Reading, Writing and Concentrating I.- ‘The Kingship of Christ’ by G.K.A. Bell

 

November 21st, 2018

I am currently struggling to read books. I tell myself every day that I should read on my lunch breaks at work etc, but my mind races from one thought to another and I mainly fail at opening a book and discovering what is contained within.

Today, I have decided to chain myself to my desk for much of my lunch breaks and copy from whatever book I have to hand.

It forces me to read, write and concentrate at the same time, in the hope that over time it may replace some bad habits with some good ones, and generally help me become a better reader and writer.

This series  of e-mails will be sent,  just in case the words being copied might be of interest to you:

The Kingship of Christ:-

THE STORY OF

THE WORLD COUNCIL OF

CHURCHES

BY G.K.A BELL

Bishop of Chichester

To

THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE

OF

THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

PREFACE

 

The purpose of this book is to give an account of a remarkable movement towards Christian unity which has grown rapidly during the past forty years; and, in particular, to tell the story of how the World Council of Churches (on which all the principal Christian Communions except the Roman Catholic are represented) came into being, and its far-reaching work today.

A book of this size can only tell a portion of the story, and there is much more that one would like to describe. But I have tried to give a truthful picture of the whole. I have been greatly helped in writing it by many friends. I owe a special debt to Dr W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, the General Secretary of the world Council of Churches, who has read each chapter in manuscript, and has both saved me from mistakes and given me stimulus of his counsel. I have, with his permission, borrowed the title of this book from a work by him published in 1948, before the inauguration of the World Council, and now out of print.

I should also like to express my gratitude to Miss Ruth Rouse for allowing me to see the proofs of her comprehensive and admirable History of the Ecumenical Movement. In preparing my book, I have studied the Minutes of Meetings of Central Committee, and Reports of the Departments and Commissions of the World Council. I have at times embodied some paragraphs from the Reports, without on every occasion specifying the source. I have done this in the interests of both accuracy and of easy reading.

To my secretary, Miss Mary Balmer, who has typed the manuscript under great pressure, I owe a particular debt. And I am also very grateful to the Publishers and the Printers for their consideration and speed.

I add four Appendices. There is first a Glossary, indication some distinctive feature or features in the Member Churches mentioned in the course of this book. This is followed by Diagrams giving certain religious statistics in a broad way. Lastly there is a Bibliography, followed by the Addresses of the Offices of the World Council of Churches.

GEORGE CICESTR:

January 1954

 

I

THE KINGSHIP AND A

DIVIDED CHURCH

 

‘WITHIN the last few years we have had the laws of natural science opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinding by its brightness; and means of transit and communication given to us, which have made but one kingdom of the habitable globe. One kingdom; – but who is to be its king? Is there to be no king in it, think you, and every man to do that which is right in his own eyes? Or only kings of terror, and the obscene empires of Mammon and Belial?

Vexilla regis prodeunt. Yes, but of which king?’  – Ruskin, Lectures on Art, SIXTH EDITION, p.36.

 

Many things have changed since John Ruskin spoke these words at Oxford, in his famous Inaugural Lecture on Art in 1870. Wars between nations have given way to world wars. Discoveries in the field of atomic knowledge have attached a new and grimmer meaning to the blinding rapidity with which the laws of natural science have been opened to us. Distances have been overcome by all manner of new means, both in the form of travel and in the methods of communication. The press, the cinema, the aeroplane, and the radio have each contributed in different ways to the making of habitable globe much more completely into one kingdom. But the very greatness of these new inventions, and the power which they give for good or for evil, only underline the gravity of the issue. The question ‘Who is to be King?’ has still to be answered; and on the finding of the true king, and on obedience to him, the destiny of mankind depends.

The answer to which the Christian Church is committed is that the true King is Christ. Indeed it declares that with the birth of Christ in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era, the reign or kingdom of Christ had already begun. It also declares that although the forces opposing his kingdom are tremendous, his complete victory as King of the whole world will be established beyond all doubt at the end of history. Further, the Christian Church is committed to the service of that kingdom in a unique way. But its effectiveness in that service, and therefore in bringing the message that Christ is the true King home to men everywhere, is most seriously impeded by the divisions within it. The importance of healing those divisions, of bringing the divided parts into the closest possible fellowship or unity, can hardly be overstated. This task, which has always been important, has a greater urgency than ever today. It is the purpose of this book to tell the story of a remarkable movement over a very large part of Christendom in recent years, to come together in a new fellowship in order to proclaim the message of the Kingship of Christ, and the meaning of that Kingship in action.

