A Generous Orthodoxy - Printable Version
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- Rick Henry - 17-02-2008
If I were wise, I would wait until having had a good nights sleep before taking a strike at this lure; but, with that said . . .
When you wrote above:
Quote: . . . I feel the want of a language of Christian amity, which can acknowledge difference and yet recognise the Risen Lord.
I remember thinking, as I read it, that this is without a doubt the single greatest obstacle to a generous Orthodoxy. And, to continue, as you also wrote of:
Quote:. . . the question of how we can be sure that we are following the Gospel of the Lord.
I would respond by asking what is the Gospel of Christ? What was the good news that He preached? What was His proclamation, His Kerygma?
And, I think most would answer as I do, IT is the Kingdom of God.
And, while understanding very well the following may be untenable for many whom hold the majority view in what is considered here to be the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, I would like to suggest that the Church defined in this way is *not* to be drawn up perfectly parallel or used interchangeably with the Kingdom.
And, why do I go into all of this? This is because I would like to suggest further that as we may consider the primacy of language, "our" speech, "our" logos, and "our" reason, there is a distinction here (from where I sit) between a "churchy" language and a Kingdom language.
Beyond considerations of what may be the lowest common denominators (which I often feel are the highest common denominators), and beyond even any attempts to define the nature, limits, and boundaries of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church via either propositions or experience/encounter . . .
I would like to suggest that the type of Oneness spoken of by Christ in His priestly prayer will never be found between those arguing from any ecclesiological place/plane. I think at best, amity may be found at some point by some. However, it seems more than apparent to me that it is only when those come together who already speak a Kingdom language (and this is not to be confused with a mere desire or preference for some type of ecumenism), that barriers and boundary markers come down and are pulled up.
It seems to me that whether we are talking about something as simple as the yellow crocuses in Marie's backyard, or something as complex as a coined phrase like a supra-epistemology, it doesn't matter . . . the Church is manifest clearly and the Kingdom of God is manifest clearly to and through those within (but, now I lay myself open for the charge of some sort of gnosis).
However, to keep going, from this we could speculate then what is the role of the one who would bring unity to the Church of Christ? And, we could consider that if one must necessarily BE in the Kingdom of God to partake of this union, this communion, then why would one who feels called to be a minister (who points the way) speak to those who can only find division(s) and promote division in such things as nature or academic theology? There is no division in the Kingdom of God is there. Why would any even speak to those who have no choice but to be divided about such things as unity (when the issue is the inner life, Kingdom living)?
And, here, I would like to further suggest is exactly where the rubber meets the road! But, and knowing this is a cosmic irony of the first class . . . who can speak of this (or the question of 'how can we be sure?') in any way other than with speech about flowers and made up words? Who can define the Kingdom of God (viz. shall we say 'basileology'?) But, again, as the rubber meets the road, those who practice Kingdom living can recognize each other even from great distances across Internet wires with conversation about flowers, cakes, and made up words.
After that miserable run at the buzz bait, I better quit for now.
But, yes, John, the problem of language as it relates to the Kerygma of Christ and His priestly prayer.
PS Just as you say above this is all about 'recognizing the risen Lord' and 'being sure we are following His gospel/kerygma!' . . . because what is more important than this?
- John Charmley - 19-02-2008
Well, that seems a good stab at it.
When you write:
Quote:I would like to suggest that the type of Oneness spoken of by Christ in His priestly prayer will never be found between those arguing from any ecclesiological place/plane. I think at best, amity may be found at some point by some. However, it seems more than apparent to me that it is only when those come together who already speak a Kingdom language (and this is not to be confused with a mere desire or preference for some type of ecumenism), that barriers and boundary markers come down and are pulled up.you get to the heart of this.
At the centre of this discussion is the difficult question of ecclesiology. This is perhaps particularly difficult for those who are converting from another Church, or who are thinking of doing so. After all, if all Churches are the same, why bother?
This is one of the places where ecumenism seems most appealing; let us find the lowest common denominator, close in on that and say 'we are one' - done deal! It is tolerant, it is in tune with the values of western civilisation, and it makes you seem broad-minded, liberal, tolerant and just about any other word that brings an 'hurrah!' to the lips.
Surely, we can say, the first Christians had no understanding of the later ramifications of the Trinity? They believed in the Lord, they repented, they walked in His way (or tried to), they amended their lives and they sought to be one with Him; we do that and we're like them. If we're really clever we can even convict Origen of heresy from beyond his grave, because he believed (or may have) some stuff the Church later decided was heretical. Doesn't that just show that the idea of 'the Church' is more trouble than it is worth; does it not justify the old Protestant view that it is the Creeds and the Church that cause all the trouble? Let us get back to primitive Christianity!
