Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ecclesiology and Accountability

By Dcn Dale Matson

Father Dan Martins has an excellent series on his blog about Ecclesiology http://cariocaconfessions.blogspot.com/. Ecclesiology is the doctrine of the Church. It consists of the questions the Church asks itself about itself. Fr. Dan notes that Protestants tend to see the individual believer as the precursor of the Church and Roman Catholics tend to see the Church as preexistent to the individual believer. As Anglicans perhaps we can see merit in both perspectives. There are some difficulties that emerge however when we only see the individual believer as preeminent and in some cases sufficient. This view has led to an individualism that encourages autonomy and ultimately leads to isolation and lack of accountability.

There are areas that serve as unfortunate examples that result from this individualistic Ecclesiology no longer being balanced by seeing oneself as a part of a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Fr. Martins discussed this regarding the failure of The Episcopal Church to continue to see itself as a part of a larger Church in an article titled “An Emerging Secondary Infection” (Sep. 10th 09).

My concern is with another problem that emerges. How do we as Christians defend ourselves and confront society if our faith is individual and our life is autonomous? Is our prophetic voice solitary? This concern emerged recently with the issuance of the “Manhattan Declaration”. It deals with the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife and the rights of conscience and religious liberty. My concern is not for those who signed the declaration. My concern is not even for those who will not sign because they do not agree with the declaration. Of those who identified themselves with a denomination, the original 168 signers identified themselves as Baptists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox, Lutherans and Presbyterians. As of this writing the list of signatures is approaching 200,000. I include myself as a signer. My decision was based on personal agreement but seeing the name of my Archbishop Robert Duncan on the list was also a permissive moment. By identifying myself as a Deacon, I was saying that my signature was in accord with my church.

No, my concern is for the individuals who will not sign because they are not in doctrinal agreement with other people who signed. There are even people who have publicly stated that they did not sign because to do so would be an admission that some from other denominations were actually Christian. These are people who agree with those who signed on the three issues in the declaration. This is not an “altar and pulpit fellowship” issue. For the individuals who did not sign because of doctrinal disagreements with other signers even though they agreed with the declaration, I would ask this question, “Have you truly discerned the body”?

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

I didn't sign but mainly due to what I felt was overreach on the preamble. I realize that I'm probably being overly careful and have felt some guilt that I haven't signed a perfectly orthodox document with some history that I don't feel comfortable defending long term.