things that bind us together than those that separate us.
Jesus, I suspect, would not be surprised at how His church has developed over the millennia, as it was surely to be expected when a faith such as Christianity happens that is truly open to ALL people- whatever their background, whatever they have done to themselves or others, no matter how knowledgeable or not they are, and irrespective of their own personal politics. Christians have always sought to understand who Jesus is, what that means to them individually and how they should worship, praise and live their lives according to Him.
Disagreements and debates amongst Christians are nothing new of course. They happened very early on in church history - St Paul disagreed that Gentile followers of ‘The Way’ had to follow Jewish law- that was a debate he had to win for spiritual and practical reasons, and it led the way for Christianity to become the world force it now is. In the 17th century the Puritans left England to go to Holland and America because Church of England reforms were not to them sufficient (sound familiar?) as they sought a literal belief in scripture with minimalistic worship without the rituals, crosses and church decorations that Anglicanism brought with it from Catholicism.
So, we are all Christians together – even if we worship in separate places and may believe different things about we see and honour Jesus and God.