A Response to “An Anglican Covenant: the Saint Andrew’s Draft” - Michael Poon

Michael Poon, Singapore

“And [Simon Peter] said unto [Jesus], Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (Gospel Reading from the Form of Ordaining or Consecration of an Archbishop or Bishop, BCP 1662)

The above pledge from a thrice-failed disciple, and his restoration and his re-commissioning from the risen Lord, sets out a vision for an Anglican Covenant for today.   God remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself:   this is the confidence upon which we offer our pledges afresh amid our histories of perceived betrayals and broken vows.  This biblical passage aptly comes from one of the three Gospel readings appointed for the Form of Ordaining or Consecration of an Archbishop or Bishop in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  Such vision underpins the pledges the new bishop is to make – “I will so do/be, by the help of God” – as he takes up his episcopal responsibilities.

A draft that testifies to the good will across the Communion

Saint Andrew’s Draft testifies to the good will from church leaders and theologians across the Communion.  That such a comprehensive draft – with Commentary and Appendix – was agreed upon within the span of a few days of meeting in February 2008 speaks volume of the solidarity among leaders from different contexts and traditions.  They came together to work for the Communion’s common welfare at this time of deep crisis and uncertainty.  Such mutual trust and good will should be applauded.

The draft is “tentative” – the Covenant Design Group underlines – in particular with regard to the “procedural appendix” that has (rightly) been the centre of animated discussion.  The draft is meant “for discussion”, “offered for reflection in the Communion at large, and in particular by the Lambeth Conference” to be convened this summer.

In this spirit I offer the following observations to further the discussion.

A step forward from the Nassau draft?

The Design Group members had before them the feedback from the provinces.  The solid feedback from the Church of England was significant, and has helped to strengthen the theological underpinnings of the Preamble and moderate the role of the Primates in the Nassau draft.   At the same time, Saint Andrew’s Text (SAT) does not merely tidy up ND’s loose ends.  It surprisingly made two important changes.

First, missing from the Introduction is any reference to the historical context that gives rise to the urgent need for this present Covenant. (1)  Secondly, remarkably vanished is also the guarded tone in the Covenant reception processes.(2) In their places, SAT offers the Communion a theology of covenant and an Appendix with a detailed Framework Procedures for the Resolution of Covenant Disagreement. The Design Groups also gives us clear time-line that a draft with “definitive proposals for adoption in the Communion” (I assume with framework procedures included!) will be finalised later this year after the Lambeth Conference.” (3)

Let us ponder over these two changes. The SAT Introduction in eight paragraphs sets out the theological underpinnings for the Covenant.  Paragraphs 1 to 3 begin with the Trinitarian and ecclesial foundations of the covenant. It helpfully refers to the baptismal covenant in Paragraph 2 to which I shall return: “Into this covenant of death to sin and of new life in Christ we are baptized, and empowered to share God’s communion in Christ with all people, to the very ends of the earth and of creation.”

From Paragraph 4 to 8 the Design Group gives the theological rationale for the present act of covenanting in the Anglican Communion. First,  the drafters recognise the providential emergence of the Anglican Communion among the families of churches (para. 4). Then in the same breath, it goes on to say:

Recognizing the wonder, beauty and challenge of maintaining communion in this family of churches, and the need for mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation, we covenant together as churches of this Anglican Communion to be faithful to God’s promises through the historic faith we confess, the way we live together and the focus of our mission.

Well, all this can be said of any other church in all ages and all places. But why is it so urgent for the Communion now? The drafters do not make clear.

In the same way, the hesitations in ND over the time-line for adoption and reception processes are replaced with a rather (please forgive me if I am wrong here) buoyant mood marked with an elaborate procedure in conflict resolution. My hesitation here is not on whether Canterbury should be accorded any enhanced role and power. I am more concerned with the grounds upon which any person or instrument can understand, discern, and make practical judgments on matters of faith and order. In particular, on what grounds can X/Y/Z claim any action threaten the unity of the Communion (Appendix 2.1)? And on what basis can the Anglican Consultative Council pass a judgment that a “rejection of the request is compatible with the Covenant” (Appendix 8)? Good will on its own would not do. There must be some prior understanding of what are essential and what are matters of indifference.

What does the Anglican Church stand for?

