I’ve known about the Disciples’ passion for Christian unity forever. It’s hard to be a Disciple and not have learned this at some point in one’s church life. The movement that became the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded on the principles of Christian unity–that the Body of Christ, the church, belongs to God, not to institutions. And God called the church into oneness, unity, “that we all may be one,” says Jesus in John’s gospel. The fracturing of the Body of Christ is not what God intended, so Disciples have always sought the visible unity of Christians.

I’ve known this. I’ve read the books, heard the stories, said the slogans. I also learned in my adulthood about the Disciples’ involvement in the World Council of Churches, perhaps the most influential institution in the whole of the ecumencial movement searching for visible Christian unity. I’ve even known those who do this work — Robert Welsh, Paul Crow, Jr.

But here at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, I get to see it in action.

We are big shots here. Little ‘ole Disciples of Christ, dwarfed in the United States by the larger and more influential Protestant churches: the Methodists and Presbyterians, the Episcopalians. Here at the assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), everyone knows about Disciples. We helped found the WCC, helped provide the basis for its work. We have always been involved even as the ecumenical movement and the institutions have changed. We have a reputation for passion, commitment, even theological contribution. It hasn’t been lost on me that the Disciples delegates sit at the front of the plenary hall, at the first table behind the moderators. We may not have as many delegates as the United Methodists, but we matter.

Certainly there are problems in the whole movement and I’ll get to those later. But for now, wow, is what I want to say.

Somehow, congreations, local church folks, Disciples “at large” have lost pride in our contribution to the ecumencial movement world wide. I’m not sure why. Probably has a lot to do with the overall changes occuring in the movement and in the institutions of the movement.

Peter Heltzel, who teaches religious studies at New York Theological Seminary, said yesterday, part of why he is here is because the ecumencial movement has defined Disciples theology as much as Disciples have shaped ecumenism. He wants to get at the heart of Disciples theology and its relationship to this movement for Christian unity. It’s in our DNA, Christian unity is. (That’s one of those slogans that is taking on new meaning for me).

There’s more to say, but for now, just know that on this world stage, Disciples have a strong voice, something of which we can all be proud.

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