Well, in an odd way the Oriental Orthodox, whilst disagreeing with the spirit behind this, would not dissent from the appeal to ancient practice - since we would urge that that is our own practice - as indeed would the EO; and the RCC would only dissent in so far as it is convinced it has the right to 'interpret' the tradition.
Since we can only be sure about our own Church and its practice and tradition, that is why we are there; others may hold similar views of where they are; it is those who feel uncertain that the Church is where they are who look to move.
- Rick Henry - 20-02-2008
As the Person of Christ is United, So *Are* WE?
John Charmley Wrote:At the centre of this discussion is the difficult question of ecclesiology. This is perhaps particularly difficult for those who are converting from another Church, or who are thinking of doing so. After all, if all Churches are the same, why bother?
I appreciate the way you have linked the two thought units in the above as we consider what is at the center of this conversation and the various perspectives of the participants.
And, while I would not want the following term to be interpreted as pertaining to an 'all Churches are the same' thinking, or to speak to a "lowest common denominator," I can't help but wonder if what we find at the center here is a multi-faceted 'ology' or a prismatic integrative motif?
In many ways, as I am not sure that God created separate denominations/traditions, I am not sure that He has created systematic theology. I cannot picture God speaking of the different branches of theology proper as we do, as we may speak of ecclesiology, christology, pneumatology, etc., (or even basileology).
However, as we may further consider the question of ecclesiology and the various ecclesiologies that are maintained, I think it is helpful to know that of those from 'other' churches who may be considering converting [and especially those who may feel 'all are One in Christ'], many have an underdeveloped ecclesiology. And, just as within Orthodoxy--where some would charge the opposite viz. an overdeveloped ecclesiology--we see one's ecclesiology is one's christology. Whereas within the ranks of the potential converts, for many, one's ecclesiology is one's pnuematology. So here is where there is room for a much needed harmony I think.
In this sense possibly we see that what was meant to unite us (ecclesiology) is what in fact divides us, for various reasons. And, as we further consider this, I would like to suggest again that if all of the above circles were laid out we would see that while much space would not be devoted to overlap within the area of ecclesiology, there would be a significant overlap within the areas of christology/pneumatology.
In this sense, these 'denominators' would overshadow the other and speak directly to one's theology proper. In this way, all ecclesiological divisions have been transcended by the one(s) who find their path made straight by means of a christological pneumatology, or a pnuematological christology. And, all paths/journeys are not the same for all to be sure. However, to continue, ecclesiology does matter as we see many references to the Church in the New Testament by both our Lord Jesus Christ and the writers of the Holy Writ. But, I cannot help but to think it misses the mark to shine the spotlight on the doctrine of the Church, as we do so often. In a conversation such as a 'generous orthodoxy' why would we focus on what divides us, as opposed to allowing much room for what Unites US.
It has been my experience that those who receive a paycheck from their denomination/tradition will want to focus on ecclesiological differences sometimes to the point of a gnashing of teeth. But, it has also been my experience that many who are not vocational ministers/servants will sometimes go to the other extreme. But, we are not talking about either of these here, I don't think. We are not talking about either the one(s) who would push away from tables when it is time to talk (or decline invitations to even attend), anymore than we are talking about those who feel there is no need to sit down and talk because all is one and one is all, and we are all climbing the same mountain, so let's just focus on our individual climbs.
We are talking about those interested in "renewing the center of an historic Orthodox Christianity." And, what is at the heart of this matter of unity, in my view, is not the ecclesia, the assembly itself (anymore than the individual him/herself within the assembly); but, this 'retrieval effort,' this 'restorative effort,' this 'reconciliation' speaks more to an integrative motif whereby ecclesiology is moved beyond in deference to "The Crucified God" and "The Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit," and last but not least "The Kingdom of God and the Trinity!" As we consider these denominators in general, possibly the particular ecclesiologies and denominations/traditions that come into conflict serve primarily to illustrate the proposition that within Christian theology, particularistic thinking is schismatic thinking. Wherein, again, I come to the conclusion that to engage particularism on its ground(s) and its basis is to chase one's tail, as opposed to a transcending of this division. Or to view this another way, and more directly, as St. Mark has written speaking of divisiveness, let there be a marking of this method and then a putting out of it regardless of the agent/vehicle!
PS As an afterthought, it occurs to me that this conversation has much in common with the question of an American Orthodoxy. In other conversations the question is asked, *is* there an American Orthodoxy. Some say yes, of course there is. Others say no. there is no structure, that is not practical, so there is no reality and there is no AO. In other words, *is* there a Kingdom of God that includes souls from various faith traditions?
