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This article by Ephraim Radner on The Living Church contains 12 Theses on Bishops’ Ministry.  They are so good that I post them here, in their entirety, (though not the whole article) without further comment:

1. The full description of the episcopal office is given in the Holy Scriptures’ description of Jesus Christ. This is because this full description of Jesus Christ is the figure that the episcopal office represents (1 Pet. 2:25).

2. The office of the bishop is properly understood only within the contours of the whole Scriptures, for it is all the Scriptures that coherently describe Christ Jesus. No scriptural description of the episcopal office can be offered that is “repugnant” to other Scriptures (Articles of Religion, XX), any more than this can be done with respect to Christ. This means that the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, is rightly brought to bear in understanding the episcopal office (cf. Luke 24:44).

3. The office of the bishop is universal, not local, in its foundation, effects, and criteria of evaluation (Eph. 2:19; Rev. 21:14; BCP, p. 517), because formed by and tied to the full figure of Christ who died for the sins of the whole world, and whose Church is universal (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:15-20).

4. There are normative standards of Scriptural coherence for understanding the office of the bishop, including John 10:1-18, 21:15-19; Mark 10:35-45; Acts 1:21-22, 2:26-35, 2:43-47; 2 Cor. 11:1-30; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:10-4:2; Titus 1:7-9; Heb. 13:7, 17; and 1 Peter 5:1-6. These texts and their meaning are rightly related to the people of Israel (Rev. 21:12-14) and her prophets, including Moses and the Law.

5. These standards can be ordered under two headings: the pastoral and the apostolic. One describes the ministerial purpose of the bishop’s role, the other the practical tasks of the bishop’s work in fulfilling that role. In fact, though, because each represents the person of Christ, they are completely integrated.

6. The pastoral role of the bishop can be divided into the two aspects of Christ’s divine shepherding: ultimate care and salvation of souls (Ezek. 34; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:16) and self-giving and subjection within the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-5).

7. The apostolic role can be divided into two aspects of Christ’s mission in the Holy Spirit: teaching (Matt. 28:20) and the pneumatic power of holy living (James 5:16; Mark 9:29; 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

8. All other aspects of the episcopal ministry, whether particular gifts or duties, are provisional supports to these roles and tasks; the ordering of the Church likewise. Anything that obstructs, weakens, or subverts these in the life of the Church is to be judged inadequate and changed. Anything that permits, strengthens, and furthers these elements is to be judged faithful and encouraged (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 1 John 4:1).

9. The ecclesiastical ordering of episcopal ministry is always “with others”: other bishops, and the Church as a whole (Acts 2:43-47, 15:6). The notion of a bishop “acting alone” is a Christian oxymoron.

10. The ecclesial order of synodality (“walking together”) — meeting in the council of mutual subjection and companionship in Christ — has best expressed such a support, especially in that it also includes other ministries of the Church. The scriptural witness, the history of the Church’s life, and the direction of ecumenical agreement have affirmed this.

11. Synodality describes the way Christ Jesus himself orders the Church through his own person (Luke 24:13-27; Acts 1:21-22), which includes practical actions: seeking, gathering, protecting, building up, remaining in fellowship, and giving away the self through standing beside.

12. It is necessary to measure the current practice of the Episcopal Church through several criteria:

  • Money and property: are our bishops personally and in their synodical life representing the commandments and life of Jesus with respect to material goods?
  • Personal life: are our bishops clear exemplars of holy living as Jesus has taught us in the Holy Spirit?
  • Private and public speech: are our bishops witnesses of the clarity, truth, generosity, and patience of Jesus’ own words and encounters?
  • Aptitude in teaching: are our bishops wholly dedicated to and capable of teaching clearly the fullness of the Gospel and of the Scriptures as a whole?
  • Willingness towards mutual subjection: are our bishops subject one to another, and to the Body of Christ as a whole, and do they work for this purpose?
  • Concern for salvation of souls: do our bishops have as their highest goal the expenditure of their lives for the sake of the eternal life of the Flock of Christ, near and far, locally and universally (John 10:16)?
  • Unity of fellowship: do our bishops give themselves, even to death, for the sake of establishing and maintaining the “bond of peace” within their sisters and brothers in Christ, and for the sake of sinners in both the Church and in the world (Eph. 4:1-16)?

Read the whole thing here: http://livingchurch.org/12-theses-bishops-ministry

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From ENS:

It’s Sunday afternoon at the farthest reach of the Diocese of West Texas. Under cotton puff clouds floating lazily in a sparkling blue sky, a handful of parishioners arrive for services at St. James Episcopal Church.

You wonder where they’re coming from. Except for the stone footprint of an old frontier fort, the horizon is unencumbered by any signs of human habitation. The scene is virtually unchanged from what the first ranchers, settlers and soldiers saw 150 years ago.

But arrive they do at their small rock church with a white cross on top, from isolated pockets across the empty landscape, in vans, SUVs and pickup trucks, some caked in caliche dust. There are no sedans or small imports.

