Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Ivan's Solution to "A House Divided" & Follow-up Arguments
And for those just tuning in: this effort is born out of a personal struggle concerning whether conversion to the Roman Catholic communion (or any other Apostolic communion, like the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox churches) is necessary to fully be in Communion with Christ and His body of disciples, or whether there is any other way for true unity to be accomplished.
14 Steps to Full Communion within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church:
1. Have the Major Tritinarian Communions sign a joint Declaration to strive for Full Communion within 100 years, pledging all the leadership to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures in its enactment.
2. Have the major Trinitarian communions sign a joint statement praying for forgiveness for nearly 1600 years of division. After all, we are all culpable for the pitiable state of division that exists between Christ's disciples today.
3. Unite the Eastern and Western liturgical traditions by setting the date for Easter on an agreed upon astronomically-correct (as much as possible) date, and never change it again.
4. Encourage liturgical and interpratory (sure, that's a word... at least it is now) cooperation in English speaking congregations through use of the Revised Common Lectionary, use of the NRSV and ESV bible translations, and use of a hymnal that draws from each of the traditions. Use of these tools would be encouraged, but not required. Non-english equivalents would be used to bring common worship and teaching to non-English speaking congregations.
5. Each of the Credal churches would have to scrap all but the canons of the first two Ecumenical Councils and each of the non-credal churches would have to accept these two councils. The reasoning for this is that the first two are agreements the entire Church made together regarding the establishment of Scriptural canon and the Trinity (which is clearly inferred from Scripture). All orthodox, Trinitarian accept these principles today, whether credal or non-credal and whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Protestant. These also happen to be the only two Councils the entire Church agreed upon together.
Also, they both took place before Theodosius made Christianity the State religion in 391 AD - thereby corrupting it with riches and lands, while also making it a political tool to be leveraged. This would also give enough guidance and interpretation to unite the Church on issues that Scripture is less clear about.
Finally, while the Apostolic Fathers especially (Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, Didache etc.) and the other early Church Fathers are useful (as are many theologians into our own times), their authority should only be read in light of the Trinitarian and Canonical understanding of Scripture and the first two Ecumenical Councils.
6. The churches would have to make Scripture their primary authority for Church doctrine. This would be followed by the two Ecumenical Councils. All other Church dogma would be decided in councilliar agreement between all the bishops. However, the Church councils or synods (after the first two historically Ecumenical Councils) would not be able to enforce decisions on local congregations. In line with #5, the Apostolic and early Church Fathers would definitely guide interpretation, but only in so far as they conform to Scripture and the first two Councils.
7. The churches would have to agree that episcopal succession, from its origins in the New Testament relies not just in the Office of Bishop, but also in the Office of Presbyter. Scripture treats these (and the position of Pastor) as synonymous in Acts 20, Titus 1:5-7 and 1 Peter 5:1-2. Division of the two offices would be optional in each tradition, but ultimately those traditions which only ordain presbyters and deacons would still lie within the episcopal succession through their presbyters (in effect, making them presbyter-bishops).
8. The diaconate would be a seperate office dealing only with temporal affairs, being local and congregational in nature. Within these guidelines, and in accordance with scripture, the presbyter-bishop (or presbyter and bishop separately) and the deacon would be the only clergy. The congregation, as a corporate body, would exhibit the priesthood of all believers. Otherwise, administrative positions would be allowed locally, based on election or appointment, whatever each tradition desires.
9. The churches would have to agree that all bishops (including presbyter-bishops) are equal in authority. This would be tempered with the understanding that the Roman bishop would be first in honor among the rest, followed by the bishops of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople (in that order), then all bishops after that would be equal in honor (as well as equal in authority to all bishops).
10. Local congregations would elect their presbyter-bishops. Likewise, if groups of congregations wish to split the office of presbyter and bishop, a council of all the elected presbyters in a jurisdiction would then elect their bishops, and these bishops would attend synods based on jurisdiction or the greater Church council with other bishops and presbyter-bishops. These presbyter-bishops should conform to the teaching of Scripture in their character (each tradition would decide whether they could be married or not, though they should probably be men only), and while they would be elected locally, their ordination would be effected by the laying on of hands of other bishops - thereby maintaining both episcopal succession and the sovereignty of the local congregation.
11. Each congregation, or groups of congregations, within the Church would be free to govern their own customs and practices in regards to style of worship, veneration, architecture, liturgy, hymnody and local governance (and related issues, like speaking in tongues); as long as these conform to Scripture and the two Ecumenical Councils.
12. The communions would sign a document recognizing each other's baptisms, table fellowship and ordinations. This means locally or by tradition, each group would have the choice to follow either traditional baptism or believer's baptism, and all would need to recognize the mysterious real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
13. The communions (their general superintendents, patriarchs, popes and bishops) would have to sign an agreement, effectively conforming themselves to these principles, declaring themselves to be in Full Communion with each other. This would probably take a while, and there is no doubt congregational-polity churches would need to vote on these before sending their pastors as representatives to sign. It would be a good idea for the signing process to be available online (once identities are verified as actual representatives of congregations and communions) and then disseminated to each church.
14. The Church would be required to elect Ivan as King of All the Popes. Just kidding... I couldn't think of any more points, so this one's optional (though definately recommended).
Please note, this list is not intended to be guidelines for a new denomination, but solely to unify existing ones. Anybody that creates a new denomination based on these terms will get a swift kick to the weener from yours truly.
I'm sure there's a myriad of problems with the above steps. But I feel that they are the most orthodox steps that would still include Roman & Traditional Catholic, Eastern & Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Anglican and Protestant (including Mainline, Anabaptist, Adventist, Messianic, Evangelical, Fundamentalist & Pentecostal/Charismatic) congregations and communions.
Since there's no doubt in my mind that Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Universalists, Mormons, New Age groups & Non-Trinitarian Pentecostals (& Anabaptists) are heretics, I don't mind not catering to them.
Anywho, I'm no prophet or apostle, so I'm sure there are better ways of goin' about this. My hope is just that this get people thinkin' & praying that we would all be one (without sacrificing or watering down the Gospel), as Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21.