11/01/2005

Promised Thoughts on the the Third Anglican Global South to South Encounter Communiqué.

Yesterday, after a brief posting on the Communiqué I promised a more reflective piece and made one comment concerning the “Third Trumpet.” It was pointed out to me by readers that Communiqués of the first two South to South encounters spoke of a trumpet call and not to make a big deal of it. I can’t find the original documents of those meetings, although the now famous Kuala Lumpur Statement is everywhere. I’d appreciate working links to those documents.

So I begin by standing corrected re my statement of yesterday: the use of the trumpet motif is not a special reference separate from earlier statements. On the other hand this gives all the more reason to think of the imagery of said trumpets on the model of the seven angels and the seven trumpets in Revelation. We are up to the third of these soundings, and it is perhaps permissible to wonder if there will be the full round of seven.

After a more generous (or perhaps simply a longer) read I believe that (i) the Communiqué lays out what we already know will be part of the struggle of the coming months and years, and (ii) this statement also restates the social and pastoral concerns of churches in the Global South. There are only a few new items in this communiqué, but they bear watching.

General observation:

The document speaks repeatedly of the Word of God, the authentic World of God, Holy Scriptures, Scriptures, God’s Word, the Gospel. This is, of course, commendable. What is missing, however, is much commentary on how that Word is ingested, revealed, known, shared and reflected upon or distinguished from the words written on the page (in the original or translation.)

The one section on the Authority of the Word of God (sections 21-23) affirms the evangelical position that “the standard of life, belief, doctrine, and conduct is the Holy Scripture,” and then states in 23, “We reject the expectation that our lives in Chirst should conform to the misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.”

The desire is expressed later to “call for the re-alignment of our priorities in such a way as to hasten the full establishment of adequate theological education institutions across the Global South…” (28). This of course is in line with distancing themselves from the “misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.”

A substratum of this document is the evangelical movement’s conviction that the churches have all erred in moving away from a convicted reliance on the Word of God, written. On this level the work of the South to South Encounter is part of a wider attempt at ecclesial realignment by people in the evangelical movement. I have found Stephen Bates book A CHURCH AT WAR very helpful in considering the evangelicals and their issues.

About the Meeting: The Archbishop of Nigeria, as chair of the planning committee for the South to South Encounter, said that this would be a reflective time for those attending and not a legislative or organizing meeting. The Communiqué certainly reflects that sense. Still, it speaks of delegates, who it counts as “representing approximately two-thirds of the Anglican Communion.” Speaking of delegates and representing gives weight to the meeting being at least the warm up pitch to actions. I don’t think they “represent” two-thirds of the Communion at all. Rather they reflect a varying level of support within those 20 Provinces. Speaking of support, I continue to be interested in the funding sources for this meeting and for the considerable costs of air fare to Egypt.

About the place of the Meeting: George Conger was right… not Alexandria, not Cairo, but Ain El-Sukhna. As you may recall most of the pre-meeting information spoke of one of the two big cities as the place of meeting.

Particulars:

The document is in five sections: A Preamble, We Gatered, We Discovered Afresh, We Commit, We Press On. It is well organized around these sections. The whole document consists of 45 paragraphs. By far the largest number of paragraphs is to be found in section D, “We Commit.” It is there that most of the critique of the “West” takes place and the commitment to what we now know to be the outline of a realignment program.

In the Preamble (2) the Archbishop of Canterbury is thanked rather tepidly I think. His address and a record of a question and answer session are HERE. Nowhere in the Communiqué is there any mention of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity, first among equals, etc. But then perhaps that is too close a read.

In Section “B: We Gathered,” the Communiqué states, “Apart from the world condition, our own Anglican Communion sadly continues to be weakened by unchecked revisionist teaching and practices which undermine the divine authority of the Holy Scripture.” (7) The implication is that the unchecked revisionist teaching and practices first undermines the divine authority of the Holy Scripture and then weakens the Anglican Communion. I think I understand the intent of this section, but my own belief is that nothing can undermine the divine authority of the Holy Scripture (however we determine what that authority means.) Perhaps it might have been better to simply say that the writers believe that “the Anglican Communion is weakened by unchecked revisionist teaching and practice,” period. I think that is wrong, but at least this is a “let your yes be yes and your no be no” sort of answer.