- John Charmley - 23-02-2008
This was an interesting but difficult one. When you write:
Quote:In this way, all ecclesiological divisions have been transcended by the one(s) who find their path made straight by means of a christological pneumatology, or a pnuematological christology. And, all paths/journeys are not the same for all to be sure.I am not sure that I am able to quite follow; but that's my ignorance at work I fear
I am constantly struck by the way in which the OCs and the RCC all use the same Cyprianic ecclesiology. St. Cyprian himself, of course, used it to criticise those who had apostasized in the Decian persecutions - not to criticise other Christians who had remained faithful. I wonder sometimes whether it amounts to an abuse of the Fathers for us to use St. Cyprian's comments in the way we do; after all, to do so is, implicitly, to say that other Christians are apostate. Perhaps if we stopped abusing the Fathers we could stop abusing each other?
It is we who create separate denominations. Often this is a failure of love; but we have to remember that sometimes it must be because others preach that 'other gospel' against which the Apostles warned. But between the preaching of heresy and the expression of a different linguistic usage, there is a wide field in which we might play.
- Rick Henry - 24-02-2008
Honestly, in my view, as you link yourself and ignorance . . . those two just don't even sound right strung together to me--foreign concepts. But, as we allow room for a consideration of linguistics and as we consider the ever apparent problem of language, I am reminded that at times when I think I am saying the most, I am really saying the least. I guess as a counterbalance, even though I may appear to be a kind of 'elephant man' here in this, those who have read what I have read and studied in the Bible Colleges and Seminaries that I have studied in would have no trouble understanding what I have said here. I am speaking of the ones that actually did study and work. But, possibly somewhere through all of even this, we have a good illustration of the challenges to unity, and we can see that regardless of the field or the back yard, regardless of whether one is a trained theologian or just likes yellow crocuses, language is a problem.
Thanks for everything John. You are a champ.
In His Love,
- Rick Henry - 08-04-2008
I had a somewhat random thought/question today as it relates to what we are considering as a generous Orthodoxy. As we may consider the theme of 'unity' among brothers and sisters in Christ, as we may consider a transcending of all divisions in Christ:
Must there be a mutual embrace on an ecclesiastical level in order to abide in a generous Orthodoxy?
In my experience, most thinking men and women feel it is more than evident that there will never be a genuine unity from the top down. Usually, following this statement, the term "grass roots" is brought into the conversation and it is explained that Christian unity will and can only manifest itself now and in the future on a grass roots level.
And, these propositions are nothing new; however, if one accepts these (barring Divine intervention in the current state of competing hierarchies) I am left with a pondering of the above thought/question.
It occurs to me that as we may consider the expression 'mutual embrace' then we may also consider such relationships and ways of knowing/being, as found in the tradition of an historic Orthodox Christian approach, such as 'synergia' and 'cooperation.'
These terms speak as much to the individual's relationship as it does to the eucharistic community corporately. Which leaves me wondering as well, what ecclesiastical boundaries prevent the members of these particular groups from abiding in a generous Orthodoxy which transcends all divisions in Christ?
It is not lost on me as I look upon Church History and the History of Christian Thought to see that in so many ways what was intended to unite is the very thing that divides.
Ecclesiastical communities - John Charmley - 08-04-2008
Good and thought-provoking questions.
Although we often discuss St. Cyprian's ecclesiology when we approach these matters, it might be better to start with St. Ignatius (who is, after all, pretty early). He tells the Ephesians (a rum lot, as in St. Paul's day, clearly):
Quote:Now, since Jesus Christ has given such glory to you, it is only right that you should give glory to Him; and this, if sanctification is to be yours in full measure, means uniting in a common act of submission and acknowledging the authority of your bishops and clergy ... For we can have no life apart from Jesus Christ; and as He represents the mind of the Father, so our bishops, even those who are stationed in the remotest parts of the world, represent the mind of Jesus Christ.
It is the blessed Saint's vision of the Church clustered around the threefold Ministry of Bishops, priests and deacons which provides the Orthodox with their model; this is where our unity begins; this is where we are one in Christ. So, in that sense, we cannot move apart from our bishops - they represent the 'mind of the Father'. So, our bishops are the key - they can be an obstacle, or, as our own Abba Seraphim is, a bridge.
One of the things that impresses me about our own Metropolitan is that whilst standing firm in the Faith, he acts as our link with so many other Christian communities; I have been struck by the way in which other hierarchs greet him. This seems to me a positive way forward. When the bishop takes the lead here, the rest of us can follow.
- Rick Henry - 09-04-2008
As we have considered St. Cyprian, and now as you bring up St. Ignatius, this is very helpful. What I mean is . . . now we make a move, I think, to comparing ecclesiology with church polity. We are now asking:
I.) How are ecclesiology and church polity one in the same?
