Published: June 2008
Related Topics: Editorial
Arius was a Christian Theologian who lived in the 3rd Century and taught in Egypt and Alexandria. Undoubtedly a good man and a man of God, this theologian had a very different understanding of the nature of God. Without getting into too many details about Arius, he believed that Jesus was a created being and hence in some ways inferior to God the Creator (Father). For Arius, in fact there was only one true God and that was the Father. Many doctoral dissertations have been done in this area of Patristic theology, and this summary is but a few words. Arius' arguments are not really important here. Let's continue.
In 321 Arius was denounced by a synod at Alexandria. In 325 the First Council of Nicea called by the Emperor Constantine condemned his doctrine. This would bring about the origin of the Nicean Creed which many of our parishes continue to use.
Now skip a few centuries to the eleventh. Most of us have heard of the East-West schism that happened in 1054. Many have felt that the schism was a noble one that occurred because of a disagreement about the "procession" of the Holy Spirit in the Creed. In the west, they said that that Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, and in the east they said that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. Today the Nicene Creed of Rome is different from the one used by many Anglican churches and Orthodox churches in the world. Perhaps the greater issue was that in that year the leaders of the church of the east (Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople) and the west (Pope Leo IX) excommunicated each other--over who had the most authority in the church. A massive break occurred in the life of the Christian church over the petty politics of two ego-centric rulers.
We could talk about the reformation (16th century) and then the break that occurred between our own parents in faith (Church of England) and the Roman church. Most of us would look back and wonder about the integrity of most of those involved and how prayerfully attached they were to the gospel of Jesus which called for reconciliation and profound love.
Just a few historical examples (and there are many more) that we need to remember as we think about the issues that face our church. Bishop Ralph and Archdeacon Marion, Bishop Michael and Archdeacon Michael have spent countless hours and days struggling to build and maintain a church that is founded on faith, hope and love among the members. The great struggle for these servants and leaders has been to help us all understand that we can walk in unity without agreeing with one another on all issues.
Some will say that the break between the network and the Anglican Church of Canada is about the interpretation of scripture. They will argue that the ACC is too liberal and others will argue that the Network is too conservative. There are others who will say that the issue boils down to the blessing of same-gender relationships. Some say that such a blessing is evil and that it is opposed by the scriptures, while others say it is good and there is nothing in the scriptures to prohibit such blessing. Of course since it is the modern era, we wound up in court over property issues. The judge has made her decision and for the time being many of us understand that we have the right to share in the buildings that are in question. The judge is saying that we should act what we have always preached-- that we can live with a diverse understanding.
Let's be honest for a moment. Who knows who was right in the Christological arguments of the 3rd century? We know who won, but who really knows who was right? In some ways what does it matter? Most likely, each of us has a different understanding of our relationship to Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that. Some of the great mystics of the middle ages had an almost sexual-spiritual relationship with Christ, which some of us might find perverted! But at the end of the day who are we, or who is anyone to judge these people? Is this not the same thing with our interpretation of Scripture today? It has always been that two different people will understand a scripture passage differently. I remember being in "bible sharing" groups and I was often shocked by what various people would see and understand about particular passages of scripture. It sure wasn't the way I saw it....
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