 

The Kingdom in the Bible

Before we tell the story of the movement, some brief account of the origin of the Kingdom and its development un the Bible will not be out of place. The doctrine of the Kingdom runs right through the pages of the Bible. It is the doctrine of a King and his people.

God’s kingly rule over the entire world that he has made is a present and abiding fact. But this rule is only effectively realized when men in word and deed accept God’s sovereignty, and this obligation was assumed by Israel in the covenant at Mount Sinai. Hence, in the Old Testament, the doctrine of the Kingdome is closely linked with the whole ordering of the life of the Israelite nation as an expression of the people’s obedience to the divine Law. The association of the Kingdom of God with a concern for moral, political, and social righteousness in the history of a particular community is fundamental to Biblical thought.

But there is something more in the Old Testament picture of the Kingdom. God’s rule could only complete when it was recognised over all the earth and fully accepted by all men. The Israelites did not see this in the world around them and their own history was full of suffering and trouble, disaster after disaster, wandering and exile, apostasy and failure. So the Kingdom came to be associated not only with an existing community but with a hope for the future. Ultimately, God himself would act, and, at the end of history, establish royal rule over the universe. This hope was held by Israel in many different ways. Often, there was the expectation of a prince visibly ruling the kingdoms of the world, and of a kingdom established in a visible way, with Israel in power and great glory. But, at its highest, the Old Testament pictures Israel as God’s servant, chosen for mission as much as for privilege, with the task of proclaiming the coming Kingdom to all nations, and bearing in hope the suffering and evil of the world until the Kingdom should come.

In the New Testament, the hope of the Old is fulfilled. Christ came and announced that the Kingdom in it’s full sense was at hand. He brings the Kingdom with him. Where he is, it is, and he reigns in God’s name. The Kingdom he brought was very different from the earthly power that many of his contemporaries expected, for it was achieved in the very crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. By his death, all the forces hostile to God’s rule were deprived of any real power once and for all: his resurrection showed that death itself was no longer the final and negative answer to human existence. The Kingdom and eternal life are one in the New Testament and this is the realm into which men can enter Christ.

Jesus chose twelve disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and this act establishes the foundation and functions of the Christian Church. Significantly, the Church is the New Israel. On the one hand, it is the body of Christ, and therefore the sphere in which men consciously serve the Kingdom and taste the reality of life. But the Church also has the duty to proclaim the fact of the triumphant Kingdom to all men and to work for its complete realization in all the world. The Church’s proclamation of the establishment of a Kingdom of perfect righteousness is based not on an uncertain and imperfect longing, as was that of the Old Israel, but on the sure and certain hope given by the victory of Jesus Christ. Hence the Church is vitally concerned not just with ‘religion’ or its own existence, but with the whole ordering of human life which it seeks to make an expression of God’s will for the world over which he rules.

The Church, then, is not itself the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. It serves the Kingdom, and is not an end in itself.

In Emil Brunner’s words*  it is ‘an essentially imperfect society . . . the Church transcends itself…. It can only be understood from the end. To be in Church is to be oriented toward the final goal…. The Church can therefore not be an end in itself; it aims at that which comes afterwards, the Kingdom of God, of which it is only the earthly, historical, hidden aspect in the form of a servant.’

And the Church looks forward to the day when the Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11, 15.)

 

*. Das Gebet und die Ordnungen, pp. 511-2. E.T. The Divine Imperative, p. 526.  

 

Divisions in the Church

But the Church charged by its Lord with this mission was one Church. It is now divided. The Church of which S. Paul spoke in his Epistle was one visible Church. There is one body and one spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesians 4, 4-5.) Now there are many bodies of Christians, separated from one another, teaching different doctrines, possessing different ministries, acknowledging different systems of government. There is disunion and division, even conflict and antagonism. Therefore the work of the whole body of Christ suffers. The witness to the Kingship of Christ suffers. Jesus prayed for his apostles and ‘for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe that thou didst send me . . . that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou didst send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me;. (John 17, 20-3.) This far reaching disunion is a terrible obstacle in the way of the world believing ‘that thou didst send me’.