II.) How are ecclesiology and church polity to be distinguished?
and, yes, St. Ignatius was very early which I think makes his writing invaluable as we might also consider such concepts as evolving vs. emerging, as well as transcending.
I hope no one thinks that I am attempting to set up a false dichotomy as I suggest a consideration of ecclesiology and church polity, because I am not. I have used the word distinguished above, not separated or divided. But, as you say John, take St. Ignatius read all of his letters--or focus on the eight that all agree are not spurious--extract all of his writing that applies to this discussion and cut and paste it into a single essay (which I have in the past). And, I am willing to bet one steak and kidney pie dinner that you will find what I have found, that there is no local visible church that follows the model laid down by St. Ignatius.
And, please do not take this personally (I wouldn't include this if I thought you would); however, what do we accomplish when we appeal to one like St. Ignatius in a conversation such as this? Granted, I am the eternal idealist, but again, as we may point to one such as St. Ignatius to demonstrate how things ought to be, as opposed to how things are, where is the value in this method knowing that I can go in and strip out texts from him in the same way showing that today no single church subscribes to the very clear and practical instructions he recorded as it relates to church polity.
But, to get back to what you have provided from the saint in the following:
Quote:. . . if sanctification is to be yours in full measure, means uniting in a common act of submission and acknowledging the authority of your bishops and clergy ...
I would also like to ask:
1.) Does the current low view of the hierarchs expressed on other Orthodox sites openly and regularly speak to the poor state of the Church (a symptom of non-unity)?
2.) Or, does this view speak to the poor state of the hierarchy in our day (a symptom/causality of non-unity)?
Let's be honest here. We are adults, You read and hear the same things that I do [or more for sure], on an increasing basis I am hearing and seeing the hierarchs portrayed as being out of touch, distant, withdrawn, and impotent figureheads--objects of ridicule. In short, they seem to be being viewed as obstacles and hindrances to unity.
And, I love it that you reference Abba Seraphim, and liken him to a bridge. The more I read of Abba the more he gets my attention in a very good way. Honestly, the more I read of him the more his stock goes up.
But, here's the thing, here's where the rubber meets the road, where the ball meets the bat--when you say:
Quote:When the bishop takes the lead here, the rest of us can follow.
I think, with the above comments in mind, what about "When" he doesn't and what about "the rest of us?"
It is clear that in the land of Eastern Orthodoxy, Abba is the great exception and not the rule.
In theory what you have shared via St. Ignatius is a thing of beauty. In fact, any who have read all of his letters see a divine design for happy, healthy, functional local visible churches--and a genuine union of these churches which make up the eucharistic community, the Community of communities. Sounds pretty good doesn't it?
But, back to earth. As you have also said:
Quote:So, in that sense, we cannot move apart from our bishops . . .
I would add to this growing list of questions: Where do we need to "move" to or "move" from?
And, we can consider developments in Church Tradition over the years as it relates to changes in church polity. We can examine the reasons why. We can split hairs over the difference between words such as evolving and emerging. But, in the end, as it relates to all of this and a genuine Christian unity, just as I and probably almost every reader and contributor of this thread will never participate in a divine liturgy together because of geography . . . how ludicrous is it really to just subscribe to a "transcending" of all divisions in Christ? Sure this is abstract. This is up in the clouds in most folks view. But, Dear John, lest we are insincere when we call each other brother in Christ in our posts . . . are you, the OO, and me, the EO, not concrete examples of moving beyond what would divide us? I think of you Peter, in practice, do you and I not also practice a generous Orthodoxy, in the here and now, which does in deed transcend all divisions in Christ?
And, as it relates to a genuine unity such as this (assuming it is genuine), where is the place of ecclesiology? . . . What is the role of the bishop, or the priest, or deacon?
- John Charmley - 10-04-2008
As so often you have asked the decisive and the big question; this is indeed at the heart of whatever we may think we mean by 'a Generous Orthodoxy'.
I went to St. Ignatius because he gives us the basic unit which forms the concept of a 'Church'; a community gathered around its bishop. I like to think that one of our advantages in the BOC is that that is what we are in reality. But, of course, your questions about ecclesiology and Church polity do indeed see the rubber and the road meeting, because they require me, and others, to raise our eyes to the wider horizon.
If, and I think you are in general, you are correct to say that there is absence of Churches following the Ignatian model, that in itself tells us something about the disconnect between our ecclesiology and the various Church polities. Indeed I am tempted to go further and to suggest that where there is a low view of our hierarchs that may have something to do with the failure to follow an Ignatian model. Should a bishop be a kind of CEO of 'Church Inc.' or should he be the father of his people, the shepherd of his flock? If we want the latter, then how are we going to help him do that? If we don't want a CEO, who is going to do those administrative tasks which need to be done? What is the relationship between those tasks and the bishop? We, the lay-folk, have to step up to the plate here and offer our services; no point complaining that our bishops have become administrators and then ensuring. by our silence and inertia that that is what happens!