The vicar, the Rev. Christopher Roque, arrives with wife Tish and their two children, Matthew and Ethan. They chat briefly with church members congregating at the front door before heading inside for the 3 p.m. Communion service.

He’s wearing a white straw Stetson, leather vest, Levis cinched up with a big silver belt buckle with a Texas star in the middle, tall leather boots, a beautiful silver crucifix and a clerical collar. From a tooled leather briefcase he dispenses today’s scripture readings.

There is no procession or music. Roque walks to the front of the church and starts Rite II.  With his sermon, the entire service is over in 45 minutes.

St. James sits in the crossroads town of Fort McKavett, population 4, some 170 miles west of San Antonio. Besides St. James, the tiny hamlet consists of a post office, fire station and the Fort McKavett State Historical Site.  It’s so remote that you have to drive to Sonora, 41 miles south, for a loaf of bread or tank of gasoline.

On Sundays, “Father Chris” as he’s affectionately known to his parishioners, conducts services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sonora in the morning, and then treks up to Fort McKavett twice a month for the 3 p.m. Communion at St. James.

“If called to Sonora as rector, it’s conditional that you are vicar at St. James,” Roque said.  “The diocese kind of yokes the two churches together.”

St. James probably would never have existed if it hadn’t been for the presence of Fort McKavett, a prominent cavalry and infantry base active in the mid-19th century.

When the fort closed in 1883, the chaplains left, the services at the base ended and the area was left without a church or Episcopal minister. So “the local residents demanded that the bishop give them their own priest,” Roque said. They founded St. James as a mission in 1884 and formally organized the church in 1889.

A decade later they built their first church, a wooden structure that was so damaged by a twister that the bishop eventually condemned it and ordered all the furnishings removed for safekeeping. The present rock building was constructed in 1941.

“Many prayers have bounced off these walls,” said Bishop’s Warden Jimmy Martin.

St. James was served by supply priests until the minister at St. John’s in Sonora began going up to St. James, leading to the tradition of yoking the two parishes together under the same minister. Roque has served at St. James and St. John’s since 2008.

Smallness does have its virtue, Martin believes. When he’s visited larger churches, he wonders “how many of those people does that priest know personally?”

“We love each other, we share with each other, we know each other very well,” Martin said. “Father Chris knows us very well.  We know everything about each other.”

Martin paused. “For better or for worse.”

“Now we also have a priest,” he said.  “If we need him, we can call him.”

Roque has taken to the area’s rich ranching culture and probably has the distinction of being the only priest in the diocese who helps his parishioners round up cattle.  “It also gives him a chance to meditate and pray…”

“St. James is a staunchly independent and self-reliant church,” Roque said.  If the diocese asks “if there is anything we can do for you, our members will say we’ve been around for over a hundred years.  Just give us a priest and we’ll be all right.”

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From the newly discovered Conciliar Anglican:

Classical Anglicanism is minimalistic about all of this. The 39 Articles are fairly clear on several points: that salvation comes through Christ alone, that justification is by faith alone, that works above and beyond our duty to God do not add to our salvation. These points are further elucidated by the Catechism, which moves from law to grace, assuring the cathecumen that he or she cannot fulfill God’s call to live a holy life by will power. In all of this, Anglicanism is consistently Protestant.

And yet, there is little official mention of sanctification. The articles make positive statements about the sacraments as means of grace, that they are “not only badges and tokens” but “effectual signs of grace” through which God “works invisibly within us” (Article XXV). This certainly implies an ongoing need for sanctification, but it doesn’t spell out why or how such a thing should take place, nor does it relate the topic back to justification. The liturgies of the Prayer Book reveal a similar emphasis, highlighting justification, acknowledging sanctification, but without making explicit how exactly we are to think about the whole thing.

The result of this lack of specification has been that Anglicans have often looked elsewhere for their soteriology. John Henry Newman attempted to harmonize justification by faith with the Council of Trent, which remains the approach of some Anglo-Catholics today, though Newman himself eventually found such an approach lacking. John Wesley, of course, took a unique approach which remains alive in Methodism. A large number of modern Anglicans, particularly in Africa, subscribe to a Pentecostal view. The Lutheran view is espoused by contemporary Anglican Evangelicals like Paul Zahl and Alister McGrath. FitzSimons Allison tends more towards the Reformed approach. Even the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation as theosis has had its Anglican proponents through the ages, most notably Charles Chapman Grafton and Michael Ramsey.

Since Anglicanism has never pronounced definitively on this topic, all of these approaches are acceptable. This doesn’t mean that they’re all correct, but merely that one cannot be deemed outside the bounds of the tradition so long as one holds a plausible rendering of justification by faith and an unswerving conviction in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as savior. The rest remains unsettled, not because Anglicanism is wishy-washy on this topic, but rather because one of the hallmarks of the Anglican approach to theology is a strong reluctance to say anything definitively that wasn’t said definitively by the early Church. The Anglican Reformers were willing to commit to justification by faith because it seemed to them to be plain in the reading of scripture and not in contradiction with the Fathers. But they were not agreed upon anything more, and to insist upon something that is so clearly unsettled is to invite schism and heresy.