This last observation touches the root problem behind the surface issues (important though they are) that the Communion faces today. The Communion as we experience it today (as a family of thirty-eight autonomous provinces spread across the world) is of recent origin – sixty years at most in its present form. The Anglican Communion is never meant to be. It came about in haphazard ways. This realisation should sober us up, and overwhelm us with an immense sense of gratitude and responsibility. The story of how the Church of England transformed from the sixteenth century to the present Anglican Communion can be told by abler historians. Two points are important. First,  ecclesiastically, the Communion has moved from the days of an Anglo-American-centered church to a family of autonomous churches around the globe. The Communion has come a long way from the Lambeth 1948/1958 discussion on the status of Florence Li’s ordination and on the Church of South India, through the 1963 Anglican Congress on “Mutual Responsibility and Independence” to 1984 ACC-6’s  “Bonds of Affection”. Partnership between provinces have also come a long way since the Partners-in- Mission processes through the rise of the South-South Encounters to the present Global South Anglican movement.

This checkered transformation does not merely testify to a power-shift from north to south. The Communion is also re-orienting itself to an unprecedented missiological context. Hitherto, the Church of England – as the established church safeguarded by the successive Acts of Uniformity –  undertook its mission in the context of “one king, one society, and one church.”  The Anglican Communion, however, is a family of churches that confesses her Lord before all kings and all societies, in a world that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith and community. How the Communion as a tangible family of churches scattered worldwide can remain together (and not break up into like-minded fraternities) and work coherently for Christ’s mission is nothing short of divine grace.  This is the charism of, and challenge before, the Communion today.

And yet, the Communion for the past sixty years have not given due attention to this.  The devolution of power from the British and American churches to the local Anglicans has absorbed most of the energy of the Communion. There was not a concurrent concern for catechetical responsibilities. The Communion has not given enough attention to how the faith is transmitted, how worship is conducted,  and what is taught from the pulpit. The Global South Anglican Theological Formation and Education Task Force has raised such concerns in its recently released Interim Report Anglican Catechism in Outline.

The present crisis reveals such neglect. At present the Communion exposes itself to increasing onslaughts of doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversies. And this would not end even with the Covenant in place. More importantly, the Communion is not structurally equipped to face the missiological challenges of the wider world. A church that remains childish in its faith-understanding cannot stand up to the challenges today, and for sure cannot engender a new successor generation of mature Anglicans. To be sure,  Section One (“Our Inheritance of Faith”) of SAT may point to the formal doctrinal positions of the churches. But there is a huge jump between 1.1 (on the affirmation) and 1.2 (in living out this inheritance in varying contexts). The drafters pass over any consideration on any concrete embodiment of the faith. So churches everywhere (at provincial,  diocesan, parish and congregational levels) are left without guidance in how the affirmations should be interpreted and worked out in practice.

The affirmation that we have a “shared pattern of common prayer and liturgy form” (1.1.5) must be expressed in concrete forms, i.e., in the traditions of Prayer Books, catechisms, and standards for Christian initiation and ministerial formation.  The word “common” used in the Book of Common Prayer refers to a common and “godly” order that was enforced by the Acts of Uniformity. The word “common” referred to above in the SAT draft perhaps means “neither individual nor private.” Between these two meanings lie two different social contexts and ecclesial visions! SAT may perhaps be strengthened by a clear resolve from churches to adopt an agreed framework in prayer book revisions (with clear rubrics on matters of faith and order) and in catechisms used across the Communion. After all, what provoked the present crises are intimately connected with  our understanding of faith and morals expressed through public rites (whether in blessing of marriage and the consecration of bishops).

As it stands at present, provinces and dioceses may take different approaches to prayer book revisions, ministerial formation, and processes of Christian initiation.  Anglicans who live as tiny minorities in socio-politically isolated places are especially at risk. We may fast approaching the day when we do not find in our churches “shared patterns of common prayer and liturgy form to sustain and nourish our worship of God and our faith and life together” (SAT 1.1.5).

In short, my concern here is not simply on whether the Covenant provides enough safeguards against fratricidal wars in the future. It is even more serious: does the Anglican Communion has an intentional structure that allows congregations to become theological mature and equipped? In what practical ways the Communion is fostering a culture that promotes theological learning and Biblical literacy among the faithful?

A practical way forward?

It is clear then that SAT –  the act of covenanting – is intelligible only within a wider ecclesial reality, communities of faith that submissive to a godly order  SAT cannot stand on its own.  Neither should it focus its attention towards solving the present crisis. It should seize the opportunity the present crisis provides to provide a proactive structure towards the maturing of the Anglican Communion.

Helpfully, the discussions at Lambeth will be strengthened by reflections from the Theological Education in the Anglican Communion as well. Discussions on the Anglican   Way and on theological education in the Communion breathe concrete meaning to the Anglican Covenant. Perhaps it would also be helpful if some attention is given to the formulating of a catechetical framework, as proposed by the Global South Anglican Primates.

