Archive for August, 2007

Evangelicals Turn Toward . . . the Orthodox Church?

August 25, 2007

For Ellsworth, his departure from First Baptist triggered both a professional and a spiritual crisis. But, before he could deal with the former, he felt he had to address the latter. He devoted himself to reading theology and church history. At first, he seemed headed in the direction of the Calvinist-influenced Reformed Baptist Church or the Anglican Church, which are where evangelicals in search of a more classical Christian style of worship often end up. But, as Ellsworth continued in his own personal search, his readings and discussions began taking him further and further past the Reformation and ever deeper into church history. And, gradually, much to his surprise, he found himself growing increasingly interested in a church he once knew virtually nothing about: the Orthodox Church. “I really thought he’d go to Canterbury,” says Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton College English professor and Anglican who is friendly with Ellsworth. “But he took a sudden right turn and wound up in Constantinople.”

Ellsworth began reading more and more about Orthodox Christianity–eventually spending close to $10,000 on Orthodox books. By 2005, he was regularly visiting an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago (the Antiochian Orthodox Church is Middle Eastern in background and the seat of its patriarchate is in Damascus). By late 2006, Ellsworth realized that he wanted to be Orthodox himself. On the first Sunday of the following February, an Orthodox priest in Chicago anointed him with holy oil and he was chrismated–or formally received–into the Orthodox Church. A month later, at the age of 62, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest himself.

Ellsworth’s story is hardly unique. Most of the approximately 150 members of the Orthodox parish he now leads are former evangelicals themselves . . .

As they say, read it all . . .

“In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men . . . “

August 25, 2007

By the Church therefore in this question we understand no other than only the visible Church. For preservation of Christianity there is not any thing more needful, than that such as are of the visible Church have mutual fellowship and society one with another. In which consideration, as the main body of the sea being one, yet within divers precincts hath divers names; so the Catholic Church is in like sort divided into a number of distinct societies, every of which is termed a Church within itself. In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society. For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of a Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before. “Where but three are, and they of the laity also (saith Tertullian), yet there is the Church;” that is to say, a Christian assembly. But a Church, as now we are to understand it, is a Society; that is a number of men belonging unto some Christian fellowship, the place and limits whereof we are certain. That wherein they have communion in the public exercise of such duties as those mentioned in the Apostle’s Acts, “instruction, breaking of bread and prayer.” As therefore they that are of the mystical body of Christ have those inward graces and virtues, whereby they differ from all others, which are not of the same body; again, whosoever appertain to the visible body of the Church, they have also the notes of external profession, whereby the world knoweth what they are; after the same manner even the several societies of Christian men, unto every of which the name of a Church is given with addition betokening severalty, as the Church of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, England, and so the rest, must be endued with correspondent general properties belonging unto them as they are public Christian societies.

Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book III.I.14

“To abide in divine love is to frame one’s life in active correspondence with God’s purpose.”

August 21, 2007

I believe that there is no duty which is so pressing upon the Church of Christ at this moment as the duty of re-erecting the ethical standard of Christ-or reasserting the only Way. It is evident to-day that the current rejection of Christianity is not primarily or mainly a rejection of its theology but a rejection of its moral claim. In regard to the sexual appetites the Christian standard, within marriage and without it, is being quite explicitly repudiated over very wide areas of society. This is commonly recognised. But it is at least as true that our industrial and social system have been largely built up on the repudiation of the Christian principles of justice, spiritual equality and brotherhood: and that the current maxims of our commerce, our current attitude towards wealth, our current toleration of selfishness as the normal ideal for the individual, the family and the nation, are direct repudiations of the principles of the prophets and of Christ. At the same time there is a very deep and wide feeling in the best of men, inside and outside the Church, that the Christian Life is rooted in the truth and that there is no alternative to it. And I cannot but acknowledge that it is very largely from outside the church that we have been, of recent years, relearning the moral meaning of Christ. I say that I think the first duty of the Church to-day is again to study and teach the Way, as William Law taught it in the 18th century in his “Serious Call.” This demands from the preachers and teachers of the Church very serious study. And it will involve a very serious alteration of emphasis in our preaching. In particular this is true of the Catholic movement in Anglicanism. It has perforce been occupied in recovering forgotten or ignored elements of Catholic doctrine, for instance about the Sacraments. In doing this it has run a great risk. It has distorted the emphasis. it has not made it constantly evident that the sacramental institutions of Christendom are means, not ends; that there is only one end and this is likeness of God: and that we have no authority to substitute any lower standard as sufficient. This is the lesson which we owe in the first instance to the prophets of the Old Testament; but since the very God was manifested in the flesh, the meaning of their root principles has gained a quite new clearness. “I,” says Jesus, “am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” “God is love; and he that abideth in love”-which is the social principle of brotherhood-he and he only “abideth in God and God abideth in him.” And to abide in divine love is to frame one’s life in active correspondence with God’s purpose. It is not merely negative attitude-to abstain from doing evil. It is the devotion of oneself to promoting the Kingdom of God-which is justice and peace and love-in every department of human affairs.