I suspect the malaise you diagnose stems from this situation. Until and unless we all know what it is we want from our hierarchs, for that length of time we shall fail to be satisfied; but are our hierarchs happy with what we do? What is the role of the laity in Orthodoxy? Again, to be parochial, I am impressed in the BOC by the way in which deacons and readers are empowered and do much of the work which, in other Churches, falls on the priest. But here direction from the bishop is crucial- Abba Seraphim is one of the best delegators I know. I work with a lot of people in, effectively, CEO positions, and if he will not blush with the comparison, he stands high in the list of effective CEOs. I have never known him shy away from a decision or a big issue, or not to take a lead; but I have also never seen him disempower anyone else or fail to encourage them to step up and play their proper part; nor have I ever seen him fail to provide support when needed.
OK, that is Abba Seraphim, I know; but it is also an example of how the Ignatian model can work in practice. That does, indeed, need a bishop with the confidence to delegate; but it also needs one who sees why that is necessary. He will have to speak to his own view, but from my level, what I see is a Metropolitan who concentrates on the big picture, but who is well-informed on all manner of things and knows who to ask to do what. We don't always do it - but whose fault is that?
Now then I see I have sidetracked myself by getting too concrete and not dealing with the main questions, but let me come back to that in another post later.
But let me end this part of the discussion with the suggestion that when one has a bishop who follows the Ignatian pattern, the question of where should we 'move' becomes susceptible of a concrete answer. Abba Seraphim is active in his contacts with other Christian communities, and it is he, who as the shepherd, helps direct us to where the opportunities exist to make connections.
If he will permit me to cite something he has said which has stuck with me, the BOC, he has said, is not the 'Liberal Democratic Party at prayer'; that is we are not all things to all men. We are what we are. A confessing community of Christians who are part of the Oriental Orthodox tradition and who encounter our Risen Lord at the Eucharistic feast. That enables others to see us in plain view. But an acknowledgement of difference can also help us all see what we may well hold in common; but there (and I will say more in another post) we really are not Protestants. My view is not as valid as that of Abba Seraphim. He carries the seal of the Apostolic succession; upon his shoulders the weight of our Church is loaded; he has devoted himself to our welfare and to following the cause of our Lord. That gives him a decisive voice. It is entirely typical of him that, as with the good Ignatian bishop, he brings his flock with him through his example and his fellowship with us.
In that sense, the Ignatian model is very relevant; if we had more hierarchs like Abba Seraphim, we should make more progress. But that means that we, the lay-folk, also have to be willing to step up and do our part; just as it means having a bishop who encourages us. As in any other sphere of life, leadership is all.
That, is enough from me on this, and I shall turn to the other interesting issues you raise in a second post.
Part II - John Charmley - 10-04-2008
I now see that I actually touched on more of your initial points than I thought; I fear that in so doing I may have scratched the surface rather than anything more profound; but it provides an opening, I hope.
Here I want to try to take on board some of what you write here:
Quote:And, we can consider developments in Church Tradition over the years as it relates to changes in church polity. We can examine the reasons why. We can split hairs over the difference between words such as evolving and emerging. But, in the end, as it relates to all of this and a genuine Christian unity, just as I and probably almost every reader and contributor of this thread will never participate in a divine liturgy together because of geography . . . how ludicrous is it really to just subscribe to a "transcending" of all divisions in Christ? Sure this is abstract. This is up in the clouds in most folks view. But, Dear John, lest we are insincere when we call each other brother in Christ in our posts . . . are you, the OO, and me, the EO, not concrete examples of moving beyond what would divide us? I think of you Peter, in practice, do you and I not also practice a generous Orthodoxy, in the here and now, which does in deed transcend all divisions in Christ?
Yes, I like to think that we are moving beyond what divides us; but I think we are doing that because we know what does divide us and we are not afraid to take the conclusions of the various ecumenical discussions and subscribe to the conclusion that Chalcedonian definitions need not, in the light of what followed, divide us; that does not mean that a whole host of historical differences do not divide us - but that does not touch on salvation - just our pride.
Much of what passes for 'Tradition' in Orthodox theology is not very traditional at all I suspect. Many of the issues raised on dear old Monachos are actually nineteenth or twentieth century reactions to the western influences on Orthodox theology after the reforms of Peter the Great. 'Tradition', as historians have acknowledged for some time, is often of recent invention - and is therefore held all the more fiercely. I am often struck by the comments of a colleagues who came from Cambridge and commented that it was far more difficult to reform something at my University than in his old one; my response was that was because the people who had invented the traditions were still there!