Put in another way, Lambeth perhaps should focus its discussion on the essentials in faith and order, that is, St Andrew’s Text itself. I am unclear whether the proposed Appendix on Framework Procedures should be tabled at all for discussion in the foreseeable future. If the bishops at Lambeth are able to agree to a framework of faith, and come to a common mind in giving this concrete embodiment at the parish levels (i.e. in having agreed standards in catechisms, prayer book, and theological education),  dioceses across the Communion will draw from it direct spiritual benefit and be strengthened.  We all would have come a long way.

To conclude, I refer to the baptismal vows mentioned earlier. Between theological statements and ecclesiastical polities stands the covenant:  the gracious and creative “yes’ of God and the responsive “Amen, be it done to me according to your will” of human hearts. For all Anglicans, and for some of us who are called to the holy orders, our baptism and ordination takes on a special meaning. Those decisions and vows structure our lives to pursue our discipleship in concrete ways: to live as Anglicans and to live as Christians are the two sides of the same act of discipleship. In this spirit, bishops are called to take up the Cross, in Canterbury’s words, to come to Lambeth.  The decision to come to Lambeth cannot be degraded to a political gesture of whether one is pro- or anti-Archbishop Rowan Williams. He is a frail human, just as we all are, yet under the grace and election of God.

The Anglican Covenant would become more intelligible if it connects itself (especially in the Preamble and the Declaration) to the moments of baptism and ordination that are imbued with personal meaning. Such would save it from a perhaps impersonal and legalistic reading of the Appendix.

Come, Creator Spirit, come, our souls inspire . . .

Footnotes:

1. “While a definitive text which held all such elements in balance might take time to develop in the life of the Communion, there was also an urgent need to re-establish trust between the churches of the Communion.  . . . At the same time, there needed to be a commitment now to the fundamental shape of the covenant in order to address the concerns of those who feared that the very credibility of the commitment of the Anglican Churches to one another and to the Gospel itself was in doubt.  (italics mine) “(ND, Preamble).

2. Bearing this in mind, the CDG recommends a dual track approach.  The definitive text of any proposed Covenant which could command the long term confidence of the Communion would need extensive consultation and refining. (italics mine)” (ND, Preamble) 3. See the Statement from the Covenant Design Group on the Saint Andrew’s draft.

6 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Steven Berry Says:

    I have tried to find something good in this covenant, I really have. But, I am afraid that the only unity this “Covenant” can produce is an external facade where a bunch of guys (and a few gals) in colored robes and pointy hats gather together from time to time, smile, and pat each other on the back.

    This document insures by its shear vagueness and voluntary nature, that there can be no unity of Spirit based on the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, or common doctrine. It provides no common agenda or vision and thus there can be no common prayer. It provides no accountability between provinces or primates, but provides a listening process that can neither correct nor reconcile. Each national church is free to believe, practice, and promulgate whatever it wants as long as it desires to be in Communion as a constituent member of the Anglican Church. This document provides no means to discipline or remove unrepentant provinces, primates, or prelates that have gone off into the most aberrant theological errors or lifestyles condemned by God. But worst of all, it does not ensure pastoral care for those faithful to historic Anglican teaching and practice who are trapped in provinces run by blithering idiots, cranks, sexual deviants, or heretics.

    God forbid that Anglicanism would actually believe anything in common or that it would require anyone to conform to Biblical standards of behavior. How dare we actually be the Church when simply playing Church will do.

    Praise God for AB Peter Akinola,  AB Henry Orombi, AB Greg Venables, AB Peter Jensen and other men of God who stand for truth and integrity against the milk toast, politically correct, types who have either lost their backbone or never had one in the first place. Wake up, the alarm bells are sounding, the Anglican Church is at the crossroads. It will either begin to stand for something, or it will continue to disintegrate as it falls for everything.

    Choose you this day who you will serve.

    In tears,

    Steve

  2. Steven Berry Says:

    According to (3.2.3) each church promises to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God.  Such prayer, study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as it seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation.  Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith:  all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.

    OK, let’s see just how this will work.

