Revealing unity

Outgoing CTE President and General Secretary of the Council of Lutheran Churches in Great Britain, Dr Anna Krauss, shares her Reflection of the Month for June.

Every now and then, a group of people in one of my husband’s Anglican parishes asks for a four-week burst of theological discussion. Over the years, we have gone through a host of different topics, but most recently we unravelled some parts of the Common Worship Liturgy for Eucharistic Services. During the discussions on different eucharistic prayers, my husband mentioned that for occasions with an ecumenical focus, he will often use the prayer that involves these words: Remember, Lord, your Church in every land. Reveal her unity, guard her faith, and preserve her in peace. (Eucharistic Prayer G)

“I like this phrase”, my husband said, “because it talks about God revealing the unity of the Church. It is not something that is created by humans.”

This may seem entirely obvious – after all, we know that the unity we are seeking is a unity founded, and found, in Christ alone. Not everything is so clear though. First, there will always be an element of God that remains shrouded in mystery while we journey in this created, earthly body. Second, while the source and goal of ecumenism may be clear, the path towards unity is not. This is where we encounter the stumbling blocks and challenges and those most frustrating situations where we are ecumenically stuck and cannot move on together at all.

Ecumenism, like any other part of the Christian faith, relies on God’s self-revelation. That doesn’t mean that we can just sit and wait for it to happen. There is active seeking involved on our part. We need to give the Spirit the space to move among us and reveal the right way forward, which we cannot always see. This is why it is so important to integrate prayer and worship into our ecumenical gatherings. We seek, God reveals. Even when I feel extremely frustrated, I stubbornly cling to this hope.

Together with Christians from all over the world, I recently attended the Global Christian Forum in Ghana. This global forum only meets every six to seven years and its specific aim is to bring together all major streams of Christianity. We were seated around round tables with eight or so people from different traditions. Normally, I would expect to speak about our own traditions and how we struggle with this or that debate. Unconsciously, I would probably assess a person by their position in their church, their age and a host of other little indicators. It can take a long time to build relationships and trust each other, especially across denominational boundaries. This was all completely swept away when we were asked to share our faith stories. I, a Lutheran, was sat on a table with people from the Evangelical Alliance, the Orthodox, Anglican, Pentecostal and Presbyterian tradition. In this intimate setting of sharing parts of our personal faith stories, how we grew as Christians, something happened. I could not see those people by their traditional labels and our theological differences anymore. I saw them as true brothers and sisters in Christ. For me, in this encounter, something that had blocked my mind was taken away and a piece of true unity in Christ was revealed to me. There are many ways in which God can reveal more about the unity we are seeking. What I have learned in Ghana is – to use another phrase from a eucharistic prayer – to watch more closely for the signs of God’s kingdom on earth.

Dr Anna Krauss has a doctorate in theology and has worked as an Old Testament scholar and expert in early biblical manuscripts at Heidelberg University and the University of Oxford. She represented the Fourth Presidency Group from May 2023 to June 2024 when she was General Secretary of the Council of Lutheran Churches in Great Britain. From September 2024 she will take up the post of Director of the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Centre in Wittenberg, Germany.