Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Introduction to Anglican Christianity 1.1

As some of you may recall, I started designing a parish-based course on Anglicanism last summer. I don't teach all of the sessions, but I thought I'd share my outline for them.

Part I: The Formation and Mission of Christ's Church

Missio Dei / the Mission of God

When Jesus ascended to the Father, to reign from that dimension where God lives and reigns (a.k.a. "Heaven") he left behind his band of followers to apprentice others to the Jesus way of living with God in the world, and invite them to be joined to His own Life through baptism. The Church is the new Humanity: a community of persons who are meant in their life together with God to demonstrate what it looks like "when God is in charge." Followers of Jesus have stories to tell about how God has saved the world - and saved them - in and through Jesus Christ. If we are faithful to this charge, our lives will have the transparency to demonstrate what it looks like when God heals, restores, and loves people.

Jesus calls the Church to continue his ministry of teaching, healing, meal sharing, and exorcism.

Divine Gifts

God created a physical world, and called it good. God continually affirms the goodness of creation by mediating his presence and power to his people through the Sacraments. The Church itself is offered as a gift to the world, a community in which people can find healing and an "abundant life" - the kind of life Jesus came to give. In this the Church actually becomes a vehicle of transformation as we learn to live with God. The Church is also gifted with particular orders of ministry, specific ways in which Christians serve the world and one another, and are invested with holy power for these purposes.

The Laity, or "people" of God, is the first order of ministry. We are called to engage spiritual disciplines in our life with God in the Church, and to teach the faith and guide others into the Christian way.

A deacon, or "servant," is a minister oriented to carrying for the poor in the name of Christ's Church, and to guide and empower the whole People of God in their service to the last, least, and left out. This order emerged in the middle of the first century, when Stephen and several others were set apart for service to the community's widows based upon the servants' reputation as being "full of the Spirit, and wisdom" (Acts 7). For this reason deacons are often called upon to serve in a ministry as teachers of the Faith.

The order of presbyter, also known as "priest" or "elder," is established to preside over each community's sacramental rites, to guide community members in their spiritual development, preach the Good News of God in Christ, and teach the Faith in its fullness.

The "local church" in place is typically understood as the collection of local congregations in a particular geographic area. A bishop is called to serve as a figure of unity, to teach the Faith, guard the flock of Christ from heresy, and to represent Christ as shepherd to the churches in his care. The bishops of the Catholic Church share this charge, and the unity of Christians with one another is bound up on the mutual recognition of episcopal ministries.

Next, Part II: The History of the Anglican Church, the Reformation, and the present Anglican identity crisis...


Anonymous said...

Well Said!

Matt P

peregrinator said...

I am not convinced that the laity is an "order". It is the basic stuff of all ministry from which the orders derive, with each of the three embodying and enacting the diaconal, sacramental, and apostolic nature of the laos tou theou as a whole. As Robt. Capon once commented, the individual priest is the priesthood of all believers packaged for easy use.

I think the idea of laity as order is based on a misreading of the section in the '79 BCP of T[p]ECusa.

But great start to begin with the Missio Dei!

peregrinator said...

That is, section of the catechism in the BCP

SaintSimon said...

I see you are correct in your definition of Deacon. There seems to be a perception today that a deacon is a partially qualified priest, as if the diaconate were a step on the road to preisthood rather than a ministry in its own right. So I think the present system in England (I don't know if it the same elsewhere), where one is first 'made deacon' and then after a succesful year 'ordained' - is frankly unscriptural and misunderstands the nature of the two ministries, which require different personalities.

SaintSimon said...

Also, in my reading of Scripture, I find it hard to distinguish the presbyters and bishops - the words seem to be interchangeable and the distinction only emerged after the first generation - while on the other hand the authoratative regional ministry of an apostle (small A) - which the modern bishop's role is closer to, does not seem to appear at all in Anglican descriptions of our structure.