    Province 1: We believe that homosexual practice is good and wholesome, and since, in the TEC, we pride ourselves on being culturally and politically relevant and our General Conference having determined by vote that we have received new revelation from God which frees us to ignore traditional Scriptural understandings of morality, as they are out dated and irrelevant to an enlightened society, we will end the ill-conceived prejudiced and unjust views prevalent against the open practice of homosexuality and therefore we will immediately begin to officially bless same sex couples and allow active practicing homosexuals to all levels of leadership and ministry including the episcopate.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.3) of the Covenant. You promised “to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God.  Such prayer, study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as it seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.3) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, since (3.1.2)  states that each Church, is episcopally led and synodically governed, orders and regulates its own affairs and its local responsibility for mission through its own system of government and law and is therefore described as autonomous-in-communion. Churches of the Anglican Communion are not bound together by a central legislative, executive or judicial authority; and since (3.2.5d) states the Instruments of Communion have no legislative, executive or judicial authority in our Provinces and (3.2.5.e) states that any request made of us is not to be binding on a Church unless recognized as such by that Church, and we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.4) of the Covenant. You promised “to seek with other Churches, through the Communion’s shared councils, a common mind about matters understood to be of essential concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our churches.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.4) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.5) of the Covenant. You promised “to act with diligence, care and caution in respect to actions, either proposed or enacted, at a provincial or local level, which, in its own view or the expressed view of any Province or in the view of any one of the Instruments of Communion, are deemed to threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.5) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.5a) of the Covenant you promised “to undertake wide consultation with the other churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.5a) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.5b) of the Covenant you promised “to accept the legitimacy of processes for communion-wide evaluation which any of the Instruments of Communion may commission, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.5b) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.5c) of the Covenant you promised “to be ready to participate in mediated conversation between parties, which may be in conflict, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant.”

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.5c) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.5d) of the Covenant you promised “to be willing to receive from the Instruments of Communion a request to adopt a particular course of action in respect of the matter under dispute.” 

    Province 1: We followed (3.2.5d) to the letter, but you simply refuse to agree with us. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Provinces 2-33: What? You can’t do that! It will break the bonds of the Communion.

    Province 1: Why?

    Provinces 2-33: Because of (3.2.6) of the Covenant. You promised “to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to seek the highest possible degree of communion.”

    Province 1: We agree that while you still refuse to be enlightened, we still believe there exists a “high degree” of communion. But, As we have already pointed out sections (3.1.2), (3.2.5d), and (3.2.5.e) we don’t recognize your authority over our autonomy, we will continue to follow what we feel God is leading us to do. We are and will forever desire to be in Communion with the Anglican Church.

    Yeah… this will work,

    Steve

  3. Viktor Says:

    In the end, it all boils down to one’s expression of faith. Baptism and others are a clear cut way of one’s effort to be brought closer to our God. This should be the initiative of all churchgoers.

  4. Steven Berry Says:

    THE TRUE CHURCH
    By Bishop J. C. Ryle
    (1816-1900) Liverpool, England

    I want you to belong to the one true Church: to the Church outside of which there is no salvation.

    1. The one true Church IS COMPOSED OF ALL BELIEVERS IN THE LORD JESUS. It is made up of all God’s elect — of all converted men and women — of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ’s true Church.

    2. It is a Church OF WHICH ALL THE MEMBERS HAVE THE SAME MARKS. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. ... They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book — that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great center — that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, “Hallelujah;” and they can all respond with one heart and voice, Amen and Amen.

    3. It is a Church WHICH IS DEPENDENT UPON NO MINISTERS UPON EARTH, however much it values those who preach the gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon Church-membership, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper — although they highly value these things when they are to be had. But it has only one Great Head — one Shepherd, one chief Bishop — and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, By His Spirit, admits the members of this Church, though ministers may show the door. Till He opens the door no man on earth can open it — neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism — the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper;but he eats Christ’s body and drinks Christ’s blood by faith every day he lives, and no minister on earth can prevent him. He may be ex-communicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church. It is a Church whose existence does not depend on forms, ceremonies, cathedrals, churches, chapels, pulpits, fonts, vestments, organs, endowments, money, kings, governments, magistrates or any act of favor whatsoever from the hand of man. It has often lived on and continued when all these things have been taken from it. It has often been driven into the wilderness, or into dens and caves of the earth, by those who ought to have been its friends. Its existence depends on nothing but the presence of Christ and His Spirit; and they being ever with it, the Church cannot die.

    4. This is the Church TO WHICH THE SCRIPTURAL TITLES OF PRESENT HONOR AND PRIVILEGE, AND THE PROMISES OF FUTURE GLORY ESPECIALLY BELONG; this is the Body of Christ; this is the flock of Christ; this is the household of faith and the family of God; this is God’s building, God’s foundation, and the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the habitation of God, the light of the world, the salt and the wheat of the earth; this is the “Holy Catholic Church” of the Apostles’ Creed; this is the “One Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed; this is that Church to which the Lord Jesus promises “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” and to which He says, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”(Matt.16:18; 28:2).

