Understanding unity when applied to uniting different "churches" into one united body often becomes a little confusing, at least to me. When we speak of unity with other Christians, just what kind of unity are we seeking?
Listed below are four variations of unity (there are many more,) each with a different set of circumstances that will require radically different approaches if we're honestly seeking to unite in fellowship with those we disagree with religiously:
Unity within a particular tribe ... All the believers at one location who proclaim themselves the body of Christ, and work together as a separate church, yet are part of a larger group of churches sharing the same "church name," and belief system.
Unity between the individual churches (as described above) who all share the same "church name," but retain their autonomy while being loosely knit together forming a larger body, or denomination, of those who together (occasionally at least,) share similar beliefs.
Unity within the Restoration Movement. Churches with roots in the Stone-Campbell Movement who have divided many times over the years, and now seldom recognize each other as a viable Christian body.
Unity involving all churches regardless of their denominational name, who profess Jesus as their savior, even if there are drastic differences in their belief system.
It seems unlikely, if not impossible, to have Christian unity when one tribe presumes they alone are perfect interpreters of Gods Word, and refuse to fellowship anyone with a different opinion. Unity in Christ will only exist if we recognize that each person, or church, will never be the exact clone of the other.
In a small community where I was raised, one Church of Christ split over time into three separate tribes each sporting the Church of Christ name over their door. Each of these churches claimed to be the ONE and ONLY true body of Christ, and each believed they were following the perfect pattern of the first century church. They were not bashful about bad-mouthing each other, and totally refused to recognize each other as a body of Christ. A multiplicity of churches, each proclaiming themselves as the one and only body of Christ, is totally confusing to the unchurched; confusing enough to those already in the Lord's body.
Sitting around twiddling-our-thumbs waiting for churches we feel have apostatized to repent of their folly and come running back to the original fold is just not going to happen. Many of the churches split from the COC are content where they are; they see no need to return and resume the same old bickering that caused the divisions in the first place.
Unity within a single tribe of Christians, while difficult, is usually realized to some degree, but unity with those outside our select group can approach the impossible!