I find the explanation in paragraph 9a/b for having the meeting in Egypt a bit strange – references to Egypt as the place in which the people Israel were slaves, and in which the Holy Family were refugees may make some sense. But a reference to the blessing that the people of Israel would be a “light to the nations” being shown by Alexandria becoming a center of early Christianity is entirely odd, unless there is some particular reason for reasserting some particular interest in that City. Well, the meeting was not there, but there is the residue of comments made prior to the meeting that Alexandria might be the see city of a new ecclesial thing.

In The Church is One (a subset of C) I was struck by the sentence in 12, “Unity is ever so much more than sharing institutionally.” I could not agree more. But in the next paragraph (13) we can see where this is leading, “The boundary of family identity ends within the boundary of the authentic Word of God.” So, under the discussion of the notion that the Church is One, in two brief sentences they have made clear that they mean by this neither institutional nor family sharing. In brief for this gathering the Anglican Communion cannot be a product of “bonds of affection” or history. Appeal to ecclesia or koinoia do not suffice: only the appeal to “the supreme authority of the whole Word of God” will do.

Now we turn to Section D. “We Commit.”

Here we find listed the core of the movement to realignment, (with occasional comments thrown in.) :

(i) “We reject the expectation that our lives in Christ should conform to the misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.” (23)

(ii) “We will continue to explore appropriate structures to facilitate and support” networking with one another. (24)

(iii) Shared theological foundations are crucial to authentic fellowship and partnership in mission and ministry…We welcome the initiative to form the Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and the Caribbean (CAPAC). (25) (This organization is meant to be the western hemisphere equivalent to CAPA.)

(iv) “Global South is committed to…the Networks in the USA and Canada, the Convocation of Nigerian Anglicans in the USA, Common Cause, and the Missionary District (AMiA?).(26)

(v) “We are grateful that the Archbishop of Canterbury of Canterbury publicly recognized the Anglican Communion Network in the USA and the Anglican Network in Canada as faithful members of the Anglican Communion.” (26) (This comes from a statement made by the Archbishop which seems to say that the MEMBERS of the ANN and ANC are faithful members, rather than the organizations. See the original quote HERE.)

(vi) “We appreciate the recent action of the Primate of the Southern Cone who acted to stabilize the volatile situation in Recife, Brazil.” (27) (This is a complete rejection of the intent of the Windsor Report, and makes the plea of submission to the WR a sham.)

(vii) “We note from the All Africa Bishops Conference their concern that far too many Western theological education institutions have become compromised and are no longer suitable for training leaders for our provinces.” (28)

So the upshot is the course of action we already know is in place. When the Communiqué turns to the “Current Crisis provoked by North American Intransigence” it is no longer speaking from any sense of negotiation, but rather with the demands compliance with the Windsor Report, which report speaks more of restraint, engagement in listening, and further prayerful and thoughtful work and less of compliance.

In the subsection titled “Spiritual Leadership,” the hint of leadership based on a strict “biblical” model come up. Paragraph 35 begins, “ We need inspirational leaders and accountability structures.” True enough, but how will we get them? “These mechanisms which we are looking into must ensure that leaders are accountable to God, to those over us in the Lord, to the flock and to one another IN ACCORDANCE TO THE SCRIPTURES.” (caps mine)

So called “scriptural leadership” opens the door to men in leadership (an evangelical concern), accountability that looks more and more like submission (a word used often by realignment folk in reference to what revisionists must do.)

Much of the remainder of the Communiqué is in line with the CAPA statement this year. Much of what is discussed warrants our support and our engagement. The world is a mess, and we need people who can help make it right.

The final section E. “We Press On” begins with a paragraph (42) in which it is stated, “Communion requires alignment with the will of God first and foremost, which establishes our commonality with one another.” Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. The Global South document believes what makes us a community of faith is our “alignment with the will of God” and that that comes first.

