20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,
21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
The prayer of Jesus
Remember when we learned about the four marks of the Church? Sure you do! The Church is One.
Sometimes I think that we Anglicans are the only ones that truly believe this. Our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brethren seem to believe they each are the One True Church, and the other is not.
Most Protestants believe the Church is split into denominations. According to Mr. Siri, there are around 33,000 denominations in the world, maybe, because there may be 20,000 independent and the rest mainstream.
I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind. The fact is, of course, that most Christians aren’t too worried about unity. Most will do what they think is best without consulting anybody else.
We Anglicans though have always considered ourselves as a branch of the Catholic, or Universal, Church, and I think the bishops have made a good case for that.
We have closely followed the Roman Catholic Church in many of our actions, with the exception of a few things, clergy celibacy being one. I think we made a good choice in that area. Just saying.
We are a conciliar church as well, having in common the Seven Ecumenical Councils that guide our theology. We have been discussion these in Sunday School, as a matter of fact.
What we have learned from studying the Councils is that the leaders of the Church have always had to deal with heresies, teachings that go against what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.
This is what we call the Vincentian Canon, or Rule, that was laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins, as a threefold test of Catholicity.
By this triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent, the Church is to differentiate between true and false tradition.
The Church must do this to keep the teaching pure and undefiled. The sad fact is that by allowing heretical teaching to remain within, certain churches have begun to falter.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)
Churches that change the teaching unilaterally cause a disruption in the fellowship. It has been tolerated in the past, and it has caused division.
There have been bishops who have cast doubt on such doctrine as the virgin birth, and even the Trinity. Some of the most famous of these were not disciplined by the Church leadership, but simply received a slap on the wrist. The lack of solid, uncompromising leadership leads to chaos.
We have had a solid, uncompromising bishop for the last 26 years, Jack Leo Iker, thanks be to God. He has led this diocese through some very difficult days.
I am very happy to report that we managed to elect his successor, Dean Ryan Reed, Dean of St. Vincent’s Cathedral, whom we believe will also be a strong leader who will not compromise the faith once delivered to the saints. This is vital to the future of the Church so that we will not be dragged down by erroneous and strange doctrine.
For the Church to be One, it must have unity of teaching on the core doctrines of the faith. We cannot change them just because we feel like it. We are bound together by shared beliefs taught to us by Jesus through his Apostles.
Jesus prayed to the Father that we might be one with him. We should make that our goal.
Jesus said, “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (v. 26)
Jesus revealed the Father to us, and will continue to do so, so that the Father’s love may be in us, and that Jesus may be within us. This love makes us one. Let it be so forever and ever. Amen.