Models of Church by Bishop Peter Hickman

Ecclesiology, Part One

Bishop Peter’s talks on YouTube.

Brief notes…

Eklesia: The called-out ones/gathering/assembly/community of Jesus

Church is ultimately a Mystery and is beyond our ability to define. We enter the realm of the ineffable. Models of Church are used by way of analogy to show different aspects of the Church.

Mystery is something that is very real, that we can experience but it is difficult to put in words. There is no way to reduce the mystery of the Church to a formula.

Ecclesiology: This is where our differences become pronounced because there is a diversity of opinions. Bishop Peter gives us the Catholic view-point.

Models of the Church:

I. The New Humanity

  • Adam as the archetype of the old humanity. Humanity fell from grace and lost the divine life, and became mortal.
  • Death is the separation/alienation/primary evil and is not the original intention of the Creator. Death is the movement to non-Being.
  • We sin because we are mortal and subject to fear.
  • Alienated with God we are alienated from one another. We distrust each other. We have lost communion (koinonia)
  • Jesus is the new Adam, and the archetype of the new humanity. He borrows our humanity from Mary, who becomes Theotokos, womb of God.
  • Mary represents the consent of all humanity.
  • Jesus receives the Holy Spirit and becomes the anointed one (Christ)
  • As the new Adam, he is tempted in the desert. He confronts evil and this marks the beginning of his salvific work. He will overcome the realm of death.
  • He descends to hell, the realm of death.
  • New humanity is born with the resurrection and humanity becomes the companion of divinity. Resurrection is the transformation of Body.
  • By Baptism we become part of the new humanity and receive the Holy Spirit as a pledge of eternal life. We are incorporated into the Body of Christ and no longer subject to death.
  • We are free to love one another and become the beloved community. No longer alienated.
  • Salvation is a process and the sacraments give us our spiritual life.

II. The Messianic Community

  • We share a common life together, and a shared faith in Jesus. Baptism joins us to Christ and to one another.
  • We are joined to the Messiah to continue his mission, participating in salvation.
  • We participate in the common meal of Eucharist and form a Gospel Community.
  • Collectively we receive the same anointing as Jesus at his baptism.
  • We have the same three-fold vocation as Christ: prophet, priest (conduit of grace), and king.
  • We are extending the reign of God into the world.
  • We work for peace and justice in the world
  • All our efforts emanate from Christ.

III. The People of God

  • This is the image of the Church expressed by the Council of Vatican II. We are a new nation. We are Christians first.
  • People are chosen and redeemed by God.
  • We belong to each other because we belong to God. We are bound to each other through the new covenant.
  • All have an equal share and are equal citizens within this nation.
  • Read First Peter – “We are a chosen race…”

IV. Holy Mother

  • We receive our new birth from the womb of the Church.
  • Like a mother the church receives the role of nurturer and imparts the essentials of Christian life.
  • Mary is the archetype of the Church and Joseph is the guardian of the Church.
  • The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are betrothed to Christ.

Ecclesiology, Part Two

V. Church as Sacrament.

This is the main distinguishing difference from Protestants.

The lens of Protestants is “Biblicism” and the memorization of scriptures. They ask, is that biblical or not? There are two points of view:

  • Lutheran: If something is not forbidden, it’s okay. We can have liturgical services.
  • Calvinist: If something is not endorsed by the bible, we don’t do it.

The Catholic lens is a sacramental mindset. The divine is found in the ordinary – water, bread and wine, olive oil, and more. The work of Jesus sanctifies matter because of the incarnation. The divine is found in the ordinary and matter is good. Therefore, we have things like Catholic art. Catholicism is sensual – hearing things, visually we enter another environment at mass, smell incense, taste Eucharist…

The theologian Edward Schillebeeckx was most responsible for defining this model of the Church.

