Rev. Gary Harke: But we are still one in Christ.

Rev. Gary Harke, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, brought a message of Christian unity to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference at its Annual Conference on the afternoon of Thursday, May 17.  Photo by Rev. Jim Mundell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I bring you greetings from the Pennsylvania Council of Churches and your 41 partners in seeking Christian unity for the sake of the world. Our member church bodies pray and worship together, witness in the halls of government, and minister to travelers, farmworkers, and campers across Pennsylvania. We do this because we understand that God’s church is one, because God gifts us with unity in Jesus Christ.

I wish to say a few words about that unity, the unity for which Jesus prayed and that God calls us to make incarnate.

X  We may attend worship in our Sunday best, or in “casual Friday” dress, or we may come as we are. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may have altars or simple tables. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may worship surrounded by icons or bare white walls, under gothic vaults or in storefronts. But we are still one in Christ.

X  Our liturgy may seem ancient or crafted yesterday. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may use a chalice or individual glasses. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may say “trespasses,” “debts” or “sins.” But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may call our clergy—if we have clergy—“priests,” “pastors,” or “hey, reverend.” But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may ordain only men, or we may ordain anyone we believe is called to ordained ministry regardless of gender or sexual orientation. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may have bishops, or avoid having anything that looks like a bishop. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may revere and read from different translations of Holy Scripture, and understand and interpret passages of those scriptures differently. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may pray from books, off video screens, or extemporaneously, standing, kneeling, or with hands upraised. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may sing hymns accompanied by pipe organs or songs accompanied by praise bands—or not use music at all. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may make decisions binding on all, or leave all decisions to local congregations and bind no one. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may be of different races, different nationalities, different social or economic classes. But we are still one in Christ.

X  We may think we’re the one true church, and others may think they’re the one true church. But even then we are still one in Christ.

We are one in Christ simply because God has so made us:

4There is one body and one Spirit, …, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 [nrsv]

Gary L. Harke,

Pennsylvania Council of Churches