The Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 presents “a winning picture of open-ended discussion, leading to consensus, through the ‘facilitation’ of a leader and a faith in God’s more primary direction through the Spirit.” It is “a true ‘coming together of many minds’ in a way that has become a classic instance of ecclesial unity at work” ( A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church , 172).

But, Ephraim Radner adds, this consensus depends on a prior concordia and unitas , which is presented “in the thick description of the apostolic community and its growing church” in Acts 2 and 4. Those texts display “the shape of the church within which oneness is achieved. And this shape is built around such practices as regular gathering, devotion, and submission to an apostolic center of teaching, the sharing of the Eucharist, persistent prayer together, and the sharing of property. Only out of this comes ‘one mind and one heart’” (173).

Presbyterians may rightly plunder Acts 15 for guidance on structure, but those structures are inert or worse unless they exist within a church shaped by teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and the prayers.