Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Covenant and the Fullness of Time

"In the course of a very long sentence, full of visionary flight and theological ballast, Paul tells us about God’s plan “for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10 NRSV). The unity envisioned here is breathtaking in its cosmic scope. Everything will be gathered up in Christ in the culmination of God’s plan being worked out through history.

The implication is inescapable: the Church anticipates the end of the plan by living in peaceful unity here and now. Unsurprisingly Paul follows the theological first half of Ephesians with an application second half in which he begs his readers “to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called … making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1,3). There is more, much more, in a similar vein in this chapter (e.g. “the unity of the faith,” v. 13).

The situation of the Church in the world today is a travesty of the vision articulated in Ephesians, itself a vision in harmony with the prayer of our Lord “that they may be one” (John 17:11,20). For the Anglican Communion as a particular expression of God’s Church, what Paul says in Ephesians is, or ought to be, a sober dose of theological medicine healing our ills of division.

It is not just that the Communion should be unified, but also that the whole Church of God in the world should be one Church. All this, incidentally, is not only so the mission of God may be strengthened through the witness of a united Church. A united Church, as a precursor to a united world, is the mission of God. For the Anglican Communion to continue fracturing is a sign that collectively we do not understand God’s will for the world. If this line of thought is correct then there is a deep irony when the final text of the Covenant talks of “the ecumenical vocation of Anglicanism to the full visible unity of the Church in accordance with Christ’s prayer that ‘all may be one’ ” (from 2.1.5). The Anglican Communion, with its roots not only in the Catholic and Reformed but also ancient orthodox Church in England, is uniquely placed to fulfill this ecumenical vocation. Yet at this time the Anglican Communion is unable to offer itself, let alone other churches, a sure sign of vocation to “the full visible unity of the Church.”

At precisely this point a huge strength of the proposed Covenant is identifiable: it is a document intended to serve the full visible unity of the Anglican Communion in accordance with the ultimate plan of God."

Read it all at The Living Church.

No comments: