In Galatians 1:15 Paul says God reveals himself not “to” me (safe option in most translations) but (Greek) “in” me. So every calling or vocation is an invitation to become, gradually, a place where God’s life is revealed, his promise and judgment. We sometimes meet fellow disciples who make us realise, with devastating clarity, how far we need to change. This is holiness. So we thank God for all who do this in their calling as Bishops, including (especially?) those unable to join us. The Christ we are all called to reveal is one whose body is real, in time and eternity, who gathers God’s Children from the corners of the earth into his kingdom. This is the prime vision we were called to represent and enact. II Corinthians 11:28-9 —
Besides other things I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for al the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble and I am not indignant?So the only way of being a successful apostle is to be incapable of distancing oneself from the weakness of others. Bearing apostolic witness we have to speak of a new humanity in which we bear others burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. Represent Jesus Christ and your defences will be down, and you will share in the weakness and loss of all, and your assumed loss will be part of the pain God takes upon himself in his infinite love. Paul sees the Church as the body called to actualise the death and resurrection of Christ in the world.
Therefore bishops can never, however much they’d like to be, become the spokesperson of a single nation, or cause, or group, however worthy they may be. Some will call it dithering — we have to find ways to make it prophetic. It would be much easier to be turn the church into an association of people who sign up to particular ideas, or reflect the nation in some vague way. What we actually have to do is express in our living the whole new humanity that is being gathered up in Christ. therefore we can never simply be servants to one subgroup. We have been taken hold of by Christ. We may of course want to affirm this person or that, but we cannot without also some note of challenge as well as affirmation. Therefore bishops have to prioiritse living and proclaiming the life of a Christ who gathers lost humanity into one in himself.
So Unity is not just everybody feeling good about each other, a quantitative thing, but a qualitative thing — each person impoverished by the another’s loss, each person enriched by others’ holiness. This is what Church is for, according to Saint Paul; and we’re off with some homework to reflect on what it means in our own lives and ministries. This isn’t, of course, what Rowan actually said — more what I heard him say. So, it’s time to go away and reflect...
I am massively looking forward to tomorrow.