    5. This is the only Church WHICH POSSESSES TRUE UNITY. Its members are entirely agreed on all the weightier matters of religion, for they are all taught by one Spirit. About God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and sin, and their own hearts, and faith, and repentance, and necessity of holiness, and the value of the Bible, and the importance of prayer, and the resurrection, and judgment to come — about all these points they are of one mind. Take three or four of them, strangers to one another, from the remotest corners of the earth; examine them separately on these points: you will find them all one judgment.

    6. This is the only Church WHICH POSSESSES TRUE SANCTITY. Its members are all holy. They are not merely holy by profession, holy in name, and holy in the judgment of charity; they are all holy in act, and deed, and reality, and life, and truth. They are all more or less conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. No unholy man belongs to this Church.

    7. This is the only Church WHICH IS TRULY CATHOLIC. It is not the Church of any one nation or people; its members are to be found in every part of the world where the gospel is received and believed. It is not confined within the limits of any one country, or pent up within the pale of any particular forms of outward government. In it there is no difference between Jew and Greek, black man and white ... but faith in Christ is all. Its members will be gathered from north, and south, and east, and west, and will be of every name and tongue — but all one in Jesus Christ.

    8. This is the only Church WHICH IS TRULY APOSTOLIC. It is built on the foundation laid by the Apostles, and holds the doctrines which they preached. The two grand objects at which its members aim are apostolic faith and apostolic practice; and they consider the man who talks of following the Apostles without possessing these two things to be no better than sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

    9. This is the only Church WHICH IS CERTAIN TO ENDURE UNTO THE END. Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, burned; but the true Chruch is never altogether extinguished; it rises again from its afflictions; it lives on through fire and water. When crushed in one land it springs up in another. The Pharaohs, the Herods, the Neros, the Bloody Marys, have labored in vain to put down this Church; they slay their thousands, and then pass away and go to their own place. The true Church outlives them all, and sees them buried each in his turn. It is an anvil that has broken many a hammer in this world, and will break many a hammer still; it is a bush which is often burning, and yet it’s not consumed.

    10. This is the only Church OF WHICH NO ONE MEMBER CAN PERISH. Once enrolled in the lists of this Church, sinners are safe for eternity; they are never cast away. The election of God the Father, the continual intercession of God the Son, the daily renewing and sanctifying power of God the Holy Ghost, surround and fence them in like a garden enclosed. Not one bone of Christ’s mystical Body shall ever be broken; not one lamb of Christ’s flock shall ever be plucked out of His hand.

    11. This is the Church WHICH DOES THE WORK OF CHRIST UPON EARTH. Its members are a little flock, and few in numbers, compared with the children of the world; one or two here, and two or three there — a few in this place and few in that. But these are they who shake the universe; these are they who change the fortunes of kingdoms by their prayers; these are they who are the active workers for spreading the knowledge of pure religion and undefiled; these are the life-blood of a country, the shield, the defence, the stay, and the support of any nation to which they belong.

    12. This is the Church WHICH SHALL BE TRULY GLORIOUS AT THE END. When all earthly glory is passsed away then shall this Church be presented without spot before God the Father’s throne. Thrones, principalities, and powers upon earth shall come to nothing; dignities, and offices, and endowments shall all pass away; but the Church of the first-born shall shine as the stars at the last, and be presented with joy before the Father’s throne, in the day of Christ’s appearing. When the Lord’s jewels are made up, and manifestation of the sons of God takes place, Episcopacy, and Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism will not be mentioned; one Church only will be named, and that is the Church of the elect.

    13. Reader, THIS IS THE TRUE CHURCH TO WHICH A MAN MUST BELONG, IF HE WOULD BE SAVED. Till you belong to this, you are nothing better than a lost soul. You may have the form, the husk, the skin, and the shell of religion, but you have not got the substance and the life. Yes, you may have countless outward privileges; you may enjoy great light, and knowledge — but if you do not belong to the Body of Christ, your light and knowledge and privileges will not save your soul.

    J.C. Ryle

  5. Bishop Ijaz Inayat Says:

    Thank you Bishop J. C. Ryle, Amen.

    You have made a very clear and true representation of my understanding of true Church.

    God bless you.

  6. Bishop Ijaz Inayat Says:

    Thank you Dr,  Steven Berry for digging this valuable doccument. I am in debt to you.

    God bless you.