Sunday, April 29, 2012

Disunity: Two Worlds, Two Gospels in Tension

In last Wednesday's reading from Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16, the Apostle Paul speaks of the unity of the Church, of individuals, all as part of the body of Christ.

 "But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Can people, the Church, or any of those who profess to be Christians ever hope to see the body of Christ "grow in building itself up in love" as St. Paul writes? What ligament is strong enough to hold together two different worlds travelling in opposite directions as the Anglican Communion appears to be trying to do?

As evidence that the Anglican Communion is, in its most polar opposites, made up of two different Gospels led by two very different types of leaders I present the following recent quotations from two types of Anglican spiritual leaders who are trying to guide us. You will see their differing visions of the future of the Church and how to get there.

#1) "We believe that the future of our Communion relies on adherence to Scriptural authority, faithful and Christ-centred preaching of this word, the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit, godly leadership and the spiritual commitment of God’s people." (From here)

Compare that with this,
#2) "That spirit is inviting us to let go of what is dead and embrace the new life that’s emerging. We’re looking toward a church that is more varied and less rigidly controlled, more networked and less directed. This new church is going to be more organic, more profoundly a body with uniquely gifted parts, each one honored and blessed for the service of God’s mission. It’s going to need different kinds of communication and responsiveness. We are already beginning to live into some of those ways, and others are still waiting to be discovered. None of us knows exactly what this church is going to look like – and that scares some folks to death, even more than the dying that has already been. I don’t know what is coming, none of us knows exactly what’s coming, this body doesn’t know what the next shape will be. We are being invited into a more truly communal process of discernment, a listening to the spirit that is patient and alert enough to help us all embrace that green blade rising." (From here)

In the first example we see the confidence and assurance that comes from surrender to and trust in the Lord and his Holy Word.

In the second example we see the doubt and uncertainty that comes from the shaky foundation built upon disassemby and constant revisioning of Scripture, Earthly centered preaching, following the spirit of the age,  leadership that does not acknowledge its fallen nature, trying to lead an ill informed and Biblically illiterate people.

Two different worlds, two different leaderships, two different visions...

I do not see where unity is possible between these two worlds as they drift farther and farther apart unless they both cling to the same ligament, the only thing strong enough to bind us together.

Unfortunately for the writer of quotation #2, it looks like she needs to let go of her doubts, and grab hold of the same ligament to which the writers of quotation #1 have already been bound.


  1. You nailed it. Unity in such circumstances is not possible because there is a different view of what the foundation is. The moment an individual/congregation/denomination's focus ceases to be Christ and the Word, i.e. the "Solid Rock," is the moment the house shifts to "sinking sand."

  2. Yep, left leg to right leg: "Hopping into the uncertain future without you... So long..."

  3. Anonymous3:36 AM

    Unity is a function of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays that he and his followers will be one, just as he and the Father are one (John 17). The Holy Spirit, the comforter, along with providing the power of Jesus to continue his ministry in the world, comes to remind us and bring us into all Truth. It is the Holy Spirit, working to bring us together to this one focus (to the Glory of God the Father) of The Truth, who is thus the agent and impetus and inspirer of Unity within the Body of Christ.
    So if there is no Unity in the Body of Christ, it is imperative to asking and waiting upon the Holy Spirit -- 1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. 2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. Psalm 123 --- until he show us the holes in the broken vessel where Unity is spilling out, and Disunity is becoming the remainder.

    And that is also the Remedy. If there is DisUnity we can quickly say, "We are lacking in the Holy Spirit", or we can say, "We have lost our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit." So we begin to pray for what is happening "within the walls of Jerusalem" where the watchmen have not been attentive, for an increase in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Rob+,

      Left hand to right hand: "I've got a hold of the Holy Spirit, you don't."

  4. Anonymous4:39 PM

    Loud and clear, UP.
    However, because the left (or right) claims the CONCLUSION of the process of asking the Holy Spirit for direction does not mean a) that they asked at all, b) that they asked and waited for the correct answer, or c) sought the first resource for the Word needed which would be from the Word of God, the bible, inspired as it is by the Holy Spirit.

    There is everything valid about announcing the work and direction of the Holy Spirit. But because we have succeeded in ignorance does not mean to jettison the primary lesson for disciples of Jesus while here in this world. It means, rather, that we need to go back to school to learn it. Admonishment, exhortation, correction and reproof all come to mind as acceptable vehicles for learning and teaching the lesson.
    And we don't have to wait -- several powerful and authoritative teachers have been published already.