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Lack of Christian unity harms Gospel witness, says priest

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Time to 'ratchet up' unity efforts among Christians
By Deborah Gyapong

In order to win the world for Jesus Christ, Christians must overcome divisions among themselves, Franciscan priest Father Dmitri Sala told the Fire and Fusion Conference here Aug. 6.

Despite the great things God is doing, the household of God is a "house divided," weakening the power of the Church, said the author of "The Stained Glass Curtain: Crossing the Evangelical-Catholic Divide" to find our common heritage.

"A house-divided is not headed for revival; but headed for ruin," he warned.

The Chicago-based priest told the conference it is time to "ratchet up" unity efforts among Christians. "If Satan can keep us fighting one another, we won't have the energy to fight him!" he said.

On the important issue of salvation, evangelicals and Catholics believe the same things, he said. His book examines how the Protestant's method of sharing the Gospel through the Four Spiritual Laws is consistent with Catholic teaching.

Father Sala explained how fellowship with black Pentecostal preachers led him to experience much healing as he witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit. When they would discover he was Catholic, however, they would advise him to leave the "Whore of Babylon" where people worship statues and Mary, he said. So Father Sala decided if he was going to leave the Church he needed to understand what it is he is leaving. His studies of Church documents and the Catechism led him to write the book to share what the Catholic Church actually teaches, beyond the false impressions.

Referring to a description of the early Church in Acts, Father Sala said the unity, love and lifestyle of Christians drew those in the surrounding culture to say, "I want that!"

"Christian unity breeds transformation," he said. "Life not lingo; reality not rhetoric." The early Christian unity "commanded respect." But today, with 33,000 denominations, the Christianity has lost its credibility. "What does the world outside the world see?" he asked. People see Christians "divided into camps" and Sunday "the most segregated day of the week."

When they see Christians fighting with each other like a dysfunctional family, they will look elsewhere to find meaning. "People are not interested in studying our theology," he said. "They are studying us!"

He asked participants to imagine a holy, unified Church. "What if the Church became a 'shock and awe' society?" He urged Christians to shed any part of their flesh that proves to be an impediment to unity such as: ways of relating; suspicion; and prejudice. No true unity will be found without a cost, without Christians taking up their cross, he said.

Father Sala was among several speakers, both Catholic and Protestant, at the second Fire and Fusion Conference in Ottawa Aug. 6-8. The conference is inspired by an international movement with roots in the Second Vatican Council. It aims to seek unity through trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit and walking in love rather than through a focus on doctrinal discussions. Organizers are members of a movement in North America called United in Christ.

International Catholic charismatic leader Matteo Calisi, told the conference how he got involved in the movement through the influence of Cardinal Suenens, one of the moderators of the Council and Council observer Pentecoastal David DuPlessis, who believed his mission was to bring the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Calisi showed slides of Pope Francis' involvement in the movement, including his introduction to it Argentina when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Pope Francis has often speaks of "unity in diversity," Calisi said. Unity is not the fruit of our human effort but something the Father is preparing as a gift for His Bride. The Church is entering a moment of reconciliation and restoration, he said. There will be a convergence in Jesus Christ before full, visible unity is attained.

Speaking Italian and translated by Catch the Fire (CTF) co-founder Bruno Ierullo, pastor of CTFs Newmarket, Ontario, campus, Calisi predicted that one day all Christians, who are united already by their Baptism, will sit together sharing the same Eucharist.

Toronto's Catch the Fire co-founder and senior pastor John Arnott, who was among evangelical leaders who shared a three-hour lunch with Pope Francis in 2014, gave two talks, focusing on the God the Father's love and the need for inner healing and reconciliation with God, and with those who have hurt us.

Vineyard pastor and well-known contemporary worship song writer and musician David Ruis led a group of Catholic and Protestant musicians for the evening sessions.

In a talk Aug. 9, Ruis shared how his background with the Fellowship Baptist Church did not prepare him to explain to his parishioners in Kelowna, B.C. what was happening when manifestations of the Holy Spirit began to break out in his congregation. He recalled holding a meeting to try to explain what was going on, when a little boy raised his hand.

The boy had a hamster who was so tame it could go freely in and out of its cage. One day the hamster fell in a water dish on the floor. Soaking wet, the hamster put its nose to the electrical socket. The hamsters' hair stood on end and it shot away from the wall and hit the other wall. "He was smoking!" the boy said. "Is that like the Holy Spirit?"

Ruis said the end of this "ride" with the Holy Spirit is "Christlikeness" not for our own sake, but for the sake of those who watch. Catholics provide a challenge to individualistic Protestants, he said, noting the call of Christ to become a "community of faith."

Last Updated on Friday, 21 August 2015 08:01  

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