July 1, 2008

The Whole Church

In a July 2008 Episcopal Life article, my colleague Ian Douglas quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury as saying, in reference to the upcoming Lambeth Conference:

The main focus I long to see at this conference is the better equipping of bishops to fulfill their task as agents and enablers of mission, as co-workers with God's mission in Jesus Christ.

Clearly it would be good thing for the bishops to improve the quality of their own collegial work. However, what is most important, when they leave Lambeth and return home to their dioceses, is that the work continues with a different set of co-workers: the rest of the church: laity, deacons and priests. Mission isn't just about God and the bishops. God does not appear to intend a model of trickle-down mission, but rather grass roots. Jesus, after all, came to fisherfolk, not the hierarchy, to choose his missionaries. So the bishops need to be prepared not only to work with their episcopal colleagues, domestic and foreign, but with all of the other missionary members of the church, not lording it over them, but as Christ did, working among them. To paraphrase John the Evangelist (1 John 4:20),

If you cannot work with your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom you have seen, you cannot work with God, whom you have not seen.

I understand that the work of the Apostle John is to be part of the substance of the Lambeth Bible study. May the words of the Scripture enlighten the minds of the bishops, to strengthen them in the mission they share with the whole church.

Tobias Haller BSG


Fran said...

Amen brother.

Yes - fishermen, Samaritans, the outcast, the disenfranchised and so forth.

Even Nicodemus could only show up at night and even then we never really know what he thinks.

So the Bishops and clergy in any church is never the place of the real work.

It is in community.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thank you for this post.

Erika Baker said...

The problem is, as many evangelicals have firmly pointed out to me on TA, that unless I take the Lord Jesus into my life in precisely the way the plain words of Scripture demand from me, I am not a Christian and therefore not their sister in Christ.

And "love your neighbour" is just as clearly defined as "for the sake of your soul, I show you now what complete condemnation God has waiting for you, so that you may repent and turn to the obvious revealed truth as handed down from the saints, and not perish. And unless you does that, you are not, in the true sense of the word, my neighbour."

I'm not making this up.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I've encountered both of those distortions, too. I still hope for light in the midst of darkness... T

June Butler said...

Perhaps bishops should be chosen from the least amongst us. I'm serious in part. Maybe we should have another look at our criteria for choosing candidates for the episcopacy. A desire to serve, to be a servant, should trump any sign of ambition in every case. Lord, deliver us from trickle-down mission.

June Butler said...

Let me clarify my previous comment. I am not speaking in opposition to ordination as a prerequisite for being a bishop. But let's say the the pool of candidates for bishop would be chosen from priests who have served for a number of years in the very poorest parishes of the diocese. Let's say that would be the rule, or the canon, if you will. Radical maybe, but might that not put the church more in line with the Gospel? The servant of the least amongst us as bishop. Sounds good to me.

Malcolm+ said...

Curiously, one of the biggest "vote-losers" in our North American process for choosing bishops is ambition.

A priest who is seen to be wanting the episcopal office, let alone actively pursuing it, runs the serious risk of damaging his/her prospects. Manifest ambition will turn off an electoral synod voter faster than most other problems - including past lapses.

So, to some degree, our system will weed out the most grasping candidates - or at least the grasping candidates who aren't able to mask it with good manners.