Me, I believe that what makes us a community of faith is that we live in love with one another, and share our joys and sorrows, and in the breaking of bread, the saying of the prayers and that that fellowship will itself align us more and more with what God wanted for us all along.

This Communiqué will be used by those who wish to use it that way as a powerful voice of a majority of the worlds’ Anglicans. A fair amount of trumpeting is going on already, nicely enhanced by the sound bite of the Archbishop of Canterbury saying something like “the Network is part of the Anglican Communion.”

For the rest of us, it is that special mix of really bad theology and really good social concern. For us, let us pay positive attention to the social concerns voiced in this Communiqué, and let us take care to notice the consistent effort of radical evangelical leaders to claim that they are the legitimate heirs of the Anglican Communion. The way to deny them that claim is not to appear dead or worse instruments of appeasement.

Our worse possible stance is to become, as Ed Rodman says, “instruments of our own oppression.”

10 comments:

  1. obadiahslope2/11/05 12:08 AM

    mark,
    here is areference to the earlier trumpets on an anglican communion sitehttp://www.aco.org/mission/commissions/iascome/history.cfm
    no live links though, but there is a serach funcion

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  2. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis, Mark. There's much here to read, mark, and inwardly digest.

    I remain perplexed that Biblical fundamentalists -- whether in the Global South or in the AAC/NACDP/IRD camp -- can claim to be the "true expression of Anglicanism." We are truly living in Orwellian times.

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  3. Mark - Wise words as always. This day happens to be one of those days when I doubt that the participants of the Global South meeting that took place in Egypt desire anything else but to construct their own Anglican communion. I'm confident that they have very little interest of sharing the Eucharist with you, me and other liberal Episcopalians and Anglicans. I suppose that this reality in and much of itself depicts the true nature of common life we share with one another, at least in terms of understanding the nature of our relationship within the body of Christ. There is no doubt tremendous missionary work going on between Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout the world in such places as Palenstine, Pakistan, South Africa, and elsewhere. And yet, all of this holy evangelism could be potentially cast aside because of a lack of shared understanding regarding the authority of Scripture, overt homophobia, and what appears to me to be a overwhelming desire by "orthodox" Anglicans such as Akinola to construct the new kingdom of God that is cemented in righteous behavior and obedience rather than Grace and compassion

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  4. Perhaps it is a reference to Leviticus 25:9, where the jubal is sounded to proclaim a day of atonement and the year of jubilee. In the KJV it is called a trumpet.

    In this case, we should be reminded of the priority of economic justice in our relationships with the global south. I do wish some of their new friends in the north had stood with us when that was what they asked us to do. I realize that evangelicals elsewhere in the world may have been on the right side of that one.

    The message of jubilee is a major alternative to the oppressive economics of capitalism and one of the primary sources for Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom, especially in Luke.

    Forgiveness in the Bible is about letting go of economic debts primarily and the oppression that comes in their wake.

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  5. obadiahslope4/11/05 3:14 PM

    Bill,
    I am reminded of the parable of the shrewd manager, jubiliee and all of us who have been forgiven much.
    And i acknowledge there is a history of down playing economic justice in evnagelical interpretation of the bible.
    yet I suspect you may be overstating your case.
    Primarily economic forgiveness? What about John/ proclaiming forgiveness for the forgiveness of sin (in general not restricted to economic sun but including it for sure). or our brother who sins against us seven times in the one day? Or the lord's prayer? A rich man's sin might be economic unforgiveness primarily but what about the poor?
    Now the American sin against the Africans in this debate is undoubtably primarily economic (and hard heartedness too, but they are linked). But taking your side for the moment, the African church's sin is not economic is it. Of course you might be saying the american sin is the greater - thus making the american need for forgiveness greater - but I don't think you are saying that. Or are you?

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  6. Obadiahslope,

    I'm saying that the root meaning of "forgiveness," especially in Luke has to due with monetary debt. Of course, it is extended to other forms of sin, by Jesus himself. I do believe that economic sins are the primary form of sin that divide the human family and that the North and West and their collaborators among the super-wealthy of the South bear the lion's share of guilt here. I believe that capitalism is an expression of the power of death at work in the world and that one day it will lead to the extinction of all life, including human life, when we have finally destroyed the ecosystem.

