Over the coming weeks, Christians from every Communion will be praying for the College of Cardinals as it convenes to select the new Pope. We will pray that the Spirit guides them to choose one who has the remarkable wisdom, determination and faith to guide the Roman Catholic Church through incredibly trying times.
The Pope is the embodiment of the unity of the Roman Catholic Church. His picture hangs in every parish around the globe and in millions of homes. He presides over an establishment that ensures a level of continuity in doctrine, liturgy and practice among diverse contexts. When a new Pope is chosen the whole world watches.
Those of us in the Reformed Communion do not have such a tangible focus for our unity. In May the Executive Committee of the World Communion of Reformed Churches will meet in Ghana to choose a new General Secretary to succeed Setri Nyomi whose term of service expires next year, but don’t look for the meeting place to be swarmed by TV crews from around the world.
The unity of the Reformed Communion is visible in the mission work we share, what we do together to promote Christ’s reign of justice, the prayers we offer for each other, the Word we proclaim and the sacraments we receive. That can be hard to see. It’s not embodied in an institutional leader. We are totally dependent on Christ to show us that unity by breaking down the barriers that divide us and giving us eyes to see what unites us. And that unity is not something that is limited to our Reformed Communion, but something we share with the whole body of Christ, including those who gather in the Sistine Chapel this month.
When a plume of white smoke goes up from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, the world knows that the Cardinals have finally come to an agreement about the new Pope and the future direction of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a sign that the Spirit has been at work in their midst. May the worship and work we do as a Reformed Communion be like plumes of white smoke to show the world that the Spirit is at work among us, giving us one mind for the good of the whole church.