Sunday, May 20, 2007

Communion in Christ

An executive summary of the liturgical—theological reflection.

In reflecting on the proposed Anglican Covenant, Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission’s (APLM) Council grounded its response in Paul’s words to the Corinthians “Just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Our Basis for Unity—The Church is already one because it is one with the Lord, belonging to Christ and participating in Christ’s ministry and mission in the world. Our communion does not depend upon either juridical structures or doctrinal agreements. These, at best, may reflect our unity in Christ, but they do not effect it. In Baptism and Eucharist, God both brings about and reveals our participation in Christ. The intimate connection between Baptism, Eucharist and the ordination of bishops, deacons and priests has revealed that baptized divorced persons, gay men and lesbians as well as women may not be excluded as a class from any of the sacraments of the church, for they are full members of Christ.

We are concerned that misplaced anxiety about unity may drive us to forced uniformity, as though we had to fear communion in diversity. We appeal to our church to address our present divisions, drawing on the charisms that have shaped who we are, including the Anglican comprehensiveness expressed in the Elizabethan Settlement; the authority of scripture, tradition and reason; the integrity of each diocese and Province; and finding our unity in work for justice so that mission, rather than doctrine, gives outward expression to the unity found in Christ.

The Proposed Covenant—We believe that the proposed covenant is deeply flawed, as it attempts to bring about Church unity through enforced conformity. The unity of the church cannot be enforced, as unity is already given in Jesus Christ. It is one of the marks of the Church and an article of faith. We do not believe that the Church should be one, but that it is one. The Covenant places certain persons in the role of being ultimate arbiters of what is and is not Anglican.

Theologically speaking, the sources of church unity have traditionally been understood as:

  • The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • The two dominical sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist
  • Ongoing participation by Christ in these sacraments, constituting our communion with a bishop, who in turn is in communion with the see of Canterbury.
  • A common liturgical source tradition (see the Prague Statement of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation)

The doctrinal expression of our unity is contained in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, inasmuch as it describes the essential points of agreement for union with other churches.

Conclusion—We are called to the risk of bringing all of humanity into the Reign of God—especially those who are most unlike ourselves. To try to effect an artificial unity of the Body of Christ through doctrinal enforcement will only lead to yet another scandalous division in the Body of the Lord. It is also idolatrous, substituting a written agreement for the saving work of Christ on the cross and the living, catholic call of the Gospel to incarnate Christ’s ministry in all places and in all times. In Baptism and Eucharist we will find unity—beyond any enforced conformity—which is the real basis for our Communion and our common life in Christ.

(Find the liturgical-theological reflection at the above web address.)

I am a member of APLM. (Rev. Kurt)

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