The nature of the Church and its boundaries
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On another, EO, forum, Peter Farrington, Rick Henry and myself have been engaged in a discussion about the nature of the Church; the other Forum is not really a welcoming vehicle for such a discussion since the answer tends to be 'EO ecclesiology says we are the Church - end of argument', and the discussion tends to be couched in wonderfully Eurocentric terms of 'west' and 'east' where the last is effectively EO.
How are we to understand 'the Church'? I have been told on the EO site that it is not an institution; this I am more than happy to accept, but as a Christian one belongs to a Church which has an institutional form, so there is a sense in which the statement that it is not an institution is true and false at the same time. When I was an Anglican I understood it through the branch theory (even if I seem to have been one of the last people standing on the branch!). That is what led me to the Orthodox Church, in this manner.
The Church is Apostolic in succession and Orthodox in belief, this last being 'what has been believed at all times by all Christians everywhere'. In the eastern part of the Roman empire there were two broad lines of descent - EO and OO; in the West two broad lines, RC and Anglican. But I am aware of the vagueness and fuzziness of this, and that I am probably wrong in some deep sense that matters - so any light or assistance would be welcome.
One of my problems with the EO ecclesiology is that it leaves it unclear what happened in the west after 1054 or so; if salvation is only to be found in the Church, was there no Church and thus no salvation in the west - and despite the fact that no one in the west had access to Orthodoxy for much of the thousand years after 1054? That seems so unlikely, as it does that a Church so palpably holding to the fulness of the Faith as the Coptic Church is not part of God's Church. But these are deeper waters than I can stand in alone, so if there is anyone who can help on this one, it would be much appreciated.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)