Saturday, January 1, 2005

Pontificator: "Is there salvation inside the Episcopal Church?"

Neither the Protestant understanding of the invisible Church nor the Anglican understanding of the unity of the fractured Church is to be found in the Fathers. The Church is visibly one, and this unity is embodied in baptism, eucharist, and the eucharistic communion of bishops. Precisely because the Church is the divine society ordained by the risen Christ, precisely because of the profound identification between the risen Christ and his mystical body, salvation can only be found in that rightly ordered community of grace to which the promises of Christ rightly apply. The Church Fathers had a lot of experience with schismatic and heretical sects, and they did not hesitate to declare these sects outside the communion of the Church catholic and thus outside the promises of Christ. . . .

Is it not possible, indeed likely, that the Protestant rejection of the ecclesial question is self-serving ideology generated by schism and heresy? Do we dare stake our souls, and the souls of our children and grandchildren, on the churches of the Reformation?

We Episcopalians find ourselves in the midst of a theological and ecclesiological crisis. This crisis rightly forces us–or at least should rightly force us–to ask the question of Newman: What is the Church? Are we in the Church? Where is the true Church of Jesus Christ to be found? This is not a matter of idle curiosity. If the Church Fathers are correct, it is a matter of our eternal salvation. We should not bank on our invincible ignorance before the Divine Judge.

Leave it to the Pontificator to open a can of worms on New Year's Eve. =)

Update: "Is it a safe church to die in?" - Further reflections by the Pontificator, regarding Cardinal Newman's consideration of the matter.

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