This week we celebrate again the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power,” is taken from Exodus 15:6. The resources for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by the churches of the Caribbean by an ecumenical team of women and men under the leadership of His Grace Kenneth Richards, Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, the Antilles Episcopal Conference, together with Mr. Gerard Granado, General Secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC).
It’s fascinating the way Providence works in the world. While the leader of our nation is referencing countries populated by Black and Brown bodies in the most derogatory ways, Christians in those nations are leading the charge for the unity of the Church. Comments that dehumanize and alienate the other, reveal the urgent need for the Christian response. The sub-theme chosen for the week and the focus of our observance here at The School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University is “That They May All Be Free”. This theme lifts a central tenant of all expressions of the Christian faith: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these…”. This theme challenges us at the foundations of our shared faith to remember the self-proclaimed purpose of Jesus who came, according to Luke 4, to preach to the poor and to set at liberty.
There is great opportunity in this week for the church because praying toward Christian unity forces us to ask ourselves some difficult questions. We get to ask in this moment, what is the Universal good, and what action on my part would be in accord with it? And we get to ask, what character and conduct is in keeping with who we are as the people of God (Rasmussen 1989)? These questions are necessary for the Church to be amid forbidding circumstances a faithful community. If the Church is to be relevant in our time, we must remember the acute task of assisting the religious practitioner in the critical business of making sense of their experience. Viable religion is one that has a sense of reciprocity with the culture that produces it or with which it interacts. Religion is never incidental to the culture, and every theological formulation is viewed against the culture that produced it, if it is to be understood (Frazier 1974). History will judge us by our response to the reality of our current sociopolitical atmosphere.
The task of the Church (particularly this week as we honor the Week of Prayer) is to provide a visible manifestation that the Gospel is a reality. The Church as a community is called to bear collective witness against the sin that alienates the individual self from God and to go to the length of giving its life over to the struggle of dismantling sinful structures that calcify patterns of human alienation in the society in general (Warnock 2014). We cannot be the Church until all parts of humanity are at the table in shared fellowship of equality and equanimity. It is not enough to give a polite nod toward a theology of reconciliation. The real work of the Church is to embody community in a new and living way that takes into consideration the whole of creation. We must be mindful of our call to the full Body of Christ. My hope is that this week we will recommit to living out our prophetic witness in the world.
Peace Is Possible,
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
Frazier, E. Franklin. 1974. The Negro Church in America . New York: Schocken Books.
Rasmussen, Bruce Birch & Larry. 1989. Bible Ethics in the Christian Life. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.
Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of The Black Church. New York: New York University Press.