The Presiding Bishop's lecture at St. Paul's College, Washington, D.C.

The Presiding Bishop spent the morning of January 19th at the Churches Uniting In Christ (CUIC) Plenary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  There she took part in a conversation around a presentation on Haiti and the work of the churches  of CUIC in Haiti.  She had to fly out early that afternoon to Washington, where she delivered a quite fine lecture at St. Paul's College.  

The lecture, "A catholic future:  shared mission beyond unitary communions," is an example of the sort of ecumenical thinking that seems to be forming a union of churches in spite of disunity.  It can be read, HERE.

The core of this new way of ecumenical thinking is to think of common beginnings and common endings and then point our work to the end, based on the beginning, and find our unity there rather than here in the middle.  In the following diagram, we are grounded at the one end in our one baptism. At the other we are grounded in God's mission, which will be fulfilled.  In the middle the churches and each of us as individuals are different in our actions in the trajectory from baptism to the fulfillment of God's will.

  So we are united in our one baptism (which is why the baptismal covenant is the starting point) and in an understanding that God's mission, which is one and unifying, is the end, but acknowledge that we are here in the middle of things, always seeking ways to work together for a common end, but always finding a diversity of responses.  So ecumenical common action is end directed and based, rather that based on current practice. 

The Presiding Bishop rightly points us to the centrality of baptism to this understanding, "One of the surprising developments in Anglican theology in recent decades has been a recovery of a theology of vocation and mission rooted in baptism, rather than primarily in sacramental priesthood.  It reflects an understanding of the early church that each disciple is called into Christ-like living and transformative participation in the coming reign of God.  It’s not revolutionary in that sense, but radical, in returning to our Christian roots." 

Believing that we can be grounded in baptism and God's mission, we are on our way:  "Once we recognize the common ground, perhaps we may be able to move behind singular answers to highly particular challenges, at least in certain spheres.  We share a common belief in the reign of God, in the sacramental presence of God in the earthly realm, and in the necessity of human participation in God’s mission. "  

Sacramental living the becomes the whole range of ways in which we live into our baptismal vows in service to God's mission, and the sacramental life of the church and Christians divided by theology, moral concerns and ecclesiology is seen to be present in the way we work from the context of our baptism and towards the fullness of God's reign.

Go and read the lecture HERE. It is better to read than to talk about. It is a hopeful sign of the possibilities of Christian unity bound not in our present divisions but in a common source and end.


  1. John sandeman27/1/11 10:01 PM

    Mark, I think you have the wrong link on this story.

  2. John...fixed it. Thanks. Wrong first time, right second time. (sigh)

  3. I was lucky to be able to hear this lecture in person, and as usual she was wonderful. Her talk was also quite well received by the mostly RC audience. One person asked about the background of the troubles in the Anglican Communion, and she gave one of the best responses I've heard, telling about all the other issues going on in addition to the presenting issue of human sexuality, notably the continuing effects of colonialism and varying responses to cultural changes. Quite a number of people there seemed to have the "Wow-I-never-realized-that" sort of look. *sigh* I wish more people had that kind of realization.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.