I see our new friend, Danage, has commented upon the atmosphere here; his words are kind, and I hope reflect this site and its spirit. The worst thing we do is to go on at length - and no one has to read us!
But how do 'we' transcend divisions? If that 'we' is the Church gathered around the bishop, the answer is relatively clear; if the 'we' is the wider Church, then we do indeed enter troubled waters - and unless the bishops act as bridges, there is no way across.
This is perhaps why the current moves towards dialogue being made by Pope Benedict XVI are something to be encouraged; but they also present a problem. The Catholic Church is happy to have unity in diversity. The Uniate Catholic Churches are, in practice, Orthodox in much of their theology; but they acknowledge the primacy of Rome. Sometimes it almost seems that for Rome schism is worse than heresy; or perhaps the Roman definition of this last is more elastic? For the Orthodox disunity seems a price we are willing to pay; but what is it we gain in return?
How far are the OCs so enmeshed in their ethnic obsessions that they miss the bigger picture? What can learn from other Christians in this respect?
- Rick Henry - 11-04-2008
As you lead me out into deeper waters, I must confess that the more I consider this conversation, regardless of whether there is a starring at one's own shoes while standing in the boat, or a looking to the wider horizon, there are three words that come to mind. And, this is a tough thing here. But, honestly the three words that come to mind are 1.) Power; 2.) Control; and 3.) Tribalism
And, I say this is a tough thing because to think this way is very much akin to the thinking/mindset of the one who says there is no God, the one who would dismantle all Christian groups. So, how can this be a useful tool or an edifying way for the one who names the name of Yahweh as his God? How can this be a good vehicle for the one who desires union/communion with the Holy Trinity?
As we consider the subject of Christian unity, as prayed for by Christ, it would seem to use these three words and to think in the direction of which they point would be to work against what Christ prayed for (regardless of one's label or brand). Usually the one who speaks in this way, whether overtly or covertly, promotes division and everything that is antithetical to a true Christian unity--which results in two competing systems. There is the way of the world, and there is the way of the Spirit of Life.
To push this a bit further . . . and for example, we Christians would convert the world if we could, right? Knowing that the Gospel of Christ is a particularistic message with a universal appeal, we Christians would convert the world to Christianity if it was possible.
However, the opposite is also true. The world who perceives we Christians as being primarily concerned with power and control and thus manifesting a classic tribalism would convert us if they could. They would pull us down from this position and wipe out all innate predispositions towards any form of tribalism, if it was possible. In fact, one with this world view has written, "The number one question is how the tribalist can be converted either over time or by generational change to more universal values."
There are two competing 'mindsets' here, each wishing to convert the other.
So, with this openly presented and understood, I hope I will not be placed into the group which represents the spirit of the world with my post(s)! But, I hope to stand in the way of the Spirit of Life which sees no division even though there is, much as St. Gregory of Nazianzus has written of the Holy Trinity. As St.Gregory has written of the Trinity which is "divided without division." And, is this not the very Unity that Christ prayed for us?
And, there is an irony at play here for sure; but Christianity today is guilty as charged by those who would convert us. In this sense, we are lacking the more universal values in the appeal of the Gospel of Christ.
So ultimately there is a choice of where to stand? One can choose to look at one's shoes or the wider horizon. But, one ultimately chooses to stand with the spirit of the world, or the Spirit of life. But, again it's rubber and road time with this, as one does not have to 'move' anywhere to do this does one? I am not obtuse to the fact that we are all shaped by the events and circumstances that have molded us to a degree. And, our past church experiences can complicate this aspect because there have been times in our some of our lives when we did not 'move' but our denominations and faith traditions did, so we were left standing in a place seemingly and in some ways actually alone, abandoned as a child by his/her mother.
But, the rubber/road here comes into view as we consider not a church which has clearly forfeited her status or had her candle stick removed from the Stand. However, this comes into view when we consider the fact that either our existing church or our new church is a vehicle of division in a way that works directly against the Unity that Christ prayed for in His priestly prayer.
And, I can see that this is turning into a long post and that I am not interacting very well with what you have written, but sometimes we just go with what we are given and hope if is from the Spirit of Life and not a rant inspired from frustration.
But, do you see what I am driving at here John? My last 'move' before 'converting' to Eastern Orthodoxy was to what is known as Non-denominationalism. There are clearly defined limits and boundaries of Christianity in this movement, but to stand in this group is to stand in a place as described by St. Gregory above. But, this group has no pedigree as what is normally required by some, although there is a clear manifestation of the Spirit of life there. Based on my experience, "The validity of the minsistry," as Zizioulas writes, is beyond question. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I agree with your assertion that possibly we can learn from other groups in this way.
