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."