I do not understand the contention that “doctrine divides.” In what sense is a church body whose members believe different things unified? It seems to me that doctrine is precisely what can unify different people and personalities into one community. Otherwise, what do you have? When the unity is based on people, what you end up with is homogeneity of personality, socio-economic class, age demographic, and superficial affinities. You end up with people that you “like”; but what is the virtue in that? What about being unified with people you don’t like or who are different from you? The Bible’s model in 1 Corinthians is that the church should be diverse in all of these worldly ways but unified in a common faith in Christ.
The Anglican tradition allowed for diversity–or vagueness–of belief, as long as everyone followed the same form of worship, namely, the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Thus, worship became the basis for unity. That hasn’t worked all that well, but what about when the congregation is not agreed on how to worship, or, as is often the case today, features several different styles, with members choosing which one to go to. So how is that unity?
It seems to me that a congregation that splits because of disagreements is going from disunity to unity. The dissensions within the congregation keep it from being unified. But when the members form two congregations, each enjoys a greater amount of unity than was experienced before.
All true Christians already ARE unified in Christ. This is a spiritual reality, not something that needs to be worked for, but already in existence, to be appreciated now and fully known in eternity. We are all members of the Church Universal. Why isn’t that enough? We don’t HAVE to belong to the same particular congregations. Efforts to incarnate the Church Universal in an earthly institution do not seem to work very well in this fallen world. In the meantime, we can appreciate our spiritual unity with all of our fellow Christians–as well as the different kinds of unity we share with our fellow citizens and our fellow human beings–while benefiting from the special unity that can exist when diverse individuals have the same bond of a common belief in their churches.
Just some of my thoughts on that “basis of picking a church” post.