To defend the statement, this is why I believe the Anglican Ecclesiology and communion are expressions and reflections of New Testament Theology, I must be concerned with the vision of God, the nature and authority as derived from the Gospel of God, the Holy Trinity and the holy environment people live in. Mark Dyer, I quote, relies upon the definition of theology from St. Anselem, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Abbot Bec: “Fides quarens intellectum.” Faith seeking understanding.
The concern of the Body of Christ is seeking out, in faith, the vision of God and the vision of life. This is the concern of how the experiences of faith are brought to reasoned reflection. Theology is concerned with the character and mission of the faith community. It is concerned with faith’s reasoned reflection about prayer, liturgy, mission and worship.
What I experience in relation to my faith is a direct reflection of the theology and image of God from me to persons in my world. It is then my duty as a member of the New Testament church to live out that faith as a statement of my theology in conjunction with the reason and standards of faith, liturgy and mission. I must constantly seek to understand and to be understood.
This understanding and definition of faith that I mention is neither separate nor distinct from the Anglican Ecclesiology, Petrine Heritage, or the New Testament church. My statements are a direct reflection of my own myopic view of the church today . I must eliminate from this discussion my own biases and thoughts concerning the historical church. Also, I will try and limit them to the purest form of leadership and the efforts of this leadership to live out the true form and intention of the documents, The Church the Apostles Left Behind, “the Virginia Report,” Peter’s letter (I Peter 2) and The Book of Common Prayer.
I have included in this discussion the fifth chapter of Raymond E. Brown’s book The Churches The Apostles Left Behind. “The author made a bold ecclesial step when he enlarged the story of Jesus’ ministry and death that Mark 1:1 had called the ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ not only by rewriting and developing the Jesus story, but also by adding a second book concerning early Christianity. He was putting together on the same level the proclamation of the kingdom of God by Jesus and the story of the proclamation of Jesus by Peter and Paul.#” This work includes the work Jesus Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of Peter.
From the “Virginia Report” on Lambeth 1988, The Eames Commission, as it came to be known, met five times and produced four reports which were published together in December 1994. Its last meeting was in December 1993 and its report was presented to the 1998 Lambeth Conference. During its lifetime the Commission engaged in theological reflection on the nature of koinonia. It offered guidelines on how Anglicans might live together in the highest degree of communion possible while different views and practices concerning the ordination of women continued to be held within the Communion. The Eames Commission between 1988 and 1993 provided a model of how Anglicans can remain together in the highest degree of communion possible while endeavoring to come to a common mind on a matter which touches the fundamental unity of the Communion.# Koinia is a Greek word that take on the distinct meaning of continuous fellowship regardless of controversies or disagreements of doctrine or ecclesiastical policies.
The New Testament is a collection of books whose authors bore witness in their lives (and some in their deaths) to the living Christ. “It is no longer I who live,” writes St. Paul in Galatians (Gal 2: 20), “but Christ who lives in me.” Before there was a book, there were persons who handed on Christ’s sayings and told of the marvelous things God had worked in him. First came Christ, then the witnesses, then the books. This ordering of things is at the heart of the early interpretation of the New Testament. The goal was to delve into the mystery of God revealed in Christ, to whom the writings bear witness.”#
Ecclesia is a word from the Greek and is translated “a calling out of a people.” The word means “to call out”. The word assumes a religious significance meaning the Church called together by Christ. The word εκκλεσια is first used in Christian literature in First Thessalonians to mean the gathered assembly of faithful Christians.
From the book Doing Theology in a Covenant Community: Faith Seeking Understanding, I equate the word Ecclesia and Covenant Community as synonymous. Below I have compared the verbiage of four supporting documents of this paper, the Old Testament, New Testament, the “Virginia Report” and The Book of Common Prayer.
Old Testament Moses
6For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; Deuteronomy 7:6-9 NIV
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. I Peter 2:9-10 NIV
II. The Communion of the Trinity and the Life of the Church
2.13 By the power of the Holy Spirit the Church is born into history as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). The Church is called the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God claims as his own (1 Pet. 2:9). These images of the Church speak of a communion with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Christians are participants in the divine nature. This communion also determines our relationship with one another. "We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). Communion with God and one another is both gift and divine expectation for the Church (Eames I, Koinonia and the Mystery of God, 21-22).
