A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
4th August 2003
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Unity is one of the highest values in today’s fractured society.
The importance of maintaining the unity of the Anglican Communion at any cost is considered by many people to be self-evident. Calls for Ecumenical and Interfaith unity are part of the Australian landscape.
Divided and unhappy sporting teams are unlikely to reach grand finals let alone win them. Political parties that show disunity have a very limited future at the polls on Election Day.
To be divisive or uncooperative is one of the worst criticisms levelled against anybody. In fact it bears the most damning label of all: it is “un-Australian”.
But that should ring the warning bells for us. What is it to be “un-Australian”? Who determines what is, or is not, Australian? For example: is multiculturalism un-Australian or is it Australian?
If multiculturalism is un-Australian then Australia is (or wants to be) mono-cultural. Such a single culture could be described and defined. Then certain activities or values would fit the Australian culture and others would be “un-Australian”.
On the other hand if multiculturalism is Australian, and Australia is multicultural, then it is impossible for anything to be ‘un-Australian’. Anything can be an activity or value of some minority culture in a multicultural nation.
Yet it is often the very people who are keenest to promote multiculturalism that want to ban certain activities as “un-Australian”. Nobody is so illiberal as a liberal in power.
This desire and push for unity is reflected in Christian denominationalism. Unity is often the ultimate goal of denominational activity. Disunity becomes the greatest sin. Nobody pushes the issue of unity more fervently than theological liberals in denominational power.
The freedoms that they demanded for themselves when not in power are not to be granted to conservatives when the liberals come to power.
The ‘diversity of viewpoint’ that liberals value does not include the right to believe and practice conservative views.
And the great sin that is held against the conservatives is divisiveness. “You must get with the programme.” “You must stay united to us even though we believe and practice completely different things.”
To gain the high moral ground at this point, theological liberals will often quote the Bible about unity. But they fail to notice three things: that the Biblical passages are about church (congregational) unity not denominational unity; that the Biblical unity is one of common understanding, of doctrine and of godliness not of tolerant relativism; and thirdly that the Bible that they appeal to is the same Bible that on other subjects they spurn as unimportant.
Those of us who believe the word of God must not be bullied by Bible quoting liberals into maintaining an institutional unity that has nothing to do with the mind of God.