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V the Long-Term Church

V the Long-Term Church

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Published by Douglas Knight
Theology of Church worship and eucharist
Theology of Church worship and eucharist

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Published by: Douglas Knight on Feb 26, 2009
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05/10/2014

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5 The Church for the long-term
1. Gathering – Into One
The whole Christian people are gathered to intercede for the society to whichthey are sent.
1. The whole Church speaks
The whole Christian people are gathered to intercede for the society to whichthey are sent. The Church is given by God to society, and so the Church issent to a particular society to sing the praises of God to it. This worship ispublic. It is given to man by God; it is open to all mankind and so in that senseit is public. It turns us towards one another, and so makes for an open andstrong society, with a confident public sphere. What the whole Church singsand confesses is good for society, and society is dependent on it.God gives the whole world to the Church. He brings the world to attention of the Church so that Church should be Christ’s witness to it and intercede for it.Only the people brought together by the Holy Spirit, and so by the power thatthe Church has glimpsed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are empoweredto be the intercessors for the world. When the Church is assembled it isChrist, standing before the world to hear it and speak to it in mercy and judgment. And it can sing:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates,and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors :and the King of glory shall come in.Who is the King of glory :even the Lord of hosts,he is the King of glory 
(Psalm 24)
2. The Church is
apostolic 
The whole Church gathers around its their bishop. He is their pastor, which isto say, the shepherd and protector of this flock. With him the whole Church isan image of the apostles and people gathered around Christ. This one peoplestands constant and unchanging, while the world around them changes andvanishes. For the sake of the world, God will make his church stand forever.The bishop is an apostle. We do not choose him, but the greater worldwideChurch has sent him to us. We could take any member of the congregationand set them before us, or rather receive him from the worldwide Church; but,having received him, he is then the apostle and witness of Christ aroundwhom we gather, and we cannot choose any others. These apostles point outto us where Christ is; they are the ones who are able to identify him. Thisapostle is a witness, and therefore a ‘martyr’, mostly because he takes the
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knocks given to him mostly by his own Church. He is sent to us from all therest of the Church. He represents the love, and the love-gift, of the globalchurch given to us.The bishop is the single figure around whom we meet and worship. He is theicon of Christ for us. He can be this figure because, the Christian faith tells us,the single figure of man is unsurpassable. Humans are not significant merelyin the mass, but in the absolute singularity of every one of them. Theparticularity of each person is fundamental. And we ordain one particular manto be this figure that is publicly unique, and he and no one else plays this rolefor all of us. The bishop is able to be this figure only for his Church and beforethe Church, only when surrounded by his deacons and people. He presides atthe eucharist, and thus he stands in the centre of the gathered Church. He isthe view we see, and so he himself is the eucharistic element, the presence of Christ. He is the figure of man who is with God.But why should the bishop be the central figure for the whole Church? Manycommunities of Christians are not ready to acknowledge such a figure. Canthis concentration on this single Christian be right? Some communitiesemphasise that the gifts of leadership are diffused through a team of leaders.Some may object that a particular bishop does not seem to have the Spirit’sanointing, or seems to lack the more conspicuous of the Spirit’s gifts. Perhapshe is no extrovert, or have few social graces; perhaps he seems a grey,remote and elderly figure. How can he appeal to the whole community andabove all to the young church?Many Christian communities are founded by one charismatic leader. Heattracts great numbers of young Christians and may build a community inwhich many of the gifts of Christ are evident. But what understanding of charismatic is then at work? Do we regard him as a leader even when neither he nor we know how to distinguish between spiritual discipleship and other more conspicuous gifts that attract greater numbers of followers, and whichmay only indicate a very much more worldly success? If he does not give anypublic acknowledgement of the discipline of whole, catholic Church whatauthority is this leader himself under? How can his people be confident in hisleadership if he does not concede that there are criteria against which it canbe tested or that there are any outside his own community who are competentto judge him and call him to account?For such charismatic communities there is a succession problem. When thediscipleship of the community is expressed through love of his person, whathappens when this leader dies? How does that community identify another similarly charismatic figure to replace him? Many such Christian communitiesdo not survive beyond the second generation of leadership. Although theseissues are relevant to the whole Church, where there are the disciplines,traditions and structures, the judgment and succession of individual Christianleaders does not bring churches into crisis. The test of whether the bishop istruly charismatic, that is, whether he displays all the gifts of the Spirit that aregiven to the Church, is whether he himself follows the way of the cross and isready to die.
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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
(NEH 221)
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,
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