   Division began in the early days of the Christian religion. The distinction between heresy and schism was not altogether simple. But generally speaking heresy means false doctrine, and schism an orthodox sect. Any body which had broken from the Church could be called a schism.* Certainly by the end of the fourth century after the birth of Christ a number of bodies were in existence which had broken away from the catholic (or universal) Church. And there is no doubt at all about the grave view taken by the Christian Fathers of the day of the sin of schism. It is an offence against the necessary unity of the body of Christ as laid down in Scripture. It is also an offence against the paramountcy of Christian love.

(*. S.L. Greenslade, Schism in the Early Church, p.28.)

   I have referred to the early days in the Catholic Church because they are often forgotten or overlooked. But the two principal breaches in unity of the Church took place later, separated from each other by 500 years. The first breach between East and the West, and took place in 1054. It is known as the Great Schism. The grounds for this breach had been prepared long before. There were many reasons brought forward in justification, notably the addition by the Western Church of the words ‘and the son’ (viz. the filioque clause) to the article in the Nicene Creed which confesses that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father. But there were other causes of a non-theological character, national, cultural, political, in which the respective claims of the rival Sees of Rome (for the West) and Constantinople (for the East) became the subject of conflict. The final act which separated the Eastern and Western Churches took place on 16 July 1054, when Michael Cerularius was Patriarch of Constantinople; and the Legates of Rome laid an excommunication in writing on the high altar of the great Church of Sancta Sophia, and departed from it, shaking the dust from their feet and crying ‘Let God look and judge’.

   The second great breach was the Reformation in the sixteenth century. It was a revolution within Western Christendom against the authority of the See of Rome. It was affected by many circumstances, political, economic, geographical, philosophical. But fundamentally it was concerned with the deepest elements in religion. A reformation of the Church in its head and members was long overdue; and as a result the Western Church was riven in twain, Protestants against Catholics. But the revolution of the Protestants took many forms. In a large part of Germany and in the whole of the Scandinavian countries the Lutheran Churches emerged, with their doctrine of justification by faith, some with bishops, some without. In France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Scotland the Reformed or Presbyterian Churches emerged, under the leadership of Calvin and Zwingli, with Confessions and Synods, but no bishops. In England, where the same abuses and corruptions prevailed as in the rest of Europe, the Church of England underwent a conservative reformation from which it emerged with its Book of Common Prayer, and its combination of Protestant and Catholic factors in a single communion.

   These divisions in the Reformation were far-reaching and changed the face of Europe. The Roman Catholic Church outnumbers all other Christian bodies and is strong in all five continents, including both the Americas. In the East, besides the Lesser Eastern Churches which broke away long before the Great Schism, the Orthodox Church, whether Greek (looking to the Ecumenical Patriarch at Istanbul) or Slav (looking to the Patriarch of all the Russias at Moscow) is still the main Christian communion. Since the sixteenth century other Protestant communions have been formed by separation from parent bodies. In England these are known as the Evangelical Free Churches (i.e. as distinguished from the Church of England by law established) and include the Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, together with the Friends and the Salvation Army. And just as the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican Churches have spread all over the world, so theses post-Reformation Churches, especially the Baptists and Methodists, are found in considerable force in most continents. In the United States they are most numerous of all, and most diverse.

   The mere rehearsal of these divisions is enough to show the immensity of the obstacles with which Christian men and women are faced in declaring their witness to the Kingship of Christ in the world today. Although all believe in the divinity of Christ, they are separated from one another by their denominational differences. Although in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bondman or freeman; and although, the Catholic or Universal Church, so called because it is ‘spread throughout the whole world from one end to the  other’** – is the Church of all nations and classes, Christians are neither united in one Church, nor are they in any sort of position to suppress the evils of nationalism, or to correct injustice in the society around them. No wonder that a movement which seeks to overcome divisions within the Church, and to draw the various Christian communions together, should be a matter of the highest importance to Christendom as a whole. No wonder Archbishop William Temple should acclaim this ‘world-wide Christian fellowship, this Ecumenical Movement as it has been called, as the great new face of our era’. Nor should we be surprised that an unusual word should be used to describe it. The word ‘Ecumenical’, as we shall use it, means both ‘world-wide’ (literally ‘the inhabited earth’) and ‘that spiritual traffic between the Churches which draws them out of their isolation and into a fellowship of conversation, mutual enrichment, common witness and common action’.***

** J.W.N. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, p. 385.

*** W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, The Meaning of Ecumenical, p. 28.

 

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