Ways of Unity

By Ken Asel

A Reading from Isaiah 44:24-45:7

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who by myself spread out the earth;
25 who frustrates the omens of liars,
and makes fools of diviners;
who turns back the wise,
and makes their knowledge foolish;
26 who confirms the word of his servant,
and fulfills the prediction of his messengers;
who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be inhabited,”
and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be rebuilt,
and I will raise up their ruins”;
27 who says to the deep, “Be dry —
I will dry up your rivers”;
28 who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd,
and he shall carry out all my purpose”;
and who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”

1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him —
and the gates shall not be closed:
2 I will go before you
and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I surname you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I the Lord do all these things.


Isaiah today recalls the Persian emperor Cyrus’s conquest of Judah, and how he led the Jewish people home after exile in Babylon. As the saying goes, God works in mysterious ways.

Some 2,500 years later, Father Paul Wattson led his religious order, the Society of the Atonement, into the Roman Catholic Church. From there, he sought unity among Christians.

Father Wattson was frustrated by the slow pace of Christian unity, particularly between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. Then, in 1966, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsay, traveled to Rome in order to meet with Pope Paul VI, and together they issued “The Common Declaration.” Their joint document marked a new era in ecumenical dialogue and fellowship. This statement led to the ARC talks, which brought great promise in formal theological discussions.

Ecumenical efforts have continued, sometimes haltingly, and often in unexpected ways. Roman Catholics seek to welcome small groups of Anglicans through the Ordinariates, while Anglicans have turned attention to closer cooperation with Lutherans, Moravians, and most recently Methodists. While Roman Catholics have questioned some of the Vatican II reforms, Anglicans have generally been more swift to come to terms with the modern age, though to the dismay of some. Both groups, however, have acknowledged mistakes made along this grueling path. As Alan Jones has said in Common Prayer on Common Ground, “The two traditions” — Anglican and Latin — “need each other.”

The mountain that must be climbed to unite the Anglican and Latin traditions is a steep one. Yet one day, perhaps we estranged, cautious siblings in God’s Church might become wise enough to recognize once again that for both groups, our orthodoxy begins and ends in prayer — not least the prayer that “the Lord do all these things.”

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie & he have been married 30 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.

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The Diocese of Akobo (South Sudan)
All Saints Church, Chevy Chase, Md.


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