COLUMBIA—Working for unity helps all Christians develop a fuller relationship with Christ and better understand the meaning of the Gospel message.
That was the overall theme at the 15th annual Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist prayer service, held Jan. 24 in Christ Chapel at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone attended the service along with Bishop Herman R. Yoos of the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor of the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and the Rev. Michael Bullock, representing the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
The hour-long service drew about 60 people and featured choral music, psalms, Scripture readings that focused on the theme of unity in Christ, and prayers of thanksgiving for the work of Christians worldwide.
Bishop Lawrence gave a sermon on the history of the modern ecumenical movement, which he said stems from a World Missionary Conference held in 1910 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Those who attended that conference declared “that the disunity of the church was hindering the conversion of great nations.”
From there, he said the ecumenical movement was expanded worldwide over the next 20 years largely through the efforts of Charles Henry Brent, an Episcopal bishop who became known as the apostle of Christian unity. The movement continued to grow through much of the 20th century, he said.
“But now, 10 years into the new century, there are those that say the ecumenical movement is in the doldrums,” Bishop Lawrence said. “Some people will ask where does it go from here and is it all worth it? I say this whole idea of the unity of the body of Christ is important because it is important to Christ.”
He cited one of the day’s readings from the Gospel (Jn 17:6, 15-23), which includes Jesus’ prayer that someday all believers in his message would be one.
“We sit here in this chapel as those who believe in the Word, in the Lord crucified, risen, ascended and coming again,” he said. “We are called by Christ to proclaim that story. This oneness is the earnest desire of Jesus, that we be one with Him as he is one with God the father. In oneness with Christ, we can find oneness with one another. Since the passion for unity is rooted in the words of our Lord, we dare not let it go.”
Bishop Lawrence said bishops and clergy could perhaps take some clues from those they lead.
“When it comes to being ecumenical, the people in the pews are way ahead of us in a lot of ways,” he said. “They go to each other’s services and talk with each other much more often than we do.”
After the prayer service, Bishop Guglielmone said he has been involved in ecumenical and interreligious efforts during his ministry.
“I’ve been fortunate to always be in parishes and places where this kind of dialogue has been appreciated,” he said. “I consider this event here in South Carolina to be a real blessing. This kind of thing is critical, absolutely critical for Catholics and other fellow Christians today. The day of driving down our own street, so to speak, is long over. We’re all in this together and we need to increase our efforts to work together.”
LARCUM started in 1995 as a way for members of the four denominations to learn more about each other’s beliefs and develop new ways of furthering Christian unity.
The prayer service is held annually at the beginning of the Week of Christian Unity. Other LARCUM events include conferences and spiritual retreats.