Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Barnabas was an Anglican

So was Paul, but that's a story to tell for another day. On Sunday just past I had the opportunity and privilege of preaching at our local parish church, St. Barnabas' Stoke, and, naturally, spoke on Barnabas' whose name day was on Thursday 11th June. The lovely worship leader (Teresa, my wife) drew on her Polish heritage at the beginning of the service by noting that what we were doing was like the Polish custom of celebrating name days as more important than birthdays!

Anyway, much noticed about Barnabas is his exemplary modeling for Christians, 'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith' (Acts 11:24). But something I noticed during my preparation for the first time was that Barnabas was a proto-Anglican. For such a person ministers not on their own initiative but on the authorization of the church. Thus in Acts 11:22 we read that the church in Jerusalem 'sent Barnabas to Antioch'. In fact this action of the Jerusalem church speaks volumes of the significance of the relationship between the wider church and the local church - as does Barnabas' realization on arrival at Antioch that he cannot do the ministry on his own and promptly goes to Tarsus to invite Paul to join him.

One of the great challenges for the Communion at this time, and for movements and groups in the Communion or orbiting around it, is working out what the 'wider church' and 'local church' relationship means in the 21st century.

Another thing I noticed in the reading, Acts 11:19-30, is the state of the mission of the early church. In the first few verses we find that some were in mission 'to Jews only and to no others' while others 'began to speak to Gentiles as well'. This is both a healthy reminder that the early church was not yet perfected and a challenge to us: are we in mission to the whole world or just to the people like us?

This also speaks to one of our challenges in the Communion: however we view gay communities in society and within the church, such communities are often perceived in heteronormative perspective as people 'not like us'. To reach with the gospel beyond the people similar to us was challenging then and remains our challenge now!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The great gift of Barnabas, the 'son of encouragement', was to unlock the gift in others - either by encouraging financial generosity, or by spotting God's calling of Saul/Paul when others doubted him and smoothing the way for his acceptance by the apostles.
Churches led by Pauls or Peters will be exciting but also stormy places. It is a great blessing to have leaders who may be content to play second fiddle if they can discover and nurture great talents for the Kingdom. God grant our churches many Barnabases!