Skip to comments.Two Descriptions of the Church
Posted on 08/18/2005 7:48:41 AM PDT by sionnsar
[Posted for discussion. --sionnsar]
When Robert Frost told us about the two roads in a yellow wood, between which he needed to choose, he never told us the rest of the story. We never learned whether the two roads were parallel, we never learned whether they stayed close, and we never learned whether they had a common destination.
Feelings are running high in the Episcopal Church, and many feel we have come to two roads and the correct choice will make all the difference.
The debate over the relationship of sexuality to ordination and consecration decisions appears, at least to a lay person, to have revealed two importantly different views of our faith. The pleas that the current issues be resolved theologically are likely to go unheeded until some convergence is found among these views.
Is the Church best described as a lens or as a window? It appears that many contemporary Episcopalians prefer the imagery of the Church as a lens. Through this sanctified lens, they look at the world we know and live in now. It is a lens through which all persons are seen to be paralleling Jesus, described by God as One in whom he is well pleased. It is a lens through which the potential for the kingdom is seen right here, right now.
Some proponents of this view would argue that a similar lens is available to other religions as well with different refractions to deal with their cultural biases. Some of the more progressive of this group would go on to hold that the lens itself is man-made, albeit by Spirit-infused people.
Furthermore, some would hold that this particular lens enables us to see resurrection as part of a sort of natural order a metaphor for new life in this life and a metaphor which has parallels in other enduring faiths. The lens has an interpretative filter for creed and scripture which enables them to be seen through modern eyes. Users of this lens will likely use the word catholic to refer to inclusiveness of people of all sorts and condition.
Those who hold the alternative view believe the Church to be a God-given icon or window onto the unseen world of which we can get glimpses through the sacraments of the Church and particularly through scripture the culmination of which is the description of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The job of the Church as a window is to help us align our daily living and thinking with that of the eternal Church. Our work for conversion and justice on this side of the window gives us a greater light to see the other side.
Life on our side of the window is very short, and for many individuals, very incomplete. We share our side of the window with those killed young in battle, with those whose lives are impaired by neurological damage or genetic disorders, with those infants caught in famine, and those people who have been crippled by mental illness. These persons will never have the opportunity to hold the lens described in the section above, but, through the Church, they may know that they will come into their fullness on the other side of the window. In the window view of the Church, there will be an opportunity for the tears to be wiped away from every eye. We see through a glass darkly and do not fully grasp the apparent complexity of creed and scripture, both of which are God-given through the instrumentality of persons. When we do see God face to face, all that we have shared in creed and scripture will be expounded unto us as it was to Cleopas and his companion at Emmaus.
The missionary enterprise can certainly be better understood from the window vision of the Church. Indeed the progressives may be right that God can be found in other enduring faiths, but our instructions are clear: Go and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The vitality of the Church is bound up in that great enterprise and it is a worldwide activity which brought this faith to every Christian living today. Those who hold this emphasis would use the word catholic to acknowledge that the general shape of the window is the same in Calcutta and Canada.
The liturgical bias of those who hold the window view is that priest and people are together looking through the same window, hopefully seeing, through that dark glass, the God of the Cosmos, who is also the God of the individual heart. Thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit
The two views have co-existed in our Church for at least a couple of generations, and there are plenty of Episcopalians for whom these two views are superimposed. In any case, the Church can and must hold these two views in juxtaposition. This will require more humility than that of which we are generally capable. The burden for this falls on all of us, but principally on those who now control the Episcopal Church. They need to understand that this Church was not intended to be a denomination. It was and is a framework for the conduct of the catholic faith, and that framework can encompass both lens and window. The progressives need to understand that the Christian life, for most of us, needs to be lived in community. Support groups, therefore, have always existed in the Episcopal Church. Various devotional societies have played a crucial role. Bishops need to be tolerant of these support groups.
Conservatives need to be certain that what they are doing is not schismatic either within the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Separation within the Episcopal Church weakens us. For conservatives, separation does not increase the net amount of conservatism within Christianity, it simply rearranges it.
The Anglican Communion is our microcosm of the universal Church, and it is important to our souls health. However, we need to remember that even the Anglican Communion is not an end in itself. It is only a part of the whole Church and it is to that full unity that we must remain devoted.
Bruce W. Steinhauer is a physician who lives in Memphis, Tenn.
Sounds like he is part of the mushy middle who will put up with pretty much anything as long as it does not personally slap him in the face.
The writer attempts to support the via media. The effect is confusion and inaction.
What I object to is having the word 'catholic' twisted from that which has been and continues to be believed universally, in all places by all who have assented to being a synonym for inclusivity. That is quite the exact opposite meaning and permits the author to therefore exactly support progressives, who would, were catholic used correctly, be exactly wrong.
Note what happens here: if 'catholic' means inclusive, then it is the progressives who are catholic and those who hold to the Traditional and Universal Faith who are, as the writes states, potentially schismatic. That would mean that all generations before this one have been schismatic and only this last generation has actually succeeded in establishing catholicism. Quite a trick, IMHO.
I suggest the author stick to his day job. This is a false piece of analysis altogether.
But liberals need not concern themselves about creating schism, because, well, because they're liberals.
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