Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It is a gift of God, do not strive for it. Yeah, right!

Justice: all too often we fall into the trap of thinking and acting as if it is our responsibility to work for justice. Justice, however, is a gift of God for which our prayers must never waver.

Healing: all too often we fall into the trap of thinking and acting as if it is our responsibility to work for healing.
Healing, however, is a gift of God for which our prayers must never waver.

"All too often we fall into the trap of thinking and acting as if it is our responsibility to hold the Church together. Unity, however, is a gift of God lived into as we are faithful to God’s redemptive mission for a hurting, broken, and alienated world. It is in our common service to God’s mission beyond the Church that we will better understand our unity “en Christo.” In these discussions let us keep the cart behind the horse. Our common life in Christ is for the sake of God’s mission; by God’s grace we understand the unity of the Church to follow." (From here).

"Our unity does not belong to us, but is a gift for which Christ prayed to his Father, and for which our prayers must never waver. We are called to love and honor one other as possessing part of the Divine Truth, the wholeness of which will be revealed in Christ’s blessed kingdom." (From here).

No, I am not convinced that unity is something we pray for but do not work for, which we assume will follow when we dive into mission without first asking whether it is a common mission.

In Scripture we read this:

"... walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called ... eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit ... And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God ... Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, ... makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Ephesians 4:1-17)

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ ... that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel ... So if there is any encouragement in Christ ... complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Philippians 1:27-2:3)

There is a clear and unmistakeable duty laid on those whom claim to be in Christ to work with the Spirit of God on being one in Christ, of one mind of Christ. Naturally we should pray for unity - it is not easy - joining our prayer with the Lord's prayer ut unim sint. But it is an easy pass to ascribe unity to the area of 'gift of God' no further work needed here. Imagine saying that justice or healing were also in that area!

The two citations above are from two responses to a challenge posed by Christopher Wells and Leander Harding at the beginning of an online forum offered by The Living Church. Here is their question:

"A number of leaders in the Episcopal Church express a desire to encourage the minority, reassuring us that our presence and voices are both welcome and necessary as the loyal opposition. But what would real encouragement look like? Granting that we cannot easily resolve our disagreements at present, is there nonetheless some gesture that might begin to restore a shared sense of identity and common purpose?"

Their whole post is here. Over successive days running up to Christmas they will post responses to their proposal from a variety of leading thinkers within TEC.

My concern from Down Under is that, again, we see the cleavage between TEC and many Anglicans around the globe. We cannot even agree that unity is something we might bother to do more than pray for. If we do not even have unity about unity (so to speak!), what a fine mess we are in ...

7 comments:

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

It is strange Peter that we could come away from reading these same papers with such a different understanding of what was being said.

Perhaps today is no different from yesterday. Perhaps we will have to realize that we will always differ and as in the past, in the great councils of the church, there shall be those who win and those who lose. Fortunately for those of us who appear to be the minority overall, unlike in the early centuries of the church, the majority can no longer murder us or cast us into physical deprivation and exile.

I believe that your concept of unity is much like the Vatican's concept of ecumenical unity - my way or no way. And perhaps what you see today in TEC and the ACCanada is a reverse microcosm of the macrocosm of the Anglican Communion. However, when your "side" is in the majority, with or without following process, you think that it is OK. But when your "side" is in the minority, such as in TEC and ACCanada, even when strictly following canonical process, you lot wail and stamp your feet crying persecution and of being driven out.

We are happy to accept the differences and look for ways in which we can still share table and move forward in ministry together, but you lot demand "unity" or there shall be no common table and no moving forward together in ministry. I can not see any way that there will be a resolution. I see you lot taking your ball and playing somewhere else and those of us left will make do with the remnant. We will just have to wait and see what all of that looks like in ten or more years.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
You succinctly and clearly express one important aspect of current Anglican dilemma ("perhaps what you see today in TEC and the ACCanada is a reverse microcosm of the macrocosm of the Anglican Communion. However, when your "side" is in the majority, with or without following process, you think that it is OK. But when your "side" is in the minority, such as in TEC and ACCanada, even when strictly following canonical process, you lot wail and stamp your feet crying persecution and of being driven out.")

