Sermon given by Fr. Jonathan Redvers Harris at The Ecumenical Service at St. Michael’s, Bembridge during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2012
“There remain great gulfs between the Christian Churches, and there are emerging even greater gulfs between us – in matters of core doctrine, in areas of sexual ethics, in what is marriage, in how we see the sanctity of life, in matters of ordination – we all know “the elephants in the room” as they say these days. Now, it would be easy for me to say, “Come to Peter and all will be well” or “Journey together with Peter and to him” – although it isn’t actually easy, and certainly not personally, having given up the security of a house in which I could have stayed until 70, my livelihood, not even a pension scheme at the moment – so the ecumenical journey can be a lean and mean risky venture. But after all the proliferation of separations, breakaways, splits and divisions, we do have to ask: is there a way of coming back, of rejoining, of being grafted back into to the main trunk, being reunited from the rock from which we were hewn. Those of us in or who used to be in the Church of England know that legally it began in 597 when Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory, arrived on the shores; if that’s the case then for the best part of 1000 years it was under papal authority, before the split. Charles and John Wesley were Church of England, before the Methodist movement eventually broke away. Or the great split between East and West – and Catholics need to talk, and are talking, to Orthodox. But is there no way that the scandal of these divisions can be healed, or are we simply making them deeper and wider?
Thank God for niceness, for niceness is always better than nastiness, and thank God for those things in which we can stand shoulder to shoulder as co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard. But may we also be challenged to find ways of fulfilling Christ’s prayer that one day our common baptism may mean also a shared pulpit, and above all a table where all may gather from east and west to share in that foretaste of heavenly unity which exists between Father Son and Holy Spirit and which is the wellspring and principle for all unity in his Church and in the world”