Thursday, September 9, 2010

"take your share in the councils of the Church"

Church fights are always the juiciest.  Perhaps that is because everybody thinks that Christians should get along all the time.  To remedy this false presumption, I would encourage a thorough reading of the New Testament.  The Church has lived and breathed controversy from its earliest days.  Acts 15 details the famous "Jerusalem Council."  Leaders from varying parts of the very primitive Church gathered to debate the place of Gentiles in the Jesus movement.  Did they have to be circumcised like Jews?  Would they have to follow the Law of Moses?

I think we all know the answer to this question.  Gentiles (non-Jews) make up the overwhelming majority of Christians today.  But even though we take this for a fact today, it took a great council and many years of hot debate to come to this conclusion. 

During the liturgy for the ordination of a priest, the bishop charges the candidate "to take [his/her] share in the councils of the Church."  Again, the bishop prays over the ordinand, asking that he/she be made a "wise councilor."  Notice that it is councilor, not counselor.  It is now my obligation to faithfully enter the fray of Church controversy.

One last note: being a wise councilor doesn't always mean that I will be on the "winning side" of the argument.  As in the Jerusalem Council, some of the apostles and many elders of the early church wanted to keep the Christian assembly a decidedly Jewish organization.  Well, they lost the argument.  When I take part in the councils of the Church and vote against the will of the majority (I'm sure that's bound to happen), I will take it in humility, knowing that I am following in the footsteps of a great many faithful disciples in the past.

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