Salvation, catholicity and ecumenism
Every one of us is a member of the whole Church of Christ. The Christian lifeand faith is the sole path to the universal reconciliation of man. The gospel isthis reconciliation of every household and community with every other, so wecan say that catholicity or ecumenism is simply what the gospel achieves. Weare catholic as we look towards our reconciliation with all other churches. Wemust pray for them, and mention them in our intercessions, and we mourn our separation from them. But we must also treat them as those who have someportion of Christ and so as those we must learn from and submit to. In theapprenticeship of this Christian life we learn to reach out to the whole of therest of the Church, indeed to the future completion of the Church, when Christshall be all in all.The bishop is not bishop only of the Anglican and ‘episcopalian’ church, thatis, of the churches that recognise bishops. He is bishop to every church andecclesial community. The office of bishop is intrinsically ecumenical, becauseit is intrinsically the very office of Christ, who calls all men to obedience. Hecommands them to unity and obedience, and they must hear and obey.Ecumenism is not an option that may or may not be taken, but the evangelicalcommand of God, that is, the assertion, for our sake, of the lordship of God.All Superintendents and Moderators of Methodist or Presbyterian churchesshould acknowledge that they are all bishops by another name, and should bereconciled to their fellow bishops.The bishop has authority. The bishop is whole united Church made visible for our sake in one single person. The bishop who loves his Church, uses thatauthority. When he does not use that authority, the authority derived from theliturgy, not all the Christian institutions can fill the gap, though every form of ministry will be an adequate attempt to compensate. When the bishop’s failureto lead. When he does not exercise his authority, it is because he has not yetlearned to love. Perfect love has not yet cast out fear. He has not learned howto recognise the neediness of his people or to pity their vulnerability. All theinstitutions we have are compensations for the failure to honour the bishop,that is our failure to recognise whole united Church in the person set beforeus for that end. It is a failure to recognise and to discern the body and thus afailure to recognise the Lord.
All praise be thine O Lord of heavenfor those unto whom the charge is givento tend and feed the souls of menuntil thy Son shall come again
We are under many authorities in the Church, but this one particular person,the bishop is all these authorities conveniently packaged in one person. Youcan go and speak to him, and tell him whatever is on your mind. He is anapostle, one of the Twelve, here for us. He is our ‘reverend Father in God’. Wehave to treat him as a spiritual giant. His people should never leave himalone, but always demand some blessing and wisdom, some correction andwarning from him. They must ask him to lead them, and remind him that he issurrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. As the Ordination service tells us,