15 DECEMBER 1950, Page 18


Church Unity

Sig,—Does Mr. Christie's article on Church Unity—" divisions not only calamitous but even absurd "—really reptesent the view of the "ordinary layman " ? On the contrary, I suggest that these divisions worry us not at all. As Mr. Christie points out, the divisions which were a real evil- " secular barriers of snobbery and prejudice "—have disappeared. These divisions today represent the different results of earnest thought and study. The Christian- faith is a complicated business, and throughout its history has been subject to many and various interpretations, and surely that will always be so. So far as the ordinary layman is concerned, what appears to be of value against the present threat to the Christian tradition is not unity of organisation, but what St. Paul called " the unity of the Faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God."

Mr. Christie's layman complains that it is a pity that the different communions cannot "get together" and have generally more "freedom of circulation." Well, his layman would be surprised to know that I have heard the lesson read in our village church by a Methodist minister ; that at this moment we are planning to run a youth club jointly with the chapel ; that on Remembrance Sunday theoRector of the nearest town parish (one of Mr. Christie's " High-churchmen " who are " shocked " at such things !) invited to his pulpit a Free-church preacher ; that a month ago I went to Benediction in Westminster Cathedral without any feeling that I was not welcome, and saw a notice there specially inviting non- Romans to i series of mid-week evening services ; and, finally, that Lord Craigavon is organising a national pilgrimage to Canterbury, in which Christians of all denominations are to take part on equal terms.

The last part of the article is unrealistic. It is true that all communions have in common the fundamental doorines which he mentions. But Mr. Christie ignores one 'which has a profound effect, not upon the ordinary layman's theology, if he has any, but upon his practical religion, i.e.. the doctrine of the Mass, to the layman the transubstantia- tion of the Roman Church or the real presence of the Anglican. No one these days would say that those who accept this doctrine are more devout Christians than those who replace it by the purely subjective act of memorial of the Protestant. some of the greatest thinkers of today look upon it as the central act of religious practice, as the extension of the Incarnation to our own time. Other thinkers, just as great and just as devout, look upon it as a piece of mistaken superstition. What all are agreed upon is that acceptance or rejection of the doctrine of the Mass makes a vast difference—not in the quality or devotion of a man's worship, but in the manner of it.

Herein lies not the "pity "—to use -Mr. Christie's word—but the value of his "theological walls." By all means creak down the wails; if what you want is not the "unity of theltnowledge of the Son of God," but uniformity in the manner in which that knowledge is expressed.—

Manor Farm, Rendham. Saxmundhatn.