In his final prayer before his arrest, Jesus prayed for all believers – “that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You” (John 17:21a). His prayer, simply put, was for a united Church, a united Body, and a united Kingdom.Two millennia later, there exist literally thousands of different Christian denominations and communities worldwide; the Body of Christ has been drawn and quartered a hundred times over.

What are we going to do about it?

In the past few decades, there’s been a tremendous shift toward ecumenism in Christian circles. In most parts of the world, we are long past the religious wars of yesteryear, which is a great blessing and victory. Yet I wonder what exactly this “unity” means.

But what does it mean if Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Evangelicals are united if they all attend different services on Sunday mornings? That cannot be what Jesus had in mind. The solution, then, cannot be simply to call ourselves “unified” and acquiesce to the status quo.

Nor would it be prudent merely to gloss over the differences among the various different branches of Christendom. What is the role of the Church in a Christian’s life? What about apostolic tradition? Free will and predestination? Homosexuality? The list goes on of questions that are too important to ignore, questions that have divided Christians for centuries and continue to do so today.

Unfortunately, Arminians spend most of their time talking to other Arminians; conservatives spend most of their time talking to other conservatives; Protestants spend most of their time talking to other Protestants; and, surprisingly, very little is every accomplished in terms of true reunification and reconciliation.

Is the Catholic Church the true Church? How am I supposed to know unless I take the time to talk to a Catholic? I certainly cannot find out simply by reading books about Catholicism written by Protestants; and yet, ironically, the very same Christians who would implore atheists to read Christian books as well as non-Christian ones hardly ever familiarize themselves with the thought of other Christian traditions.

Of course, unity won’t emerge from being well-read. But a great starting point for unity is talking to each other – about those things upon which you agree, yes, but especially about those things upon which disagree. Learn each other’s languages, patterns of understanding, and practices. Explain to each other why it is that we disagree – and if we do agree, explain why we are not more unified.

That will constitute just one small step toward true unity.