Acton Institute Powerblog

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Beginning in 1908 as the “Octave of Christian Unity,” the eight days from January 18 to January 25 are designated as the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” and observed by many major Christian traditions and denominations.

All around the world, Christians who sometimes do not always get along so well (to put it lightly) put aside their discord to pray for renewed harmony and reconciliation. For example, in Bucharest, Romania, ecumenical prayer services are being held on nearly every day of this week rotating between Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Evangelical (Lutheran), Anglican, Armenian, and Romanian Orthodox churches.

In his recent book The Unity Factor, published by Christian’s Library Press, John Armstrong outlines his vision for a deeper unity between Christians of various traditions. “Christians are called to unity in love and to unity in truth,” writes Armstrong, emphasizing the need for Christians to once again share one faith, one church, and one mission.

Furthermore, Armstrong urges that

comprehensive biblical love is the defining identity and hallmark of all true followers of Jesus. I believe this is the central truth we must recover if we want the world to take notice of our witness. Today, the world mocks much of what we say and do. A great deal of this is deserved. This, however, was not the case in the earliest centuries of the church. Christians’ deep sense of shared, familial love led them to love even more deeply. As our present world polarizes politically and socially, the church must refuse to follow the ways of the world, returning instead to this unity factor.

I hope that all Christians will take some time this week to join millions of others who pray for that “comprehensive biblical love” and “unity in truth” that characterized Christians of the ancient, united Church.

The Unity Factor can be purchased through our bookstore.

Dylan Pahman Dylan O’Brien Pahman is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, where he serves as managing editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also a fellow of the Sophia Institute: International Advanced Research Forum for Eastern Christian Life and Culture.


  • A.J. Kassebaum

    I agree that unity is the utmost necessity. My question is: what will this unity look like? And what do we mean when we speak of love and truth?

    • The focus of Armstrong’s book is a working, visible unity. Without denying differences or suggesting that they do not matter, he advocates for a greater cooperation between different churches.

      I think that if we ever hope to see full reconciliation where two churches separated by a schism once again enter into full communion with one another, we must first get to know one another and honestly listen to one another. There are many real and important differences at the heart of many historic divisions between traditions—and I believe it is healthy to be convicted about the truth of one’s own tradition—but we will never get past polemics if we do not learn to listen to one another in love.

      The challenge is to hold both in tension, to sincerely love one another yet not ever compromise our convictions. From what I have seen, too often people either work for a unity of love while watering down the real divisions that exist, or work for a unity of truth in some of the most uncharitable ways. Working together on common goals and learning to appreciate healthy diversity (as opposed to real divisions), as Armstrong advocates, would be a step in the right direction, in my opinion.