Exercise in Christian Unity: What are things we can learn from the 3 major Christian traditions?

It’s the Week of Christian Unity.

Here is how I hope this thread is utilized:

You name your current Christian tradition, and then respond at whatever length for the two other Christian traditions. What do you appreciate? What can we learn? What have you learned? What can we all appreciate?

This may be a bit simplified, but I’m thinking of (1) Catholicism; (2) Orthodoxy; (3) Protestantism.

Feel free to adjust accordingly. I know it can be hard because there’s Eastern Catholicism; Protestantism is diverse; etc.

It’s just a fun and friendly exercise.

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I’ll start with a quick sketch:

I’m Catholic.

Eastern Orthodoxy: I appreciate the profound respect for the early Church and detailed attention to the early Fathers. I think we can all learn to better appreciate the early origins and particular influence and contribution of Greek Christianity. The liturgy and spirituality of the East in general is quite diverse and beautiful. The material and incarnational aspect of the Faith is not lacking for the Orthodox. It is a very sensual faith, one that appreciates the embodiment of the Church and its mysteries.

Protestantism: I appreciate the dedicated attention to Sacred Scripture and the real desire to study God’s word. I deeply respect the emphasis in many Protestant traditions, especially more modern, of a personal relationship with Christ. The need for personal conversion in several traditions is obvious. I also appreciate the desire to have various roles for the laity, from worship to leadership. The missionary and evangelistic attitude of several Protestants is also one to appreciate and learn from.


At 11 pm I was praying with Christians from the family church, Baptist church and Anglican Church. Sunday evening we will be hosting our Christian Unity Service in our Catholic Church, and we shall be praying with Christians form maybe a dozen denominations.


What a nice post! I’m a confirmed Catholic married to a Lutheran Pastor. While Lutheran theology is certainly not the same as Catholic theology, it is not that far off. I was deeply impressed with my spouse’s Christian convictions and I wanted to be a part of that. You can’t very well marry a Catholic priest. I wanted the mission of God to be embedded in my family rather than one specific tradition or interpretation. Obviously a good number of people here would see this as compromising Catholic values, but I feel ecumenicism trumps agnosticism or worse atheism.

So, while I’m not sure that this fits the exact format proposed by the OP, I have little real experience with the Orthodox branch so I feel unqualified to comment. However I think my life of ecumenicalism had something to add.


I am a Catholic convert from atheism.

Orthodoxy: The beauty of the cultures formed by Orthodox beliefs.

Protestant: The emphasis on discipleship and pastoring, forming Christians and creating communities that know each other and care for each other. (I have also experienced this in the Catholic Church but everyone has experienced the “dead” parish when the spirituality of the laity has been neglected.)

Last Sunday; my granddaughter expressed an interest in going to the Anglican Church. This was the first time she had willingly wanted to go to any church, and I was very pleased to take her. Today her mother came along too, this was the first time that she had willingly gone to any church.

During the service, the minister said that there will be a unity service at Eric’s church - the Catholic Church. We have a wonderful working relationship with all the churches in our town. We started off by calling ourselves ‘Churches Together’; but we have progressed to calling ourselves ‘The Church’.
We had a wonderful Christian Unity service in our Catholic Church tonight.

At our unity service, we celebrated all that we achieved together last year, and talked about our future working together. We have made a commitment to pray for each other this week. I have also been to mass and celebrated with my fellow Catholics.

I also hope to attend an interfaith meeting next month, the same God hears all our prayers despite our differences.

I’m Roman Catholic. Poorly catechized & finding my way back.

Orthodox: I like how it’s not a mortal sin to miss Sunday Mass. Should not be missed, but not mortal sin with the consequences that incurs. But seriously, I’m still learning. I think it’s interesting to see how diverse the faith can be & still be “Catholic” I know they’re not Catholic, but only by a little bit.

Protestant… really wide brush here. But I do love traditional gospel music.

I’m Catholic.

Orthodoxy: I pray that they come back into communion with the Catholic Church.

Protestantism: Same deal.

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The Protestants I know tend to be strong evangelists in their communities. They’re very active with all sorts of groups. We Catholics tend to organize, build an infrastructure, have lots of oversight and (almost) bureaucracy. The Protestants just get out and do it.

I don’t really know much at all about the Orthodox other than the Greek Orthodox have the best Food Festivals of anyone.

As a Catholic—I think everything we do is pretty good. I can’t pick anything in particular

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I’ll add to m thoughts on Protestants and their evangelization.
They’re unapoligetic, up-front, and forthright about it when they do it.

We Catholics tend to beat around the bush. It’s like, “We want to help you, we want to provide you with whatever it is you need: food, clothing, shelter, counseling…but we don’t want to scare you off or invade your personal beliefs just in case you don’t like us because we’re Catholic…”

I think on the hill that Catholics see evangelism as living a holy life and thereby drawing people in by example, which definitely happened to me. I was very attracted by a friend’s joyful personality and faith. Outright preaching is not the only form of bringing people to Christ and can actually turn some people off as much as it draws others. God reaches us all in different ways. I also found the beauty of the church attracted me, she was like a Siren through history.

I’m Catholic.

I think the Orthodox have some great monastic traditions, some really interesting Mariology, and some very admirable saints both pre- and post-schism.

