February 2009


I am working on my eternal project, a Master’s Thesis on the Porvoo Common Statement (PCS). On re-reading the Statement, I noticed anew the following definition of the Church’s apostolicity:

Apostolic tradition in the Church means continuity in the permanent characteristics of the Church of the apostles: witness to the apostolic faith, proclamation and fresh interpretation of the Gospel, celebration of baptism and the eucharist, the transmission of ministerial responsibilities, communion in prayer, love, joy and suffering, service to the sick and needy, unity among the local churches and sharing the gifts which the Lord has given to each. (para 36)

This is striking stuff. The basic message is this: the church is apostolic inasmuch (or insofar…?) as it does what the apostles were sent to do.

This is quite distinct from the understanding of apostolicity, which sees the Church as recipient of gifts through the apostles to her. In the context of the PCS, this is in partly a result of the necessity to re-interpret the episcopacy in a way that can encompass Anglican and Lutheran views as well as the burden of history, and part of a much broader tendency within the modern ecumenical movement.

It just seems to me to be a tragically narrow and (despite the best of christological intentions) geocentric understanding. To be apostolic is to do stuff, rather than to be something. How tiresome, how laborious.

Is this perhaps another corollary of Vatican II’s re-definition of the eucharistic sacrifice, and the broader re-conception of the Church as the people, rather than the hierarchy? After all, since Vatican II, it’s been explicit that at the Mass, the whole congregation sacrifices the Immaculate Victim, not only through the priest but with him. In a similar way, in PCS, the whole church does apostolic things, not only through the apostles (i.e. the office of the apostles in the Church today) but with them.

It’s also interesting to see that works of mercy and human care are also subsumed under the heading ‘apostolic’. Would be pernickety to quote Acts 6 to argue against this identification?

Someone has come up with a great website for playing atheist games with buses. I particularly enjoyed this one from John H.