    Evangelicalism in this country largely focuses on personal morality with little or no attention to social ethics. When attention is paid, the stance that is taken is often rabidly pro-capitalist, with some notable exceptions. More often, there is a sort of privatism. Politics is allowed to be a separate sphere, cut off from the influence of the Gospel.

    What I am suggesting is that it was the progressive and radical wings of the church in the North that stood with the South on issues like divestment and jubilee debt relief. There may be Anglican evangelicals elsewhere, whether Wesleyan or Calvinist, who took a more progressive stance, but its rare among the new allies of the Global South in this country. I predict that once the new friends of the South have what they want, they will abandon the South and continue to fight against affordable AIDS drugs, against debt relief, against the Millenium Development Goals, etc. The money people behind the AAC and Network, as distinguished from the rank and file, are definitely interested in supporting a reactionary agenda, which amounts to nothing less than mass murder of the poor in the Third World and continued exploitation of the underclass in the US, decimation of labor rights, dismantling any government aid to poor, elderly, and vulnerable people.

    The global South should consider carefully how it is being exploited for purposes of domestic US politics that run directly contrary to its own interests.

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  7. P.S. I suppose I am saying that Americans need more forgiveness, for our crimes against the South, which are primarily of an economic and political nature. We need no forgiveness for consecrating an openly gay bishop. As Carter Heyward points out in Gays In The Future of Anglicanism, Gene Robinson is as different from George Bush as Jesus is from Caesar.

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  8. obadiah slope5/11/05 1:26 PM

    Bill,

    thankyou for the nuanced statement. I found it very helpful. Yes I agree that economic debt was a central metaphor for Jesus' words on sin, and while he built outwards from it it remains there at the base. (I avoid the word root because i am an Australian).
    I also agree that economic sin is a primasry divider of the human family and any system built on greed is a problem for any follower of Jesus.
    Having spent much of the last week studying Revelation I see that book as a trenchant criticism of empire, both of Domitian's day and our own. (dispensationalism has lost it's grip on evangelicalism outside of the US: to my mind that is no accident extreme futurism in Revelation functions as an apology for empire). So while I still don't think the trumpets of revelation were in the global south's mind as they drafted their statement there is a sense in which they should have been although babylon may be more appropriate.

    Since Mark wrote his response to the third South to South statement some relevant background material has become available. Andrew Carey and George Conger have reported (in the evangelical Church of England Newspaper) that there was disquiet onin the conference at the presence of "American hangers on". They appear to have been represntatives of AMiA.

    This indicates firstly that the "global South" want to make their own statement. They are not - and do not want to be seen as - anyone's puppet.

    Secondly Bishop Rodgers of AMiA prepareda manifesto which called for the Global South and its allies to take over the Anglican Communion, or failing that to split from it. It is significant that this point of view was not reflected in the comminique.

    I got the impression that some progressive commentators and "Father Jake" is a good example were surprised at this outcome. Some others seem disappointed that no Alexandrine Pope was announced.

    Can i permit myself a small reminder that I suggested a "soft landing" for the communion was a more likely result?

    More seriously, a simple monolithic view of the conservative forces in Anglicanism will produce other errors of perception. The right is as complicated as the left.

    Bill you are careful to nuance your statements about Anglican evangelicals and i thankyou for that.

    Lisa,
    come with me down Wigan Pier, George Orwell's destination as he explored the working class North. I can't promise you the jellied eels, only an evanjellical point of view.

    From your point of view i would be perplexed too, because the evangelical expression of Anglicanism is so relatively absent from the USA that I can understand it would seem hardly Anglican to you.

    Yet there have been evangelicals in the Church of England and Anglicanism from the very beginning. The theology of the book of prayer (1662), and the 39 articles - still the basis of faith for most of the communion - bears that out.

    Evangelicalism is the majority form of what was once called churchmanship throughout the Anglican Communion - which does not make it right but certainly makes it anglican.

    In england,evangelicalism has revived to the point that some responsible commentators belivee it will control the C of E within ten or twenty years. A majority of ordinands there are evangelical.