Salvation, the Sacraments, and the Church

I would agree with the Anglican Reformers that an absolute dogma on the topic of sanctification is unwarranted when the Church exists, as she does today, in a state of disunity and disarray. We are all in schism. Novel pronouncements only serve to deepen the divide and further damage the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, there are implications to be drawn from the mind of the undivided Church on this matter. The focus of the Fathers upon the divinity and humanity of Christ is not just about our understanding of who Jesus is but also about our understanding of who we are in relation to Him. The creeds are not explicit about the nature of the atonement, and yet they do insist on belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” The nature and purpose of the Church was a very important topic for the Fathers, just as it is in scripture. Any orthodox notion of salvation, therefore, must make reference back to the Church as the chief means through which Christ’s work on the cross is realized. We are not saved merely as individuals. We are saved through our participation in Christ’s sacrifice by being drawn up into His Body, the Church, as Paul makes clear in any number of places. Indeed, Romans 6, which is a primary text for Luther and for Calvin, speaks explicitly of the death of the old body so that we might be brought into the new life of Christ. That new life is made manifest in the new Body. “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:5).

Furthermore, while there is great latitude in how Anglicans may come to understand the sacraments, our formularies make clear that the sacraments are a means of grace and not merely symbols. As such, while we cannot necessarily say much definitively about how salvation works, we can say boldly, with the full backing of scripture and the Fathers, that the sacraments are a chief means by which saving grace is imparted to us. There is a reticence in pan-Anglican conversation to make too much out of the sacraments, for fear that such talk might unsettle those of a low church persuasion. But a firm conviction about the place of the sacraments in salvation does not necessitate a rejection of justification by faith alone, nor does it behold a person to believe in transubstantiation or any other way of understanding how Christ’s presence in the sacraments is actualized. Nevertheless, it does necessitate putting aside the strange and novel idea that Anglicans have ever believed that the sacraments were simply memorialist ordinances that have no value in and of themselves. Classical Anglicanism understood just what the early Church understood, that Baptism and the Eucharist are means by which God gives Himself to us, that we cannot be united to the Body of Christ unless we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, and we cannot be incorporated into the Body of Christ unless we are willing to receive the Body of Christ when it is tangibly, wholly, beautifully offered to us.

 

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Stanley Hauerwas, Gilber T. Rowe professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School and communicant at Holy Family Episcopal Church in North Carolina, gave this lecture on America’s God recently at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.  This is an excerpt:

…the church believes that we are creatures of a good God who has storied us through engrafting us to the people of Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians do not believe we get to choose our story, but rather we discover that God has called us to participate in a story not of our own making. That is why we are called into the church, as well as why we are called “Christian.” A church so formed cannot help but be a challenge to a social order built on the contrary presumption that I get to make my life up…

…I love America and I love being an American. The energy of Americans, the ability to hew out lives often in unforgiving land, the natural generosity of Americans, I cherish. But I am a Christian. I cannot avoid the reality that American Christianity has been less than it should have been just to the extent that the church has failed to make clear that America’s god is not the God we worship as Christians. If I am right that we are now facing the end of Protestantism, hopefully that will leave the church in America in a position with nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose all you have left is the truth. So I am hopeful that God may yet make the Church faithful even in America.

Read it all here.

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As of November of 2009, Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s classic book The Gospel and The Catholic Church is back in print with a new introduction by the Rev. Dr. Arnold Klukas, a professor at Nashotah House seminary.  It would be hard for me to recommend this book highly enough, and it is on my must read list for all Anglicans.  It is a very readable but thorough look at how closely knit together a Biblical account of the church (including the episcopacy) and the gospel actually are.

From the Amazon product description:

This reissue of Archbishop Ramsey’s classic theological study of Anglican views of the church is important for students of ecumenism, and for those concerned with the relationship between Christ and the church in the New Testament. Although some of the book is dated, its conviction that “the church’s meaning lies in its fulfillment of the sufferings of Christ” and that “every part of its history is intelligible in terms of the Passion” remains perceptive and challenging.

Examining Scripture, doctrine, and history, Ramsey paints an intricate portrait of the church as an example of Christ’s death and resurrection. He explores Eastern orthodox doctrine; explains the purposes and preconditions of the Reformation; and calls for a renewal of liturgical worship and reconciliation within the communion of the saints.Originally published in 1936 while he was serving as sub-warden of Lincoln Theological College, this was Ramsey’s first book. After more than seventy years, its wisdom concerning the relationship between Catholic and Evangelical, and the underlying complementarities and tensions which characterize the Anglican tradition, remains theologically sound and biblically astute.

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