Tuesday, February 20, 2007


It seems that some bishops may see global Christian koinonia as essential to their episcopal office, and there is something to be said for such relationships constituting proper episcopal function. Granting the premise, however, it does not follow that membership in the 78 million-or-so member Anglican Communion is necessary for maintaining a catholic episcopate. It is, up to a point, convenient. But remember we are talking about koinonia falling short of being one church; we are in effect talking about being in full communion. That is a pretty low bar, and it is scandalous that so many Christian churches find developing full communion on an international scale so difficult. Nevertheless, consider where we already are.

We are in full-communion right now with the ELCA, which is part of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The LWF has some 66 million members spread over 78 countries, including state churches in Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Before you get all snitty about sacraments up in here, remember the LWF is a signatory to the '99 Joint Declaration with the Roman Catholic Church.

And, we are in full communion with the Mar Thoma Church, which retains an historic episcopate and has about a million members centered in India, but spread internationally as well across New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, et al.

We're also in full communion with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Were we to enter into full communion with the United Methodist Church, we might consider entering into a close relationship with the World Methodist Council, comprising 75 million members across 132 countries. Our Methodist brothers and sisters sprang from Anglican stock not all that long ago, after all.

And imagine full communion with the Presbyterians (USA), who are members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with about 75 million members over 107 countries, including congregationalists among their number.

Full communion with Baptists? Heavens forfend? Well, the Baptist World Alliance has 47 million members in around 200 countries, including 18 million here in the BWA's local arm, the North American Baptist Fellowship (they do not seem to include the Southern Baptists in their number).

Point? Well, just how far can the local adaptation of the historic episcopate be stretched? Is there any point to our seeing ourselves as a bridge church establishing an international, cross-denominational koinonia? Should we aim to have this form a basis for our episcopacy's full being rather than membership in the Anglican Communion? We have established with the Communique that our polity is, after all, up for grabs--at least temporarily. As long as flexibility is a given, we might ask these sorts of questions seriously.


At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been wondering lately whether "apostolic succession" would be better viewed as passing through baptism, vice through episcopal consecration. In giving the Great Commission, Jesus directed the Eleven only to baptize all the nations and teach them to obey everything he had commanded. His silence about succession planning suggests that this was something the baptized could work out for themselves.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...

I have also observed this. Indeed, there are many Christians with whom one province or another of the Anglican Communion is in conversation. My usual comment is that focussing on reunion only with Rome, or with Rome and Constantinople, is a disservice to all those other Christians, and all those other conversations.

In light of your question, one can ask how full communion with us has affected the episcopate in the ELCA (as well as among participants of Porvoo, etc); and how it might affect episcopate in the United Methodist Church (and, again, similarly in England, etc.). If they accept the episcopacy of our episcopate, so to speak, is not their episcopate shown to be episcopal, as it were? What about the Moravians? Indeed, it does raise questions of our understanding of the Quadrilateral.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Closed said...

I might add that the bishops of Sweden are in apostolic succession. Until the Bishop of Upsala began opening the cathedral to gays, he would sometimes sit with JPII at Mass in Rome. In fact, the apostolic succession in Sweden is unquestioned by Rome, whereas, ours is considered of not account. We've got theological work to do with regard to this as we're in a funny situation telling everyone else to get apostolic succession through our episcopate while Rome and Constantinople do not recognize our own. And our snobbery toward Methodists et all comes out sometimes over this whole thing. Frankly, if we'd been a little more astute, we might not be separated.


Post a Comment

<< Home