    It needs to be said that the evangelicalism of the anglican communion differs from what you see in the US. It is not wedded to (or arguably captured by) right wing politics. It tends to be more thoughtful than its US variety. At least i like to think so.

    Lots of evangelicals strive to be biblical. In fact we all do. We don't like the tag fundamentalist.

    Now, just like George Orwell, we can get on our bikes and cycle home. I hope it has been a good trip.

    i apologise for mixing my lieterary refernces today. maybe I should be Eric Blair.

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  9. Mark:

    There are a number of things about your essay that disturbed me. I had decided not to comment, since it seems clear what direction the Anglican Communion and the ECUSA will go despite what we say or do. However, I will voice a few things. I suspect you may not read them at this point, since this thread died long ago. But, oh well, here it goes:

    1. One thing both the communique and your essay share is fear. They fear that the theology and morality of the West will dominate or corrupt them. Thus the call to handle theological education in their own context and culture. (I would argue that this should happen anyway, irregardless of any such threat.) Your fear is actually not much different; you fear their dominance as well, expressed below and in your remarks about leadership mention further down:

    Let us take care to notice the consistent effort of radical evangelical leaders to claim that they are the legitimate heirs of the Anglican Communion. The way to deny them that claim is not to appear dead or worse instruments of appeasement. Our worse possible stance is to become, as Ed Rodman says, “instruments of our own oppression.”

    I wonder about what it is to appear "not dead" or "instruments of appeasement;" clearly whatever it is, it is not conciliatory. In any case, the fear of the loss of our legitimacy, with the accompanying pressure to conform, is apparent. (Actually, they've asked for surprisingly little in terms of conformity: they haven't asked for the resignation of our homosexual priests or our gay bishop. Doesn't that surprise you, as it does myself?) I'm convinced that our mutual fear of each other, both sides based on concerns which do have some merit, is probably the biggest issue with which we must deal. One challenge, then, might be to get to where we don't threaten each other. That won't be easy, since the two sides probably are not aware of how they threaten each other. I doubt we can truly see clearly how American culture is such a pervasive and dominant influence upon the rest of the world, and how out actions and positions affect others.

    2. You speak of their thrust for leaders as an "evangelical concern." What, other Christian groups have no concern for leadership development? Shame on them! You suggest that "accountability" really means "submission". Honestly, Mark, sometimes it really isn't about us! They're not talking about establishing leaders over here who will be accountable to them. They're concerned about leaders in their own churches. Surely you don't suggest that submission and obedience are not expressed concerns in our own ordinal? ("Will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work? ... Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?") Is there something wrong with this?

    3. You accuse them of "really bad theology," apparently because they don't give some discussion of hermeneutical procedures. which would of course have doubled the size of this document and made it unendurably cumbersome. (Are you so sure they don't have any simply because they don't mention them?) I've seen the phrase "really bad theology" before, used by Calvinist evangelicals to mean "theology I strongly disagree with." It doesn't mean much. However, I'm a little disappointed with your expressed theology of the church:

    Me, I believe that what makes us a community of faith is that we live in love with one another, and share our joys and sorrows, and in the breaking of bread, the saying of the prayers and that that fellowship will itself align us more and more with what God wanted for us all along.

    One recognizes, of course, the inference to our baptismal covenant, and to Acts 2:42. You have the elements of fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers; all very commendable. But something highly significant is missing: the apostles' teaching. Might this not also be a key element for "align[ing] us more and more with what God wanted for us all along?" Or would you prefer to rewrite the baptismal covenant at this point? I won't accuse you of "really bad theology," but if you were in a Theology 101 class, I think you might deserve a 75% for your answer. Frankly, I find its absence very telling.

