August 11, 2014 / Gregory Crosthwait

Schismatics Anonymous

Hello. My name is Gregory Crosthwait. And I’m a schismatic. I’m not happy about this. I don’t enjoy saying it. But at least it’s beginning to bother me.

At one point, it didn’t bother me. I took pride in being separate from “them” (who know how “they” can be). And then I started reading . . . the Bible.

And then I kept reading, not only the Bible but also books about the Bible and Church history and theology. This is a different sort of peril than not reading at all. I exchanged prideful ignorance for prideful gnosis. Wrong exchange.

Repentance, that’s the right exchange. Exchange thoughts; exchange attitudes: smug for lowly, isolation for community, self-sufficiency for dependence, me and my ideas for Jesus and his.

That last one is the key. And it’s one that many separated portions of the divided churches claim to have accomplished. Surely our group has Jesus’s imprimatur on our ways and means.

To keep us from assuming trademark, patent, or institutional monopoly on Jesus consider Paul in Colossians: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:17-18). We’re going to need a bigger Jesus.

This is the first step for a recovering schismatic: he must increase. A bigger Jesus isn’t limited to our explanations and institutions. He uses them, no doubt. Condescending in grace is what he does. Then he invites us to the same, but into his manner and mode. In invites us to so much condescension that we die with him.

“One died for all; therefore all died” (2 Cor 5:14). This is Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s starting point in his vital work, The Gospel and the Catholic Church. I can’t improve his work, so I’ll quote at length:

The first need of the Christians, in face of the apathy and the bewilderment about the Church, is to know and to be able to say plainly what the Church really is. . . . Looking at it now, with its inconsistences and perversions and its want of perfection, we must ask what is the real meaning of it just as it is. As the eye gazes upon it, it sees—the Passion of Jesus Christ. And the eye of faith sees further—the power of Almighty God” (5).
He goes on to say, beautifully and bluntly, “Jesus Christ, in His solitary obedience, is the Church. Its existence does not begin with the addition of Jesus to men or of men to Jesus. The Israel of God is Jesus on the Cross; and those who will be united with him will enter an Israel which exists already” (21).

Again, “He is before all things.” And this one who is before all things “died for all, therefore all died.” Unity in the Church requires solidarity with Christ in his death. Resurrection follows, but only through the dereliction of death.

A little more from Ramsey and then I’m done. “Here then is a complete setting forth of the meaning of the Church; the eternal love of Father and Son is uttered in the Christ’s self-negation unto death, to the end that men may make it their own and be made one. The unity, in a word, means death. The death to the self qua self, first in Christ and thence in the disciples, is the ground and essence of the Church” (26).

Hello. My name is Gregory Crosthwait. And I’m a schismatic. But when I finish dying with Jesus I’ll be one with him and all who are his.

Thanks be to God.

[Image by Jon Ott, CC via Flickr]