“Holy Spirit, Make Us One!": A Prayer for the Church
A Message from President Dr. Wendy J. Deichmann
Why does a United Methodist school like United welcome theological and cultural diversity in our student body, faculty, programming and partnerships? This is an important question with both spiritual and practical implications.
To look across the landscape of the Christian Church in the world is to see a house divided and at odds with itself. The Church is saddled with historic, denominational segmentation.
Even more unsettling are the often bitter divisions within denominations that pit members of the same communion against one another. Beyond our creedal and doctrinal agreements, obsessive contention with those with whom we differ on social, political, cultural and theological issues discredits the spiritual and doctrinal integrity of denominations and the Church at large. Insiders and outsiders alike observe and ponder, “Where is the love of God?”
As we pray and work to prepare ourselves and others for faithful leadership, we must ask ourselves: how can we be faithful disciples and witnesses in the Spirit of Jesus Christ in a Church torn with tension and acrimonious disagreements? History tells us the answer is obvious: as with all of our human challenges, only with God is this possible.
So we had better begin with a prayer for divine assistance, and by working on this problem in our classrooms in the formation and education of the next generations of leaders for the Church.
At United we have adopted an ancient prayer from Jesus himself. In the Book of John he is recorded to have prayed this simple and profound prayer to his Father, “that they may be one as we are One.” Our adaptation is, “Holy Spirit, Make Us One!”
This does not mean we will ignore differences or pretend they are not there. Nor does it mean that we want anyone to be wishy-washy regarding his or her own viewpoints. It means that in our classrooms, meetings and congregations, we will prayerfully make every effort to show God’s love and respect humbly toward all others, especially when they disagree with us on social, political and theological matters. We are not the judges of one another; we honor God alone with that task.
The United Methodist Church will hold its quadrennial General Conference in Tampa, Florida, USA in April of this year. The United community is lifting a prayer that, throughout the sessions, voting, and in the outcomes of this great gathering, the Holy Spirit will make us truly One in Christ.
This prayer is essential for the seminary community because its fulfillment is required for the formation of faithful leaders for the mission of Jesus Christ. In fact, this prayer is needed for the renewal of the whole Church and its faithful witness in the world. Our differences notwithstanding, at United we pray and work toward this goal: “Holy Spirit, Make Us One!”