My simple answer to my friend is "No." I'm not confusing the two. I strongly believe that all Christians should seek unity. It's not as if our Lord made this an option. His prayer in John 17 confirms this. We are one body that must strive to live out this reality. The sometimes tricky part is determining what this looks like. We need to be careful to understand that we are united in a person as opposed to united in specific practices. Jesus Christ is the heartbeat of our unity. We can and should agree because of the power he provides us. We ultimately come together in Christ.
We must believe the gospel message; in this there ought to be uniformity. However, we do not have to be uniform in everything we believe and do. Specifically related to what is modeled for us in the bible, we may choose to emulate it or not. It is the commands we must obey. I do not believe we are required to be uniform in what the bible describes.
That said, I do believe it is the wise and better course of action to simply ask what the scriptures show us about church life. When something is approved, let's do it. Why would we want to do a bunch of things that the bible says nothing about? How can we know God approves of these things?
Let's take a concrete example - church gatherings. I do not think these must be uniform in nature. However, why depart from what we've been shown in the bible? We know God approves of simple gatherings in which mutual edification is the purpose. God likes it when we come together to eat. Around the table Christ is glorified through reciprocal interaction. Each member is doing his or her part. As for the common/traditional manner of church meetings (worship services), we really have no idea what God thinks of them. Religious ceremonies, monologue preaching/lecturing, orders of worship, altar calls, etc. are foreign to the pages of the New Testament. Should Christians be satisfied in not knowing whether or not God looks approvingly at the way they gather?
To sum up, unity is no option. We must strive for unity in our head - Jesus.
Uniformity, however, is not required. We do have some amount of Christian freedom. Despite this, the scriptures provide us with enough information to know what God approves. When we follow both what is commanded and what is modeled, we will find that many of our practices are very similar.
What do you think? Where does unity end and uniformity begin? What do these concepts look like in your life and church family?