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Mending a Fractured Church: How to Seek Unity with Integrity

ISBN: 9781577996316
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Towards a Unified Church

Jesus prayed for unity among his followers. He wants our unity to demonstrate the truth of his claims to an unbelieving world. Yet what does the world see when they look at the church?

So often, they see a church divided. Our infightings range from petty matters of opinion to legitimate theological concerns. But to the world, it’s all another reason not to believe.

What does it really mean for the church to have unity? How should we deal with diversity? Which differences are worth dividing over?

In Mending a Fractured Church, editors Michael Bird and Brian Rosner seek to answer such questions, looking to the Bible for examples of how to behave when Christians differ. Speaking to pastors, churches, and seminary students, they provide a guide to maintaining unity without compromise.

Praise for Mending a Fractured Church

Freedom, conscience, conviction, charity, diversity, witness, and truth are all in play as believers in Christ deal with disputable matters in the quest for Christian unity. The wisdom this book offers can help Christians everywhere show the world what it means to be “in one body through the cross.”

—Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Robust conversation within any family is normally a display of trust and a sign of healthy relational dynamics. However, when the bonds of affection are stretched beyond legitimate differences of opinion or in a manner that disrespects other members of the family, then the unity of the family is jeopardized. So too for the household of God. Mending a Fractured Church: How to Seek Unity with Integrity is a good example of robust conversation about the very topic of church unity and how we can express differences with integrity and love. It is a helpful and timely discussion of the issues that hopefully will produce further robust and genuinely loving conversations among Christians, so that we may all “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

—Dr. Glenn N. Davies, archbishop of Sydney, Australia

Top Highlights

“Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius (1582–1651) who reputedly said: ‘In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials or doubtful things liberty, and in all things charity.’” (Page vii)

“When the Christians in Rome were squabbling over what the Apostle Paul called ‘disputable matters,’ he summed up his advice to them in this way: ‘Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.’ The implication is clear; to behave badly in such circumstances will lead to strife and demolish the church. It will also impede the progress of the gospel. Like it or not, the reputation of God and the gospel are tied to the behavior of his people.” (Page ix)

“In the course of intramural conflicts, one should be willing to be thrown out for standing for the truth when in a confessional minority. But one should never walk out.” (Page 91)

“Moreover, he thinks unity is something that is volitional; it is under the control of believers, and they can directly contribute toward it. Paul does expect a degree of conformity that borders on anathema to contemporary individualism.” (Page 17)

“We are not at liberty to differ over everything. Indeed, in our haste to rationalize our personal preferences and delineate our distinctives, we must be cautious not to transgress a strong call to unified Christian identity.” (Page 10)


  • Foreword by Graham Cole
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Disputable Matters by Andrew S. Malone
  • Unity Matters by Lindsay Wilson
  • What to Do When Christians Differ by Brian Rosner
  • When Do We Divide? by Michael Bird
  • Disputable Matters in Protestant History by Rhys Bezzant
  • Remapping the Church by Peter Leithart

Product Details

  • Title: Mending a Fractured Church: How to Seek Unity with Integrity
  • Editors: Michael F. Bird & Brian Rosner
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Pages: 85
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 5x8
  • ISBN: 9781577996316

About the Editors

Michael F. Bird received his PhD from the University of Queensland in Australia. He is a lecturer in theology and postgraduate research at Ridley Melbourne College. He is the author of several volumes of Bible commentary and theological studies. Michael Bird is also co-moderator of the New Testament blog Euangelion.

Brian Rosner receieved his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has lectured at the University of Aberdeen and Moore Theological College. He currently serves as the principal of Ridley College in Victoria, Autstralia.