The Book of Common Prayer
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him,
being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [ and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation. Eucharistic Prayer B, page 369
In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, it describes the remembrance ceremony, the night of the exit from Egypt by the people of God, led out by Moses. These words would now be a memoriam and an eternal warning to not only the people of God, but to their enemies around them. This relationship established by covenant with the patriarch Abraham is now shared by the people of God, who were not worthy or so chosen by position or power. They are chosen by God according to the writing of Deuteronomy, because of the love God had for Abram and his descendents.
It establishes the relationship with the Hebrew people who left Egypt with the Gentile believers of the New Testament. Their cry for deliverance from slavery is heard by God as they sat among the slavers and task masters of Egypt. God sent a human deliverer, Moses to lead them out. The act of deliverance and the day of deliverance establish when and to whom of this miracle of grace would be enacted upon. Anytime anyone is delivered from the hand of the oppressor, it is an act of grace. Brown expresses this thought as a major characteristic of Lucian ecclesiology, a sense of continuity wherein the church is closely related to what went before.#
Could the deliverance from Egypt, the memoriam of the night and choosing of the called out ones be an act of the Holy Spirit?
This grace is translated to the New Testament church and transcends time through the work of Jesus Christ and the promise of the Holy Spirit Peter preaches about. I like the quote of Mark Dyer that says “The frightful and graceful outpouring of the Spirit of God…”
Peter’s epistle expresses to the persecuted, upstart church their position in relation to the persecutors of their day. In the face of martyrdom, the church is faced with the dilemma of who they are and the question of what happens to New Testament believers. In the face of persecution Peter reminds them of the greater witness that will be understood through the ages. The witness of the unification and koinonia of the fellowship of believers will in the midst of trial “Show forth the praises of Him who brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” With Christ as rejected stone and cornerstone, he becomes the unifying foundation of the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is “called out” and becomes one under the headship of Christ. This Koinonia is never to be destroyed, even in the face of persecution.
The “Virginia Report” firmly expresses the images of the Father, Son, the Body of Christ, the temple, the church (spiritual), and Holy Spirit as the divine connectors to the divine nature of God. This document renforces the basis of fellowship, and unity of the called out Body of Christ. The divine fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the communion with one another are the gifts of God to the Body of Christ.
The mission of Christ, the initiation of sacraments, and the Holy Eucharist are made manifest by the unity and perfected by Christ’s mission on earth. Mission shapes and empowers, sacrament speaks of “life-long growth,“ and Eucharist is representative of the unselfish life-giving act through the grace of God the Father, and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Christ. The report helps the church to overcome threats of disunity and separation. Disunity itself can be considered sin and schism.
The Book of Common Prayer makes reference in the Eucharistic Prayer B the unification of the Body throughout all ages, through the sacraments by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we present ourselves to be holy and acceptable, the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood sanctifies us and deems us acceptable by the participation of the believer. More-so, the sacraments are the unifying structure of Koinonia.
Paul in I Corinthians 11:23 states,
“For I received of the Lord what also I passed on to you…” (NET) “This is my body, which Is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The receiver by grace creates an exchange by way of sacrament (grace). The recipient gives an allegiance to the grace and a connection to the “Word by hearing” and not just the educational component of catechism. That which Paul mentions was instituted by Christ and is made perfect in us. Ex opere operato. The conditions of grace are fulfilled by the transformation of the mystical body and blood of Christ, and the mystery of the church.
The sacraments of the Eucharist are distributed to every member of the church and then are translated by the believer into instruments of grace. They are no longer mere ceremonies, but assurances of grace working in us. Through obedience and understanding we transform the meaning to gain the benefits of virtue and the value of sacramental living. The sacrament of Eucharist is a growing continuation of belief.. Therefore, we gain Christ by the power of the sacrament of he Eucharist. It is the sacrament which has its own distinct meaning of brining the participant into the New Testament Church, and more importantly, into the Body of Christ. This is the ultimate expression of “Koinonia.”
Finally it is by the sacraments we gain participation into the holy ceremonies of the heavenly and “oneness” as a body of believers. The graces of the gospel and salvation written in Romans 10, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Koinonia and sacramental understanding of Christian faith and identity, are the means whereby God separates his own from strangers because their identity is tied to the sacraments and not just to the mere fact of being human.