My point, in this post, however, is a little different from what it might mean to impose unity, or even how it might be achieved (vote, Covenant, diktat, etc), Vatican-style or otherwise.

My point is a question: are the influential leaders of TEC committed to striving for unity or only to praying for it?

I do not actually have a solution in my mind for how our striving might arrive at an ending, or even what 21st Anglican unity might look like - that would certainly be a matter for prayer! (And, indeed, might be a good idea to see what things look like in ten years time).

But I do resolutely differ with you on this: you appear to be happy to continue to accept the term 'Communion' as commensurate with our many differences around the Anglican world. I am not happy with that term and the current situation: either we work to resolve differences and decrease the sum of them, or we speak more accurately and call ourselves the Anglican Federation (or even Anglican Federations).

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Then so be it, Federation it is, because for many of us that has always been what the AC is, a federation of independent, autonomous and autocephalous national and regional Anglican churches.

And that is what we remain happy to have.

Andy S said...

There is only one Church Peter, headed by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

And it is under continual attack from Satan who wishes to undermine it and separate people from it.

Sexuality is the idolatry of our times, the Golden Calf we worship.

We are steeped in it, we take for granted sex scenes in movies and on prime time TV. Barely even notice anymore.

Then there is the seemy side easily found - my son (18 years old) was shown a video of Anal Fisting by a charming individual whose intention was to shock and dismay. He was both but also no doubt slightly desensitized to the depths of human depravity a lot more of which (not necessarily of this nature) he will be exposed to before he dies I posit.

We are made in the image of GOD and what God has in mind for us is well revealed in the Bible, but we a fallen creatures and stumble along through life often distracted and separated from Our Lord by ephemeral concerns and so we don't get fully there - not in this world at least


We live in a truly degraded culture, your post from the Messiah a welcome reminder of the glories that are possible, a lift from despair that Satan seeks to sow in mens souls.

The road to salvation lies in acknowledging our own sin, repenting it and through prayer.

The Turmoil in the Anglican Church has its basis in Sin perhaps the major one on display being Pride

Humility and prayer are perhaps the best weapons against it.

Bryan Owen said...

Peter wrote: "We cannot even agree that unity is something we might bother to do more than pray for."

The response that many give is that, in the midst of our disagreements, we can be united - in communion - by virtue of sharing in common mission. Unity or communion in practice takes precedence over unity or communion in belief and order. But that assumes that across our disagreements we agree on what "mission" really is (and prior to that, what the Church itself is and what her purpose is). And it also assumes that our disagreements on matters of belief and order aren't really all that important anyway. What matters is that, together, we do things like feed the poor, etc.

Philip Turner, in his recent essay "Unity, Order and Dissent: On How to Dissent Within a Communion of Churches," makes a relevant point here:

" ... communion [for many within the Episcopal Church] is defined largely in moral rather than theological terms. This position follows naturally enough from the reduced role of common belief just set forth. No one wishes to underestimate the importance of shared ministry in service to the poor, but it is hard to see, when push comes to shove, why communion as TEC defines it is communion in Christ Jesus. In the end, Jesus is no more than a good example of a moral ideal than he is a savior apart from whom we can neither know nor serve God as God wills."

I also think that pitting the gift of unity against actually working for unity is a false dichotomy. Salvation is a gift from God. And yet, as the apostle Paul exhorts us, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Unity is also a gift from God. But as with salvation, so too with unity: just as we are called to "work out" what it means to be saved, we are called to "work out" what it means to be one, not just in practice (mission), but also in terms of substantive belief and how the Church is ordered. To say that all we have to do is just pray about it could be the wide and easy road that leads to destruction.

Father Ron Smith said...

No, I am not convinced that unity is something we pray for but do not work for, which we assume will follow when we dive into mission without first asking whether it is a common mission." - Peter Carrell -

The real question here is: "Whom do we have to ask? Our own conscience, our individual Province, or an imposed L.C.D. Magisterium?

I agree with you that God is the Giver of Unity. Our works simply will not do the trick. We've tried.

Peter Carrell said...

Good question Ron!