Anglo-Catholic Christianity Rev. J. Wesley Evans. Part VI: The Church

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1 Anglo-Catholic Christianity Rev. J. Wesley Evans Part VI: The Church Incarnational Ecclesiology: What is the Church? And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. The Word for Church in the NT is evkklhsi,a (ecclesia). It comes from two words: out of and to call. So a very literal understanding of the etymology would be those called out. However, beware the etymological fallacy! In the Greco- Roman ecclesia was used to denote anything from a casual assembly of people to the legislative body of a polis. The Church is not made by people, it is a gift of God that people join. It is, in a very real and metaphysical way, the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-28) The Church find s her origin in God. Just as Israel was founded by God in the covenant given at Mt Sinai, so too the Church was founded by Jesus Christ under the New Covenant. (Matt 16:18) So remember: We are NOT the Church! Notice that in 1 Corinthians 11:18-22 Paul chastises the Christians when you come together as a church. Merely because a group of Christians met together didn t make it the Church, the Church was a specific gathering, one that seems in this passage to assume the Eucharist as the norm. This was an issue during the Reformation, where in the Reformed tradition the Church is any group where the Gospel is rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered, and Church disciple carried out correctly. This is a functional definition of the Church. This idea gained ground and is perhaps best expressed by John Locke: A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls. (John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration) Note the difference between that and this: Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 1

2 It is called the Body of Christ as constituting a mystical extension of Christ s glorified body, and as made up of those who have become members of that body the relation between the Church and Christ is organic, and he is it s head. Its hierarchical organization, appointed by him and vitalized by his Spirit, constitutes its living and sacramental form (Fr. Francis Hall, Theological Outlines) The question comes down to this: We can start by answering whether the Church is a real ontological entity, or if it is just a name we assign to a group of people who are joined together for a common cause. When we define "Church", do we begin "top-down", by saying "there is this Reality called the Body of Christ, of which Christ is really the head, and into which people are incorporated as something like members or cells?" Or, do we begin "bottom-up", by saying that we are autonomous individuals, who, by a free act of our will, choose to form this club we call the "Body of Christ"? Does the universal Reality of Christ govern our particular lives (top-down), or do our particular experiences create our reality (bottom-up)? (Fr. Nate Bostian, Cacophony or Communion?) To sum: The Church is an organic society like a family or nation, not a voluntary one like a civic or sports club. Catholic Marks of the Church In catholic theology of Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the Church is primarily a visible institution. But, the Church is still primarily a visible institution. Francis Hall points out several reasons: 1. It s membership is visible a. Members are made such by the visible sign of Baptism b. There is visible communion and discipline c. It s head, Jesus, is visible to those who are with him in glory 2. It s organization is visible a. Founded on historic, and visible, prophets and apostles b. Has a visible governing structure 3. It has visible institutions a. Sacraments b. Public Worship Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 2

3 4. There is no scriptural distinction between visible and invisible Church a. No biblical passage successfully demonstrates a distinction between a visible and invisible church b. No one is declared in the NT as a member of Christ s Church who has not been baptized c. The commands and promises given by Jesus must all pertain to a visible organization It is important to note, however, that even in the Catholic tradition there is some distinction made between those who genuinely have faith, and those who are members of the Church but have no faith. St. Augustine made the distinction between the wheat and tares, based on Matthew 13:25-30: Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days. (St. Augustine, Sermon 23 on the NT) Instead of making a division along visible/invisible lines, I think a better distinction is objective vs. subjective qualities: Objective Subjective One We are unified by being united to Jesus in the Spirit We are to have a visible, institutional unity Holy Catholic Apostolic The Body of Christ is purified from sin and freed from evil objectively The Church is for all people and the Gospel makes no ethnic distinctions We have the Gospel, the Faith of the Apostles We are to actualize this by living virtuous lives in the Spirit We are to evangelize all people without distinction We are to believe the Gospel and avoid heresy Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 3

4 Church Structure: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons Bishops: esse, bene esse, or plene esse? The minsitry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ s ministry. (BCP 855) Esse: Of the essence This is the Roman and Orthodox position, also found among some Anglo- Catholics. This view hold that only those groups that have Apostolic Succession of an Episcopate can be called part of the Church in any real sense. Note that Vatican 2 toned this down somewhat by talking about Protestants as being part of the mystical body if not the Church herself. Bene esse: for the good of The position of Anglo-Evangelicals/Reformed. This view holds that Bishops are just a good idea, and is a ancient and useful form of church government, but is not required. Plene esse: for the fullness of This position is held by other Anglo-Catholics who want to take a middle road between the first two. In this view Apostolic Succession gives the fullness of the Church, but is not necessary. Thus, Baptists are still part of the Church through Baptism, but are missing a vital aspect of what it means to be fully the Church. Priests and Deacons The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God. (BC 856) Priests developed during the early days when Bishops could not be at every Church for the Eucharist, so some were delegated in their place. Thus, priests have a sacramental ministry as an extension of the Bishop. The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. (BCP 856) Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 4

5 Deacons go back to the age of the Apostles in Acts 6:1-6. The primary purpose of the founding of the Diaconate was to help take care of some of the day to day needs of the Church, so that the Apostles could focus on teaching the Gospel and prayer. Laity The ministry of lay persons is the represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. (BCP 855) While the other offices of the Church find themselves primarily as part of the institutional structure, the Lay order finds itself primarily out in the world. Functions of the Church 1) Worship (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor 11:18-34, 14:26) 2) Teach the Faith (Matt 28:19) 3) Evangelize the Nations (Matt 28:19, Acts 15:22) 4) Take care of each others needs (Acts 2:45, 6:1-6) 5) Enact discipline (Matt 18:17, 1 Cor 5:1-13) Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 5

6 Rev. J. Wesley Evans Anglo-Catholic Christianity 6

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