Is Christ Divided?

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Epting, preaching at the 14th Annual Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christian Unity, Chicago, June 1:

“Has Christ Been Divided?” This question, asked first by St. Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:13), was of course the theme for the 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and therefore for this service. Since Anglicans like me are famous for trying to hold together the extremes of a paradox and for believing that two, seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time, I’d like to give a firm answer to that question: Has Christ been divided? Yes and No!

I’m probably not the first preacher this year to take that approach, but it seems to me to be the only truthful answer. As Paul himself taught and St. Teresa of Avila later elaborated upon, if the Church really is the Body of Christ here on earth, if “Christ really has no Body now on earth, but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours” then Christ is surely divided and divided badly. While we were one Church for a thousand years and divided into east and west for nearly six centuries after that, since the Reformation we have continued to splinter and fall apart until there are some 30,000 Christian communions or denominations in the world today.

Yet, if we get St. Paul’s clear implication in the First Corinthians passage, Jesus Christ himself is surely not divided. The apostle was pleading with his recalcitrant church in Corinth to overcome its rivalry and division precisely because they all claimed to follow the same Lord, regardless of how differently he may have been perceived and presented by Apollos or Cephas or even Paul himself.

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Image credit: Inter-Church Centre, Belfast, Ireland

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