Monday, December 02, 2013

what our founding stories say about our identity

One of the richness of Uniting College is the diversity of students. Over the week I’ve marked work from a class that included a school principal, a chaplain, a church planter, an Anglican priest, a multi-cultural leader, a denominational worker – all working out how their ministry experiences have shaped their understanding of the practice of ministry. I’ve read about the spirituality of dissent, children’s spirituality, pioneer imaginations, leadership metaphors and gender perspectives. It’s been so rich.

Anyhow, one of the students was exploring the relationship between church, Kingdom and ministry. They began with tradition, including the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Article XIX defines how we view church on a local and global level:

‘Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.’

So what does this found story say about identity? What has got me thinking is the second paragraph. The church has erred. Does this introduce humility, that we’re a group of pilgrims who will continue to err? And so all our ongoing ceremonies, all our “fresh expressions” of living and worship and theological writings, will have the potential to err?

Or does this introduce an arrogance, that they’ve made mistakes and so we should separate ourselves from them, because we’re more pure and holy?

Both approaches have huge implications for being one, worldwide, catholic church. Either you are part of an erring community, and so will see other denominations and churches in history as humble, fellow failing pilgrims. Or you will see yourself as better than other denominations and churches in history and will remain ever eager to point out their erring, while being forever eager to maintain your own purity through separation.

I find it intriguing to then lay this alongside the founding stories of the emerging church. There are many instances of new forms of church starting because they are aware of the erring of other forms. Does this, has this, led to a humility, an acceptance of the erring of other forms of church? Or has this led to a separation, a relentless pursuit of purity?

And, finally, does this Anglican ecclesiology, have any impact today on the development of fresh expressions, which owes so much to the energy and vision of the Anglican denomination in England?

Posted by steve at 10:06 PM

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