But, in an effort to be more clear here, and to look for a place to land this post, I would like to attempt to draw one last distinction by way of sharing the thought that if we choose to stand with an 'orthodox' group that promotes any construct (Chalcedonian, etc.,) whereby a being divided with division is prescribed, and anathemas are hurled with little reservation at other Christian ministries, and Christians who do not fit their mold . . . then are we not in fact standing with a group which works against what Christ prayed for in his priestly prayer? Are we not united with a group that in many ways paralells the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit we read about in the Holy Writ? There are severe warnings in the New Testament for the one(s) who cause division in the Body of Christ. But, if we make a 'move' or choose to unite ourselves with such a group which may in fact be anathematizing the work of the Holy Spirit elsewhere, then what have we done? In this sense, what real unity do we have with this group (especially if we do not agree with what is prescribed)? It all becomes a sham. Our only alternative is to speak of such things as transcending even here in this particualar group.
But, it is dangerous to think this way for some. It evokes much emotion and fear. Because as we do place our eyes back on the horizon now, we see that to even just think this way is to dismiss the prerequiste of a pedigree, it requires no paper trail, no one particular living tradition.
At this point Bishops become secondary to "the Bishop within."
And, then . . . we are right back to the classic distinctions which divide us. The circle is complete once again. The Protestant denominations, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholics proclaim their systems and then bring the grand finale which is a lobbing of things over the fence at each other followed by a hurling of anathemas and charges of heresy.
Which group to stand with? Which hurler(s) and revilers to claim unity with?
But, possibly you have found something here with the BOC John?
I think my reputation proceeds me in this as I consider myself to be a world class ignoramus of your group and its pedigree. But, possibly your particular group does not claim to be the one true Church whereby all others not in communion with your church are anathema? Possibly, your church exemplifies and manifests the supreme ontological predicate of the Holy Trinity which is "Love," and in this sense transcends all divisions in Christ whereby there is a being divided but without division. I don't know.
It seems that in many ways you look to your Bishop and see a kind of messenger angel. And, I respect that very much. And, possibly Abba presents a most unique opportunity.
I am thinking now of an old TV show called "Gilligan's Island." In one episode the main character, Gilligan, fashioned some large bird wings out of feathers and he was up in the air flapping his wings and keeping himself suspended above the ground about ten feet. He was flying. Just then the Skipper came by and looked up at him and said, "Gilligan what are you doing?" Gilligan replied, "I'm flying!!!" The Skipper said, "Gilligan, you can't do that!" Gilligan said, "I can't?" Skipper said, "No you can't do that it's not possible!" Then Gilligan sighed and said, "OH . . ." and then he fell straight down to the ground with a thud.
John, I know you cannot speak for your Bishop; but, after all that you have shared, I can't help but to wonder, as it relates to a generous Orthodoxy, I wonder what your bishop would say to all of this. If we can put aside for just one minute, of our existence, the different schools of thought about the assembly of God and the individual members of this assembly. I wonder what Abba would say? I wonder what he would say to the one who is flying as Gilligan was-- to the one who would in simple faith choose to stand in a place where there is a simple transcending of all divisions in Christ as has been discussed here, in the pages of this thread and elsewhere at great length. I wonder if he came by, if he would say 'that is a thing of beauty my son!' or if he might say instead "you can't fly it's not possible."
- John Charmley - 11-04-2008
You take us to the heart of a question which will have preoccupied most of us here; few members of the BOC began their Christian lives in that Church; most of us are converts. Indeed, perhaps few of us did not wonder whether we were going to perpetuate Christian disunity by converting. Certainly for me it was an issue. The Anglican Church is the English national Church; it was the English form of orthodoxy; it is a worldwide communion. To have stayed within it would have been easy at one level - not least since no one really seemed to care what one actually believed. My last Anglican priest, a pious and saintly man, told me that there were many who held what he and I held, and that I should stay within and do whatever work the Lord had for me there. But there was another level at which that was increasingly painful. So on that theme it will be interesting to see what others say.
You are, again, at the heart of things when you enquire:
Quote:possibly your particular group does not claim to be the one true Church whereby all others not in communion with your church are anathema? Possibly, your church exemplifies and manifests the supreme ontological predicate of the Holy Trinity which is "Love," and in this sense transcends all divisions in Christ whereby there is a being divided but without division. I don't know.We would claim that the fullness of the faith is here in the BOC; but we are not much given to saying where it is not. The Spirit moves where He listeth, and he who says he has confined the Spirit speaks of what he cannot know.