A. Sacrament: “An event or action involving the initiative of the divine and the receptive cooperation of humanity in which God becomes present in the human world. God is always present everywhere, but in a sacrament God is radically present in a way that touches our consciousness. In a redeeming, redemptive way. In a healing way.

God becomes present in a human world. God’s saving presence, Spirit, grace, becomes manifest in the human situation.

  1. Humans are material beings. We can only know reality through our senses.
  2. God is Spirit. Not material. Beyond our ability to perceive. Intagible.
  3. God just manifest in a physical form, perceivable to the 5 senses.

B. In the incarnation, the invisible God becomes visible. Christ is the icon/image of the invisible God. This is why Catholic art becomes prayer and conveys grace. Catholics have a propensity for art.

Through Jesus God becomes observable. Christ therefor is the sacrament of God. A sacrament needs divine initiative and human cooperation. Mary’s consent was absolutely necessary for Jesus to receive our humanity.

C. Christ gathered a community of followers to form the Church. The number twelve (12) means the People of God. Choosing twelve was a symbolic action. Jesus was intentional in creating a new community, a new humanity. We cannot be followers of Christ apart from community, for we are to love one another.

The Church is the Body of Christ, collectively, in the world. Jesus continues his salvific work in the world. Christ makes divinity present to the world, and the Church makes Christ present.

D. The saving actions of the Church are the sacraments. The sacramental ministry involves the proclamation and instruction of the Gospel and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through the gifts and ministries of the members, and the manifestation of God’s saving presence, which is grace, through the use of matter, such as water, oil, bread, or wine, with the intention and form (words used to express intention) that expresses and conveys God’s saving power in Christ.

The Church in her sacramental ministry is in reality an extension of the incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ. Christ is present among us in the life of the Church – in us.

E. The Four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

1.  One – there is only one Church. Christ is not divided. By virtue of baptism we are all in the one Church. One in the Holy Spirit. Difference in canon law, doctrinal differences cannot in reality divide the Body of Christ. This is why in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion all may receive communion. The table of Christ is the place of Unity. The prayer of Jesus is that we might all be one.

2. Holy – God’s property. Something is set apart and given to God. This has nothing to do with morality. We are not our own. We belong to Christ, we belong to God. We are the exclusive possession of God. We no longer own ourselves, but are consecrated to God.

3. Catholic – Universal. The Church transcends space and time, earth and heaven. It includes all the people of God as well as the angels. Catholic is the opposite of sectarian. We are not tribal. We cannot be Catholic if we start excluding people. We are Catholic when we recognize the inclusiveness of the gospel and we are sectarian we as Church become exclusive of others.

4. Apostolic – The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles, who were handpicked by Jesus. Apostolic ministry continues through the ordained ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon.

VI. The Church as Worshipping Community.

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to the common life, and to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers.”  

Worship is the offering of sacrifices, and sacrifice is the giving of a gift. First Peter 2: 9-10. You are a royal priesthood. The whole Church is priest offering spiritual sacrifices (gifts). See Romans 12:1 … offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Hebrews 13: 15 … continually offer God a sacrifice of praise. Worship is Eucharistic. Eucharist is a sacrifice. Listen to the Eucharistic prayer from the Epiclesis (invoking the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine) through the anamnesis, remembering Christ’s last supper, re-engaging with that moment, until we understand that the bread and wine have been transformed, through the Mystery of Faith. And then we offer the life-giving gift – Jesus.

Worship involves singing. Humans sing to God, and singing is a sacrifice, a gift, to God.

VII. Church as Ministering Community.

For the Son of God did not come to be served but to give his life as a ransom for many. Luke 4: 18 – 19 Gives us the mission of Jesus, and this is our mission — … to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favor from our God. Jesus also said to us, Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.

Matthew 28: 19 … go therefore and make disciples of all nations… “ Teaching students. See also Acts 1: 8, Ephesians 2: 10 and 4: 11-12, and 1 Corinthians 12.

The Church exists for service and ministry.