I have refrained from commenting on Geoffrey’s interesting pieces this week, partly because I have been exceptionally busy, and partly because I wanted to see where he was going before doing so. Now I have seen the destination, and am moved.
I am moved in part by the spectacle of a good man staying in the place where he thinks God put him, and getting on with the spreading of the Good News for more than half a century; that in itself is admirable. Geoffrey, as his church and Mrs Sales can attest, is one for fidelity. For one such as myself, that is all the more admirable because it is not something of which I can boast (not that Geoffrey does any such thing); theorising is easy; it is the practice which is hard.
There is a splendid piece here about the significance of the Pope’s visit to the Patriarch, and about the true meaning of ecumenism; I commend it to anyone whose first reaction on reading that word is ‘heresy’ or ‘syncretism’. The author points out that this is not, pace the amateur politicians on both sides, about politics, it is about finding how it is that we are divided when we both ground our faith in Jesus Christ and claim a lineage back to the Apostles; that there is something in common, as well as much that divides, is not a place from which to begin despair, any more than it is one from which to contemplate denominational suicide. Dr De Ville has some sound things to say, not least this, which will strike a chord with readers of AATW:
Who among us, convinced of our own self-righteousness, has not (especially in online “discussions”), reacted with swift sarcasm and sneering about the speck in our opponent’s eye while ignoring the massive log in our own? Whom does this convince? Whom does this help? If I insist that my Church alone has the fullness of truth, while yours is but a sect of self-deluded heretics and papists, all equally without grace and all equally damned to hell, can I realistically expect that any human being on the planet will respond by exclaiming, “Of course! I see at once the errors of my ways, and will repent and convert before sunset, so moved am I by your graciously Christ-like countenance and charity.”
To which the answer appears to be, from some quarters, “who cares, that’s how it is and I show my love for you by telling you”; worked out well, that method across the centuries. Mind you, I am sure our enemies wish it to continue.
In fact, ecumenism on the national and international stage, whilst it can set a good example, cannot succeed without local Christians being part of it; that was why the Council of Florence failed. One of Geoffrey’s profoundest points is one of his simplest, which is that in our society we choose to be Christians, and if we so choose, we often end up choosing, more than once, where we think the Truth is to be found. This can, indeed, make converts impatient with those still where they once were; it is a good idea to cultivate a spirit of humility at such times, and remember where we once were, as well as asking whether our journey to where we are now would have been facilitated by being hectored and insulted.
Jessica placed on the masthead of this blog the Lord’s command that we be one. If this place does nothing else, it creates a space where we can explore what we believe and, on the whole, converse as Christians should – with humility and a prayer for Grace.