John Woodhouse on Unity

The Briefing published a thoughtful three-part series by John Woodhouse (the Principal of Moore College since 2002) after his addresses at the Reform National Conference in Swanick, UK, in October 2001.

  1. When to Unite and When to Divide.” The Briefing 279 (Dec. 2001).
  2. The Unity of the Church.” The Briefing 281 (Feb. 2002).
  3. Christian Unity and Denominations.” The Briefing 284 (May 2002).


The introduction to the first article and his conclusions to all three give the sense of his argument:

Part 1: When to Unite and When to Divide,” The Briefing 279 (Dec. 2001).


“Have you noticed the way in which ‘divisiveness’ has become a completely negative word? . . .

“I suspect that our confusion is exacerbated today because the culture in which we find ourselves has enthroned what it calls ‘tolerance’ as the highest virtue. There is a tendency to welcome whatever unites and reject whatever divides. Unity is good. Division is bad. Perhaps there is a tendency among some of us who are determined not to be shaped by the world around us to take the opposite position and think that division is good and unity is bad.

“But a moment’s reflection tells any Christian person that neither position, as I have crudely expressed them, can be right. And I do not think any Christian really operates consistently with either outlook.

“The truths that I hope to explore here are as follows:

  • there is unity that is godly. . . .
  • there is unity that is ungodly. . . .
  • there is division that is godly. . . .
  • there is division that is ungodly. . . .

“I do not believe that we evangelicals are very good at distinguishing these things. We confuse them.”


“Those who care about gospel unity must care about gospel truth, in full recognition that this concern will both unite and divide.”

Part 2: The Unity of the Church,” The Briefing 281 (Feb. 2002).


“The ecumenical movement was a wrong path from the beginning. It pursued a unity that, in the terms of the New Testament, is of minor importance. The unity that matters is secure—the Lord Jesus Christ is building one church, the reality of which is manifested wherever people are gathered by the gospel.”

Part 3: Christian Unity and Denominations,” The Briefing 284 (May 2002).


“Let us value denominations for what they are, but appreciate clearly what they are not. Evangelicals must repudiate the idea that our Christian identity is associated with our denominational label. The folly of denominational loyalty expresses walking by sight, not by faith. Our agenda with respect to our denomination must be the good of churches and the spread of the gospel. When the denomination loses its usefulness for those ends, it has lost its usefulness for anything.”


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