On an NPR environment program “Living on Earth” an ornithologist was talking about bird songs and noted that there are regional dialects in bird songs. The same species of bird will develop a slightly different song region by region. And, he noted, careful study of the songs indicate that individual birds add their own variations to the song as well. But the song remains recognizable. Even in the world of birds, individuals and regional differences are present and make themselves known in the fabric of living.
Is it any wonder then that we have such a wide variety of subtle and not-so-subtle differences among Christians in how, as the psalm phrases it, “we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land”? There are nuances of difference from group to group and individual to individual based on interpretation, history, tradition, and personal preference.
Another NPR story a few days later on a different program mentioned that we have over 90% of our DNA in common with other apes. The differences are significant but we share more with them than we ever imagine. There is more that makes us alike than that which makes us different- even when we think the differences are important.
So too with our brothers and sisters in the Christian Faith, and our brothers and sisters in the rest of the Anglican Communion. We have become so used to looking for the differences, and the things that set us apart, that we tend to forget that there is so very much more that we hold in common. And while the things that we have as differences are important to us, what we hold in common are core – it is essential.
We don’t have to agree on the finer points of theology when we are feeding the hungry, when we are involved in a Habitat for Humanity project to house some of God’s people; when we are visiting the lonely or those who are sick or in prison. We don’t have to agree on who should be in ordained ministry when we are tutoring the young or caring for the elders. When we work together being the presence of Christ in the suffering world around us we find that our differences are manageable and our effectiveness is greatly increased, than when we let those differences prevent us from working together for the good of God’s creatures and God’s creation. What unites us in Christ is far more important than those few things which separate us.