Jesus prayed for unity among his followers. He wants our unity to demonstrate the truth of his claims to an unbelieving world. Yet what does the world see when they look at the church?
So often, they see a church divided. Our infightings range from petty matters of opinion to legitimate theological concerns. But to the world, it’s all another reason not to believe.
What does it really mean for the church to have unity? How should we deal with diversity? Which differences are worth dividing over?
In Mending a Fractured Church, editors Michael Bird and Brian Rosner seek to answer such questions, looking to the Bible for examples of how to behave when Christians differ. Speaking to pastors, churches, and seminary students, they provide a guide to maintaining unity without compromise.
Freedom, conscience, conviction, charity, diversity, witness, and truth are all in play as believers in Christ deal with disputable matters in the quest for Christian unity. The wisdom this book offers can help Christians everywhere show the world what it means to be “in one body through the cross.”
—Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture
Robust conversation within any family is normally a display of trust and a sign of healthy relational dynamics. However, when the bonds of affection are stretched beyond legitimate differences of opinion or in a manner that disrespects other members of the family, then the unity of the family is jeopardized. So too for the household of God. Mending a Fractured Church: How to Seek Unity with Integrity is a good example of robust conversation about the very topic of church unity and how we can express differences with integrity and love. It is a helpful and timely discussion of the issues that hopefully will produce further robust and genuinely loving conversations among Christians, so that we may all “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
—Dr. Glenn N. Davies, archbishop of Sydney, Australia
“Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius (1582–1651) who reputedly said: ‘In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials or doubtful things liberty, and in all things charity.’” (Page vii)
“When the Christians in Rome were squabbling over what the Apostle Paul called ‘disputable matters,’ he summed up his advice to them in this way: ‘Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.’ The implication is clear; to behave badly in such circumstances will lead to strife and demolish the church. It will also impede the progress of the gospel. Like it or not, the reputation of God and the gospel are tied to the behavior of his people.” (Page ix)
“In the course of intramural conflicts, one should be willing to be thrown out for standing for the truth when in a confessional minority. But one should never walk out.” (Page 91)
“Moreover, he thinks unity is something that is volitional; it is under the control of believers, and they can directly contribute toward it. Paul does expect a degree of conformity that borders on anathema to contemporary individualism.” (Page 17)
“We are not at liberty to differ over everything. Indeed, in our haste to rationalize our personal preferences and delineate our distinctives, we must be cautious not to transgress a strong call to unified Christian identity.” (Page 10)
Michael F. Bird received his PhD from the University of Queensland in Australia. He is a lecturer in theology and postgraduate research at Ridley Melbourne College. He is the author of several volumes of Bible commentary and theological studies. Michael Bird is also co-moderator of the New Testament blog Euangelion.
Brian Rosner receieved his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has lectured at the University of Aberdeen and Moore Theological College. He currently serves as the principal of Ridley College in Victoria, Autstralia.