One Bread, One Body...
One bread, one body, one Lord of all; One cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many, throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.
There are many denominations of Christianity. It seems as if a new one is formed every day and with the rise of nondenominational churches, which are in essence a denomination in and of themselves, the amount of denominations grows more and more each day. With the amount of different denominations it seems as if the hymn One Bread One Body is a falsehood. Christ prayed that His disciples would be one as He and the Creator are one (John 17:22), yet even before Christ left the disciples were battling over who was the greatest, before Gentiles were being preached to by Paul the disciples had no idea how to handle the Greek widows in Jerusalem. Before the Church became the institution Paul and Barnabas split into two factions – schism is not a new phenomenon for Christians. Schism is not a new phenomenon for the United Methodist Church either.
In 1844 the longest General Conference in history took place, the Methodist Episcopal Church divided up its assets due to “irreconcilable differences” and the North split with the South over the issue of slavery. Or so it would appear, slavery was the symptom, not the disease and so the split was only a temporary fix to a deeper dwelling problem. The Methodist Episcopal South failed to see God in the people that it claimed as property, the economic gains of slavery were too good to leave behind to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Despite the many sermons of the Methodist Church’s founder John Wesley calling for the end of slavery, the MEC- South continued on its journey to evil instead of good. Schism did not fix their problem.
When the German-speaking members of the MEC were forced out, the problems were not solved with schism. When the Rio Grande Conference was formed for Spanish-speaking Methodists, schism did not solve the problem. When the Central Conference was formed for Black Methodists, schism did not solve the problem. Separate but equal has never solved problems, neither has splitting.
I remember in our house in Orange County, when my brother and I would fight our parents would force us to go to our rooms in separate parts of the house. Such a solution seems to make sense, but it did not force us to get along, it gave us time to further convince ourselves that we were in the right, and the other brother had wronged us and that it is our parents fault for not taking our side more clearly. Splitting up denominations has the same effect – the progressives will go into their own corner and pat themselves on the back for being inclusive of everyone whilst ignoring the call to personal piety (not just social piety); the conservatives will go into their own corner and pat themselves on the back for their personal piety and stances on social issues whilst they ignore the needs of LGBT children they will keep giving birth to. This is not the Church Jesus asked for. This is not the Church that will stand strong against the gates of Hell.
If splitting is not an option, how then do we solve the problem of our “irreconcilable differences”? We have bishops in the Western Jurisdiction deliberately breaking the rules restricting ministry to LGBT Methodists, we have an out lesbian seeking ordination in the South Central Jurisdiction, we have a bishop in the Northeastern Jurisdiction who refused to put a minister on trial for joining his son to another man in holy matrimony, and we have a bishop that defrocked Frank Schaefer for marrying his son. The covenant to the Book of Discipline is being partially broken, and because it is being broken in ways that some more conservative brethren do not like they are calling for a split. The best solution I have found for sibling that do not agree or get along, is found where all great solutions are found, yes the Bible, and the internet!
“Make them one, as you and I are one…” from the own mouth of Jesus comes our solution. We must be made one bread, one body. The internet follows the prayer of Jesus Christ with the “get along shirt”. I chose this specific one for a particular reason, because one of the kids is crying. How fitting is that this represents not only what the UMC will be, but what it is at the moment – “two groups” held together by a covenant made in 1968 in Dallas, TX one “side” is crying the other frowning neither side is happy – that is family. No one member of the family will get all they wanted, God has not gotten us to stop dividing up our lands into different nations, or from harming one another; Christ has not gotten His wish that we be one; the Spirit is in a perpetual state of grieving; and we do not get to have our cake and eat it too. No one is getting what they want, but all can be satisfied – not satisfied in a way that leaves them 100% okay with the way things are, but they need not leave hungry. One bread can feed all, one body was given for all.
The way we leave satisfied from the bread offered in Christ is in a state of compromise. We must find a common goal something like “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”, and have simple rules that help us do this efficiently much like “Do good, do no harm, stay in love with God”. Most of all we must decide to respect that God speaks to and relates to others differently and we must respect the relationship with God that others have. Peter and Jesus had a different relationship than Thomas and Jesus did – but Peter did not tell Thomas that his relationship with Christ was invalid, or that his doubting disqualified Him from serving in ministry; these two apostles worked together amidst their differences to the glory of God. They ate of one bread, one body. So may we too partake of one bread, and one body. May we drink of the cup in remembrance of Jesus Christ – and remember the prayer He prayed, that we be one.
Gentile or Jew, servant or free, Woman or man, no more. Many the gifts, many the works, One in the Lord - of all.
One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
One cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many, throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord. – United Methodist Hymnal #620