“Protestantism” is too broad a definition for me especially since I’ve had at least four very different Protestant denominations in my own close family. Most of what I feel I can learn from Protestant faiths is learning from the example of particular Protestants I greatly admire. I have a list of Protestants who I think did great things for God and I admire the qualities of the particular people. For example, I think Rev. Dave Wilkerson had good communications with God, where he would feel called to do something or when stuff didn’t work out he would pray to God and maybe understand why that happened and what he should do next. Eric Liddell could have had a comfortable life as a famous athlete, but he chose to go back to missionary and teaching work and pretty much sacrificed himself and died doing that. Corrie Ten Boom shared many good lessons on God in her books, some of which she was taught by her father, and she also had good lessons on how to forgive wrongs and how ordinary people could do extraordinary things.

I honestly don’t learn much from Protestant “traditions” as a whole. I wish the people in them would bring their special talents back to the Church, but I don’t look at some Baptist or Anglican tradition and say, “wow, the Catholics could really learn from that”. Catholics nowadays often do a lot of Bible study so it’s not like Protestants know their Bible and we don’t.


I’m Catholic, converted 14 years ago from Evangelical Protestantism.

Catholics have the “three-legged stool” -Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. This results in a more complete Christianity, one that doesn’t depend solely on human interpretation of the ancient Scriptures. The three legs support the stool firmly.

I don’t know much about Orthodoxy, although I admire their devotion through the ages, often under terrible persecution. I know that many Protestants, especially Evangelical Protestants, feel more comfortable with Orthodoxy than with Catholicism, so IMO, Orthodoxy provides a “door” for Evangelical Protestants to leave the fallacy of “sola Scriptura” and “faith alone.”

Protestantism of all types has the BEST MUSIC!!! I miss this so music and despair of Catholic parishes ever having good music. Catholics keep promoting chant, chant, chant, but it doesn’t lift us up and send us out the door singing like good German hymns, English hymns, American hymns, gospel, Hispanic, and all the other ethnic groups who have Protestant churches. I honestly don’t see why Catholic Mass can’t incorporate all these styles, at least in the OF Mass.

Also, Evangelical Protestants “get” fellowship and I miss this so much. The few times I have doubted the truth of the Catholic Church is when I realize that I and my husband and daughter feel so alone and unloved by our fellow Catholics, no matter how hard we try to find friends. I think that the Catholic Church should embark upon a study of “How Evangelicals Do Fellowship.” I’m serious about that suggestion. When people don’t have friends, they depart. Good fellowship could keep a lot of Catholics in the Church. It’s hard to stay in the Church simply by hanging onto the Truth of the Church. Truth without Love is hard to live with.

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I too think this is a great post! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For Catholicism, the best answer is easy for me. I have “holy envy” for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I have regularly commented at Catholic Answers on this. I believe it is a beautiful idea that as a community Catholics bring Christ into their bodies and in so doing are united to God AND to one another. I think Eucharist adoration is also beautiful. I once visited at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel with a friend who volunteered for his hour (I think it was 10pm or so). For him it was an amazing opportunity to be with Christ and for service (service almost anyone from 14-94 could do.

For Evangelical Christianity: I could mention the love of scripture, but that was already said. I have a memory of a service in which on of the music leaders seemed to almost float as she spent time in worship through singing. The music was not what my church (or most Catholic Churches and all pre-Vatican II Catholic Churches) would call reverent. But, there is a place for the “on fire for God” that was obvious in her worship. I have holy envy for this!

For Eastern Orthodoxy, it is the practice of hesychasm. I think similar things can be had in many faith traditions (including Sufi Muslim’s), but my first and strongest contact with this mystical prayer life was within Orthodoxy. Theology/study is something that interests me, but one can be a fabulous Christian without understanding hardly any theology. I think this type of contact with God is critical for ALL Christians to rise to their fullest potential. I have holy envy for this!

Let me close my response with Bishop Krister Stendahl’s 3 rules for religious understanding:

(1) When trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
(2) Don’t compare your best to their worst.
(3) Leave room for “holy envy.” One should be willing to recognize elements in another religious tradition or faith, elements you admire and wish might find greater scope in your own religious tradition or faith.

Anyway, great topic.
Charity, TOm


I am Lutheran. I like the fact that the Catholic tradition understands that our actions must walk in step with our faith. I think that some Protestants lose this distinction because they are taught poorly the relationship between justification (God’s declaration of our righteousness through Christ), and sanctification (the reason for which we have been saved).

Great topic by the way.


I’m a Catholic.

From the Orthodox we can learn about liturgical celebration, ceremony, a sense of tradition and patrimony, and reverence for the Fathers.

From Protestants we can learn to have a greater reverence for and reliance on Scripture, learn how to prepare and preach sermons better, and learn to trust more in faith and grace and less in works.

Most churches don’t have to go far either…there are many of us who are married and attend with out Catholic spouses.

The Church teaches that there are many elements of “truth and sanctification” outside of the visible Catholic Church (i.e., in communion with the church of Rome). These aspects till tend towards “catholic unity” and belong to the one Church of Christ, sure.

But the point is to see how we can learn from each other.

That’s a good point about the potential of turning some people off.
And, FWIW, I don’t know how successful Protestant community evangelizing is. It’s high energy, but does it work? I don’t know.

This is such an odd thing to say.

There has been plenty of things “learned from” outside the church, that those outside the visible church caught onto more quickly, like the need for weekly communion during the Reformation (brought to light by the reformers; Catholics were used to going once a year!). Or the need to worship in the vernacular. Or to re-discover the essence of the Gospel, etc.

All of these things belong to full catholic unity, and no one should leave the Catholic Church because of them.

But it’s completely naive and shows lack of understanding of history to think we have nothing to learn from non-Catholic Christian groups.