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  10. Dear RB (whoever you are)... thanks for the note. It makes me realize that sometimes my mutterings need more explanation than the beginning comment realy warants. Let me try to reply to some of what you write about:

    >
    > 1. One thing both the communique and your essay share is fear. They fear that the theology and morality of the West will dominate or corrupt them. Thus the call to handle theological education in their own context and culture. (I would argue that this should happen anyway, irregardless of any such threat.) Your fear is actually not much different; you fear their dominance as well, expressed below and in your remarks about leadership mention further down:

    > Let us take care to notice the consistent effort of radical evangelical leaders to claim that they are the legitimate heirs of the Anglican Communion. The way to deny them that claim is not to appear dead or worse instruments of appeasement. Our worse possible stance is to become, as Ed Rodman says, “instruments of our own oppression.”
    >

    > I wonder about what it is to appear "not dead" or "instruments of appeasement;" clearly whatever it is, it is not conciliatory.


    To be frank, if I fear anything it is that the so called liberal crowd will simply ignore the attempts by the English evangelicals and American conservatives to push for their hopes for the Anglican Communion. I think it is a mistake for the "majority" in the US church, particularly in its leadership, to think that simply ignoring the "minority" will serve. We (meaning the liberal crowd) are worse than non conciliatory when we sit silently, we are rude. If we really believe we are about holding the faith and at the same time doing a new thing, we ought to work at it in ways that invite dialogue and argument, not simply acting as if the will of the majority was a simple thing.

    > One challenge, then, might be to get to where we don't threaten each other. That won't be easy, since the two sides probably are not aware of how they threaten each other. I doubt we can truly see clearly how American culture is such a pervasive and dominant influence upon the rest of the world, and how out actions and positions affect others.
    >
    I agree. For many years I have been involved with members of various provinces of the AC and am quite aware of the pervasive and dominant influence of American culture, in the lives of believers as well as in the culture generally.

    > Surely you don't suggest that submission and obedience are not expressed concerns in our own ordinal? ("Will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work? ... Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?") Is there something wrong with this?
    >
    Actually, I was ordained using the 1928 book (shows you what an o;' fart I am!) It said:

    Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and
    other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the
    Church, may have the charge and government over you;
    following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions,
    and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
    Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.

    Unlike the 1979 book the word submit(ting0 actually appears in this version, and the two questions sepearated in the 1979 book are one. I am indeed willing to submit myself to the godly judgments of the bishop and other chief ministers, etc. But actually, my submission is not finally to them alone, but to the call of God in Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with any of this...except that I sometimes wrestle with what I understand those in authority call me to do. Which is to say, I submit, but not without some questions.


    > 3. You accuse them of "really bad theology," apparently because they don't give some discussion of hermeneutical procedures. which would of course have doubled the size of this document and made it unendurably cumbersome. (Are you so sure they don't have any simply because they don't mention them?) I've seen the phrase "really bad theology" before, used by Calvinist evangelicals to mean "theology I strongly disagree with." It doesn't mean much. However, I'm a little disappointed with your expressed theology of the church:
    >
    Yes, that was a not to plesant and doesn't mean as much as I wish it did. I'll work on that.

    > Me, I believe that what makes us a community of faith is that we live in love with one another, and share our joys and sorrows, and in the breaking of bread, the saying of the prayers and that that fellowship will itself align us more and more with what God wanted for us all along.
    >
    > One recognizes, of course, the inference to our baptismal covenant, and to Acts 2:42. You have the elements of fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers; all very commendable. But something highly significant is missing: the apostles' teaching. Might this not also be a key element for "align[ing] us more and more with what God wanted for us all along?" Or would you prefer to rewrite the baptismal covenant at this point? I won't accuse you of "really bad theology," but if you were in a Theology 101 class, I think you might deserve a 75% for your answer. Frankly, I find its absence very telling.
    >
    Well, I sure don't want to rewrite the baptismal coveant. You are right, I left out "the apostles' teaching and..." It's absence is perhaps telling you one thing and me another.

    Remembering that the apostles had the whole list, save "the apostle's teaching" (that being what they were working out out of the experience of the Lord in the flesh and risen both, in particular as the writings were being produced) I was suggesting that the fellowship can itself be a place where the apostle's teachings get stated, remembered, understood and acted on. Still, it would have been easier to simply get the whole list there at the start. I deserve the 75% on the answer, but I believe that I (mostly) submit what I do to a life in the community of faith that includes the whole list.

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