What it means to be “Church”
As I write, Lambeth, the decadal conference of Archbishops and Bishops from around the world, is in the second week of meeting at Kent University in the UK. A major focus of their time together is grappling with the definition of “Church” and “Christian Community”, highlighted by the ongoing concern for many that The Episcopal Church (TEC) of the USA may have stepped beyond the boundaries by electing a Bishop (Gene Robinson) who is in an active Gay relationship. In many parts of Africa and Asia homosexual relationships are considered a criminal act, while in the USA and other parts of the world it is recognised as just another way humans celebrate relationships. It seems over two-hundred Bishop’s may have boycotted the conference due to the perceived “permissiveness” of TEC in particular. An Anglican Covenant is under discussion to try to address “orthodoxy” (sound doctrine and practice), but whether or not this will help bridge the large gap in both doctrine and practice around the issue of sexual orientation is yet to be tested. This is not the only issue under discussion, and our Archbishop’s Blog (http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/) is instructive, as is a UK site called “Thinking Anglicans” (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/).
The Nature of “Church”
In a lecture given on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Ripon College, Cuddesdon (UK) in 2004, Archbishop Rowan Williams had the following to say about the nature of the Church: “… the Church is first of all a kind of space cleared by God through Jesus in which people may become what God made them to be (God’s sons and daughters), and that what we have to do about the Church is not first to organise it as a society but to inhabit it as a climate or landscape.” This brings to mind our parish slogan: “Our lives: a place where others meet Christ.” It is a call not just to live out our faith in life, but to live IN our Faith: to immerse ourselves in God.
Archbishop Williams’ thought is a radical one for many of us who possibly prescribe to the view that, “… the Church is essentially a lot of people who have something in common called Christian faith and get together to share it with each other and communicate it to other people ‘outside’.” Williams’ comments that this view is “… harmless enough … but a good way from what the New Testament encourages us to think about the Church.”
The perspective that Church primarily constitutes a place to be inhabited, not organised, shines a fresh light on what it means to be involved with the Church, with the people of God, and again Williams comments, “When Christ calls, he calls, we are told, into a community with diverse roles and tasks, not into a mass of individuals vaguely looking for things to do …”
This beggars each one of us to ask the question: what role, what task, am I fulfilling? Or am I just vaguely passing through?
[The full text of this lecture can be found at: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1185].
The above brings us back to my comment in my last communication that Hilary Davis, in the Stewardship portfolio, has worked hard to distil questions that will prompt us to acknowledge our individual God-given gifts. The second set of questions is available elsewhere in this magazine – please look at them, and perhaps revisit last month’s magazine for the first set of questions. I am always willing to make time to discuss issues of faith and calling with you, and will be happy to include discussion around how and where you are encountering God and the myriad of gifts he places into our lives. Please feel free to phone and book some time with me.
Thank you to everyone who made a special effort to make Dawn and I feel special this month as we celebrated our birthdays: we received FOUR birthday cakes (!); we much appreciated spending time with those who could make it around the Braai on Sunday 6 July; we are most thankful for the cards, gifts and fellowship given to us in such abundance!
We are still planning a parish web page, but this seems to be taking a while! In the meantime previous editions of “… from the Rector’s Desk” can be found at
where there is also a link to our parish Picture Gallery, which can also be accessed at
Please feel free to browse!