Wednesday, August 22, 2007

50 years of the Australian Unity Agreement (5)

It seems to me that the main thing that is needed to bring about unity in the Christadelphian community is a change in attitude. Individuals and groups have wanted 'unity' on their own terms for too long. Unity committees perennially come and go, but attitudes remain unchanged. I have drafted a 'Unity Agreement' which simply tries to deal with the attitudes which underlie the prevailing issues.

1. We confess our failures in the past to maintain unity in the Body, repent of our sin, and humbly rely on the grace of God so that we might "all reach unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13 NIV).

2. We acknowledge the teaching of Scripture that there should be no division in the Body of Christ, and our Lord's prayer "that they may be one, as we are one" (John 17:11).

3. We agree to treat each other with the respect due to brothers and sisters in Christ.

4. We agree to treat all our brothers and sisters with love and compassion. We will act with kindness toward them, and speak kindly of them to others. We will not be a party to gossip or malicious talk about our brothers and sisters.

5. We agree to serve all our brothers and sisters, to esteem them better than ourselves, to put their needs before our own self-interests and to contribute in whatever way we can to their spiritual development. We are prepared to sacrifice our time, interests and possessions to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.

6. We agree to pray for all our brothers and sisters. We will thank our Father for the contributions they make, we will pray for their spiritual development and we will plead for their forgiveness when they fail.

7. We agree to trust each other, and, in turn, to be trustworthy. We will therefore take our brothers and sisters at their word and not attribute motives to their actions. We will always speak truthfully and will not deceive or mislead our brothers and sisters.

8. We agree to resolve our differences with our brothers and sisters with love and in the Spirit of Christ. We will respect and value their opinions and, recognising that we are all at different stages of spiritual growth and maturity, will guard their right to hold views which are different to our own.

9. We agree that our labours are in vain without the Lord's blessing and we therefore seek His guidance in building up His house. We are dedicated and committed to the task of maintaining unity in the Body of Christ.

Ecclesias may like to use this 'Agreement' as a model for writing their own commitment to each other.

Here are some suggestions for how it could be used:

(i) An ecclesia could pass around a copy with plenty of room for members to sign their names at the bottom. Copies of the signed document could then be given to every member to keep in their Bible or display in their home.

(ii) Perhaps a copy with all the members signatures could be displayed prominently at the ecclesial meeting place.

(iii) When a new member joins the ecclesia they could be given a copy with all the other members signatures, and be invited to add their name. Perhaps the copy given to new members or newly baptised people could be written in the second person: e.g. "We agree to treat you with love and compassion ..."

(iv) Ecclesias could send a copy to neighbouring ecclesias, with the signatures of all their members. Perhaps this copy could also be in the second person, as above.

(v) An ecclesia which has had an 'issue' with another ecclesia could send a copy to the other ecclesia as a sign of their goodwill and brotherly love.

(vi) If someone sends you (or your ecclesia) a letter or an email which contains gossip, denigrates another brother or sister, undermines the unity of the Body of Christ, or is unkind or unbrotherly, then send them a copy of the Unity Agreement for the Twenty First Century and let them know that this is the basis on which you try to relate to your brothers and sisters.

(vii) Arranging Brethren (and inter-ecclesial committees or combined arranging brethren's meetings) could begin their meetings by reading aloud the Unity Agreement for the Twenty First Century.

(viii) All correspondence between ecclesias on matters affecting relationships between them could include a copy of the Unity Agreement for the Twenty First Century as a reminder of their love, respect and commitment to each other.

If you have more suggestions I'd love to hear from you.