—From “The God of the Prophets” by Bishop Charles Gore, delivered at the Second Anglo-Catholic Congress, London 1923

“In the Eucharist the episcopal ministry finds its meaning”

August 18, 2007

Dear readers: I apologize for the long absence, brought on in part by the inability of anyone to comment on postings. I am praying that this gets cleared up soon. However, I have decided to begin posting again, regardless. Perhaps someone else will provide a link for comments? In any case, feel free to e-mail me your thoughts—if there are enough of them, perhaps I’ll post them as a separate entry.I return with a quotation from the late Fr. John Meyendorff. It seems germane both to what I will be writing soon and to Certain Discussions taking place on Another Blog.

UPDATE: Comments are now back! All hail Mike the Tech Elf!)

The aim of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the very purpose of His teaching, death, and resurrection was to establish between God and man a new relation, a new unity: “The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and Thou in me, that they may be perfectly one, so that world may know that Thou hast sent me” (John 17:22-23). Unity with God supposes also unity among men, a unity which is described here by Christ Himself as visible to the world and as a wintess concerning His own mission. It is by seeing the unity that Christians have among themselvess that the world “knows” and “believes.” This unity is not, therefore, only a spiritual and invisible reality, but it appears in the concrete, visible life of the Church. Without Christ’s unity, Christians cannot truly fulfill their call, because the world cannot see in them the new life given in Christ.

This is the reason why, at the very origin of the Chruch, “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). Christians gathered together regularly for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and nothing—not even the Roman persecutions—could prevent them from holding their assemblies, because the very nature of their faith implied that God abided not in each of them individually, but in the entire Church, the Body of Christ. Only by being a member of this body could the individual also be a member of Christ. Early Christians considered each church assembly, held in the name of Christ, that is, in unity and love, as witness of Christ’s victory over human egoism, selfishness, and sin. A first-century Father, St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, wrote in a letter to the Church of Ephesus: “Be zealous to assemble more frequently to render thanks [eucharistein: “to celebrate the eucharist”] and praise to God. For when you meet together frequently, the powers of Satan are destroyed and danger from him is dissolved in the harmony of your faith.”

No other passage of early Christian literature gives a clearer indication of the very mystery of the Christian Church: by the power of the Holy Spirit, scattered and separated human beings are able to become, when they gather, a powerful and victorious transfigured reality: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). This real presence of God in the assembly of the Church makes it possible for various Christians ministries to be really Christ’s mysteries, and this applies, first of all, to the episcopal function. Every Christian community is manifesting the Body of Christ in its fullness since this Body cannot be divided: “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (St Ignatius, Letter to the Smyneans 8 ) The function of the bishop is to fulfill in the assembly the ministry of the Head, to sit where Christ sat among His disciples, to teach what He taught, to be the shepherd and the high priest. “Let all follow the bishop,” St. Ignatius writes, “as Jesus Christ did the Father, and priests, as you would the apostles . . . Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one to whom the bishop has committed to this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be.” There is no Church without the bishop, but the reverse is also true, there is no bishop outside of the Church, since the head needs a body to fulfill its function. In the views of St. Ignatius, which are confirmed by the entire Tradition of the Church, it is in the Eucharist that the divinely instituted episcopal ministry finds its real meaning. However, the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity with God and of our unity in Christ among ourselves. The bishop stands at the very center of this mystery. His sacramental functions in the eucharistic liturgy are also expressed in his pastoral responsibilities which oblige him to assure, in the practical life of the Church, the unity given sacramentally by God in the Eucharist. His ministry is, therefore, one of reconciliation and unity.

— from “One Bishop in One City” in Catholicity and the Church, Fr. John Meyendorff (SVS 1983)