Sample Pages from Mending a Fractured Church


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  3. Joseph Valenti
    I am grateful to Michael Bird, Brian Rosner, and their colleagues for the work that they have done here and their harmony with Christ in their desire to see the Church more unified. Perhaps this book will help other churches guard against the folly that I and many of my young friends experienced so many years ago. It is true, as Bird and Rosner mention, that "sometimes church division is a tragic necessity." But, as this book rightly argues, division within the church is surely not best - nor biblical. The authors of the essays contained within this little book make a passionate plea for believers to extend grace, mercy, and understanding towards one another - for the sake of unity - on secondary issues. Or, as the editors put it, this book attempts to determine, "how we can disagree over secondary and tertiary matters without breaking the bonds of Christian fellowship." The authors of these short essays do an excellent job of presenting their topics with clarity and brevity - showing from the Scripture the goal of Christian unity, but also underscoring the fact that there is very little room for disagreement on issues that are central to the gospel. While the authors unanimously affirm that there is some room for disagreement on secondary and tertiary issues, the clarity with which they define the boundaries between the primary and secondary issues is lacking. Malone notes that the Bible gives examples of, "significant, black-and-white, first order issues." But it might be argued that there are myriad issues that all affect the gospel. Perhaps another volume dedicated to clarity in this area is in order. It may be that the reason for this lack of clarity between primary and secondary issues is rooted in the fact that this book is not mainly about what divides the Church, but is focused on the fact that we ought to work towards unity. In reference to this goal, Malone reminds us that, "we must be prepared to embark on potentially heated discussions, where the stakes appear to one or both sides as carrying substantial weight....on no occasion are we called to settle for disharmony." Building on Malone's case, Wilson and Rosner propose solutions to disagreement by giving examples from the Old and New Testaments respectively. While Wilson's essay is well written, I'm not convinced that her example from Joshua 22 truly addresses the issue at hand best. The problem here is simple miscommunication. Once the miscommunication is cleared up - everyone is fine. Now, it may be true that many of our church disagreements are just this - poor communication and lack of willingness to heed Malone's advice to truly sit down and communicate - even heatedly if necessary. Nonetheless, I was unhappy with the level to which Wilson minimized the conversation. Rosner's conclusions from his exegesis of Romans 14 are a bit more helpful. As he shows the necessity for strong believers to bear with those who are weaker in the faith, he rightly maintains that, "Good theology can never be an excuse for the arrogant disregard of others. In this case, thinking you are right on a disputable matter does not mean that you can always have things your own way." With the previous essays focusing on unity, the offering from Michael Bird is helpful in balancing out the scale. Bird draws attention to the fact that there are issues that necessitate division, namely those that are clearly heretical. While the Bible does call us to unity, there are also grave warnings concerning false teachers that would lead people away from the central teachings of the gospel. While Bird does affirm the importance of love and forbearance, he offers some practical advice for believers faced with false teaching remind us that, "schism is never sought, but is simply the result of what happens when truth and error are brought into close proximity, like the natural separation of oil and water." Bezzant's addition to the argument does little to add to the conversation, but builds on the previous essay's by offering examples from the history of the Protestant movement. Important from Bezzant's comments is the reminder that living in the tension of differing opinions can be helpful and even healthy when all parties are considering one another. Leithart makes a lengthy case specifically targeted at American believers and denominations - reminding us that as the gospel travels throughout the world and then finds it's way back into our towns and churches via immigration, we ought to be more cognizant of how our faith communities might be transformed and helped by leaving our denominational doors open to different practices of worship. While his points are well-founded, his case studies are too lengthy for the style of this book. I particularly appreciate his closing admonition for pastors to seek out the international pastors in their area in order to partner with and serve one another All in all, this is a very worthwhile and helpful collection of essays that will help the Church as we continue to navigate the difficult waters of opinion and biblical interpretation and how those things effect the congregations in which we practice. As I consider the importance of the issues brought to light in these essays, I am thankful for organizations like the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel for their desire to see believers rally around primary things for the sake of moving the Kingdom of God forward with the good news. For other reviews and recommendations on Christian work, please visit me on my blog at


Print list price: $14.99
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