I returned yesterday from the West Ohio Annual Conference. It was good to see old friends and to make new ones, and to be about the business of holy conferencing. I know many people would say that annual conferences do not always embody the ideal of holy conferencing, but, at least in West Ohio, I think that we do ok. The last two years have involved contentious issues that we have engaged (most of the time) with gentleness and humility.
Of course, there are folks who will not be satisfied with the decisions of the conference, and the old Protestant temptation to divide may become too strong to resist. But I am reminded in thinking about disagreement in ecclesial settings that unity is a Christian virtue that is often undervalued. Yes, the issues about which we debate are indeed important and need to be taken seriously, but so does the unity of our communion. We should remember that the solution to every problem in the Christian life does not immediately present itself, even to those who are most faithful and prayerful. Consider, for example, that the creedal statements around the Trinity and the Incarnation took around 400 years to develop, though controversies about the nature of the Godhead and the nature of Christ go back to the earliest days of the faith.
Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Cor 1:13, “Has Christ been divided?” It was a poignant question in the first century, and is no less so today.