Is that simple 'weasel words'? When we say that are we really saying: 'Yes, we're that Church and the rest of you be da--ed'? I don't think we are. One reason we have this Forum is to allow those interested to enquire within, as it were. Abba Seraphim maintains active ecumenical activity not because he doubts our being part of the True Church, but because we have a duty to understand, and be understood by, our fellow Christians; beyond that it is the work of the Spirit; but Abba Seraphim makes himself and the BOC a willing instrument of the Spirit. In that, Abba Seraphim does indeed, for me, represent the model of what an Ignatian bishop should be.
It would be interesting to know how he would regard this exchange; but I am not sure how many other bishops would even allow it!
There is an agony for us in seeing what should not be divided, divided. Some overcome it by denying the reality and anathematising others; others end up driven out of the Faith altogether. Power, control and tribalism - all products of our sinful state. Satan has used, and continues to use these tools against the Church - but the gates of hell still fail to prevail - even as He assured us would be the case.
Only in our love for Christ, and in His love for us all which we can share, can we find the road; it is that love which is transcendent. The contemporary heresy is to hold that one can be in that position better if one abandons doctrine and dogma; or that if one does not, then the only alternative is the sectarian/tribal mindset in which we struggle for control and power with others. But that is a false dichotomy. Only in the Apostolic succession and the creeds of the Church can one have an assurance that our bishop speaks with the authority of the Father. Having that, one can open one's arms to the world - and one can really fly.
a generous orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 12-04-2008
If I may jump in only having read extracts of what has gone on before, I believe that we have to acknowledge that, because the Church is the Body of Christ, then the Church can only be one. However, that does not mean that a particular denomination has the right to say "we are that One", rather, it has to be acknowledged that we human beings have set up internal barriers and behave as if the Church is disunited. This is, of course, a grave sin, trying to divide Christs's body, something that not even Pilate's soldiers tried to do.
The Church is a eucharistic community, we all partake of Christ's Holy Body and Blood. All those people in the different denominations who strive for ecumenical unity acknowledge this. When, for example I see HE Mor Athanasios Touma embrace an Anglican vicar with a friendly bear hug, then I see Christian love at work. St Polycarp reminisced about how St John the Theologian, when an old man who had to be carried to church, repeating tirelessly to the faithful, "love one another", we see the only antidote to schism, squabbles and ill-feeling, love. If we love those who have mistakenly taken us for enemies, then we will receive the help of the Holy Spirit. As Matta el-Maskeen stressed, Church unity will only be achieved through the grace of the Holy Spirit, a gift we receive only if we make ourselves worthy of it.
- John Charmley - 12-04-2008
A very loud 'Amen' to that - and a big bear hug too!
His love for his quarrelsome, prideful and disobedient children is truly awesome; He is truly Our Father - no one else would even put up with us, let alone love us.
- Rick Henry - 13-04-2008
"How Then Shall We Live?"
When I read Kirk's following four propositions:
1.) Because the Church is the Body of Christ, then the Church can only be one.
2.) However, that does not mean that a particular denomination has the right to say "we are that One"
3.) Rather, it has to be acknowledged that we human beings have set up internal barriers and behave as if the Church is disunited.
4.) This is, of course, a grave sin, trying to divide Christ's body.
I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul to the divided and immature church at Corinth when he asked them if Christ was divided?
And, as it relates to what we are calling a generous Orthodoxy, I think Kirk's train of thought speaks directly to our discussion! And, as I read his words in the following:
Quote:St Polycarp reminisced about how St John the Theologian, when an old man who had to be carried to church, repeating tirelessly to the faithful, "love one another", we see the only antidote to schism, squabbles and ill-feeling, love.
I cannot help but to also think that the Apostle John found the conclusion of the whole matter, and may have been one of the first members of the Church to speak of a transcending of all divisions in Christ not unlike others have here in this thread.
Yes, the apostolic spirit. I have to wonder if there may be a slight distinction between what has come to be known as the patristic mind and the apostolic spirit, and I am reminded of something I read recently in all this:
Quote:Epistemology pertains to where we "take our stand" on what we believe. Christianity is not simply taking a stand on what we believe about Jesus Christ, but is the ontological presence and activity of the living Lord Jesus within and through the Christian.
Especially, as we may consider such issues as ecclesiology and church polity, and specifically as we may consider the various faith traditions found within the eucharistic community it is not lost on me that in reality Christianity is not epistemology, in the sense of where we take our stand. Possibly, we think it is so important where we stand--with whom we stand. But, as I picture in my mind the aged Apostle of Love being carried in to deliver his simple message at the End of his life, it occurs to me that maybe it is not as important where we stand as it is how we live. Yes, Peter, knowing Christ is not divided, and as we discussed once before in another place a few years ago, we see again the primacy of the question . . . "How then shall we live?"