The night before his death, Jesus prayed to God the Father: ‘May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so also may they be in us, that the world my believe that you sent me.’ Over the 2000 years of its history the Church has experienced many ups and downs in trying to fulfil this task. It has had some miraculous ‘successes’ – not least that at the end of the 20th century Christian faith is a world-wide reality, with followers of Jesus in almost every part of the globe. But it has also known massive failures. Too often the Church has split into mutually hostile ‘denominations’ and ‘confessions’. No failing has so weakened or corrupted its witness the tendency for Christian groups to reject one another.
One of the miracles of the past century has been the work of the Holy Spirit in leading Christians from different backgrounds and ways of thinking into paths of understanding and reconciliation. We can now see ways of overcoming division, of working and worshipping together so that we can witness publicly and effectively to our commitment to God’s purposes of love for the whole creation and even offer to the wider human community a foretaste of the healing and joy that is God’s Kingdom.
In praying and exploring this dimension of the calling of Christ’s people, we discover this ‘ecumenical movement’, which leads us towards a concern for the healing and integrity of God’s world. The wholeness and unity of the one Church of Christ in the service of God’s purposes is a sign of its obedience to those purposes. Participation in this movement of God’s Spirit at every level – from local to world-wide – offers the Diocese of Oxford and its ecumenical partners the opportunity to share in Christ’s service in and to each community, and to the whole creation.