"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

My Photo
Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Canon Heidt on the Mystical Body of Christ

The Rev. Dr John Heidt, canon theologian of the diocese of Fort Worth, has just published a reflection on ecclesiology on his blog, Transfiguration. After dismissing the nineteenth century "Branch Theory" of the Church, he moves to a discussion of the Church as Christ's mystical Body. He concludes with a discussion of what this alternative understanding of the universal Church might mean in our present Anglican circumstances (with an emphasis on its ecumenical implications). I confess that I am not sure I understand exactly what Canon Heidt is arguing for, and I fear this vision of the Church has some troubling implications. I can imagine, for example, Fr. Heidt's argument being used to endorse an atomized church order with no higher level of organization than thousands of "free lance" apostolic bishops with oversight over whomever choses to recognize their authority--clearly geography is no longer a decisive factor in determining who has oversight over whom. Still, I do find Fr Heidt's suggestion interesting. It could prove useful in imagining what any future Anglican province in North America might look like, with bishops overseeing congregations based on affinity rather than geography (e.g., evangelicals paired with like-minded bishops, Anglo-Catholics likewise). I encourage you to read his entire essay here, but I pass along this highlight to whet your appetite:

I am not suggesting that adherence to scripture, valid sacraments, or the apostolic succession are only additional options for those who like that sort of thing. Without them there would be no church. But we need not worry. Look all around you. There are still people proclaiming the whole gospel of Christ, still gathering to pray and worship one Lord, still sacrificing priests offering the Holy Sacrifice, still apostolic bishops. We cannot get rid of any of them even if we tried, but we need no longer limit their activity to any particular denomination nor even to any particular place or time. As members of an apostolic college, most of whose members are already in the church triumphant or expectant, local bishops and their priests have the pastoral care of all who accept their ministry in whatever denomination or geographical area they happen to find themselves - diocesan boundaries not withstanding. In our world of international corporations, geography has become history.

Does the church need evangelists and healers? Yes, and it has them. Does the church need all seven sacraments and apostolic bishops? Yes, and it has them as well. And yes, the church of course needs scripture and the apostolic tradition. And it also has them. But will anyone go to Hell just because he or she doesn’t have them. No, of course not. When baptized folk gather together to study the bible that is good. When they gather together for prayer and praise, not leaving the bible behind, that is better. When they celebrate the Holy Eucharist that is good. When they celebrate the Holy Eucharist ministered by priests in apostolic succession that is better still. When they stand to proclaim the creeds then too they are acting as the visible Body of Christ on earth, and, when they believe in their hearts what they proclaim, this Body of Christ becomes visible to the world.


Post a Comment

<< Home

View My Stats