In my first post on this subject I concluded: "So the polity of The Episcopal Church is grounded in a vision of being a community of prayer and adoration - clear, straightforward, affecting and majestic - for the sake of Jesus Christ, to the advancement of the whole Church's vocation to be instruments of God's mission - one of creation, sustenance and restoration."
I also noted my opinion that "There can be no valid claim therefore that the polity of any given church reflects either the "mission of the Church" understood as God's mission reflected in the vocation of the Church as the body of Christ, or the whole of the apostolic, catholic, united faith."
A keen observer has pointed out that I must stress that these are my opinions about polity. Any given polity has different meaning for those who are bound by the governance provided, and viewed from within may not appear at all provisional.
Still, I maintain that all polity is provisional - that is its primary limitation as to justice and mercy is that it falls short of the full embodiment of God's restorative justice and limitless mercy. This may be nothing more than the observation that polity is of human making, not God's ordaining.
The polities of the various churches, including our own, are themselves subject to appeal - appeal to judgment regarding the extent to which they reflects what we know of the Christian faith and the Good News. The appeal to the Word of God is, however, an appeal beyond the polity itself.
I believe that polity is provisional within - meaning that the community of faithful people bound by that polity may change it - and it is provisional without - meaning that the community itself stands in judgment before the all consuming wrath and mercy of God.
There is no hiding place down here. Right polity does not save us from error and belonging to a particular church does not keep us from judgment and mercy before the people of God, the body of Christ as a mystical communion of all faithful people. In the 39 Articles, Article 19, "As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith." and Article 21, concerning the councils of the Church, " when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God."
Having said this, polity is an entry point into the necessary discussion among the various churches, the denominations (named churches) about God's mission and our several vocations as churches. Ecumenical conversations begin with clarity about what our vocations as particular churches brings to the common desire to be active participants in God's mission.
To put it another way: I believe that churches - The Episcopal Church or any other denominated church - are not what Jesus had in mind. Church is our best answer as to how to be organized to respond to what Jesus did have in mind - the reconciliation of all things in God.
Provisionalily is a limitation on triumphalism. It is much needed in these days, when pure church movements abound.
As I hope we will see, the issues of changing polity will become increasingly important as these postings continue. On whose authority such changes are made is itself a major polity issue, and the particular (although not unique) vocation of The Episcopal Church to be a church with bishops who guide but a wider body of believers who decide is in a sense a "trial run" of a possible way to organize as a church.