How autocratic should a minister of religion be?

Discussion in 'Questions?' started by Tiffy, Aug 27, 2019.

  1. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    "Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many". Mk.10:42-45.

    Clearly there is a contrast being made here between the way unbelievers exercise authority and the way that Christ wants authority exercised in His Church.

    Firstly, Jesus Christ's example of leadership is epitomised in the innocence and trust of a child. First a church leader must "enter the Kingdom", and can only do so by receiving it "as a child".

    "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein". Mk.10:15.

    Secondly, once a leadership role is ordained by Christ, upon a 'Kingdom individual', they must exercise humility as does a 'servant'.


    “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


    Servanthood was epitomised by Christ by the humility displayed by women and children i.e. those of low estate.

    Matt.20:27, Matt.23:11,

    "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour". Jn.12:26.

    It is clear that the words any man, cannot mean exclusively only men can serve as Christ would direct. We are all to behave as servant to one another. This directive obviously applies to both men and women, just as the following text also includes both genders.

    "I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me". Jn.15:15-21.

    It matters not if a person is male, female or something in between, if they are persecuted for Jesus Christ's Names sake, then "they that know not him that sent [Him]" are the ones doing the persecuting and therefore the ones persecuting Christ in his servants.

    Within 400 years of the death of Christ, the church began weilding both spiritual and secular power, with powerful prelates and the episcopate even calling themselves 'Princes' and weilding magesterial authority in exactly the way Christ had forbidden in His 'Kingdom Principled' Church. Not until the Reformation did this state of affairs become questionable and even after the reformation power was exercised in the normal 'Gentile' fashion, exclusively by men and as overseers with force of law, rather than servants willing to suffer for the flock.

    We are now in the 21st century. We know what is written in the scripture, We know Christ's mind on the principles of leadership.

    So how autocratic should ministers of religion be, and in what ways, during your membership of Christ's Church, have you experienced autocratic behavious from clergy and other 'servants' of Christ? Matt.24:48-51.
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  2. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    If you mean how should any Christian in any leadership position act, Christ's gospel is clear here.

    If by "autocracy" you mean a hierarchy of church offices (bishop, priest, deacon) then you are incorrect. First of all, the term "prince of the church" is not dated to the 400s. The cardinal college starts in the 700s and the term prince of the Church arose from those who were in the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire.

    Secondly, a hierarchy of church offices predates this. The Scriptures show Christ over the Apostles, the Apostles over the overseers, elders and deacons. The apostles clearly set up overseers to replace them (ex. Matthias to replace Judas) and set up overseers over the elders and deacons. As early as the late first century/early second century (which for reference is around the time the Apostle John passed in c.a 98 AD), Ignatius (a disciple of the Apostle John) wrote the following:

    Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest

    — Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1

    Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic (katholikos or καθολικός or universal) Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.

    — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8,
     
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  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    By 'Autocratic' I was rather thinking of the dictionary definition: A person who rules by his or her own power; an absolute sovereign; a dictatorial person. [Gk. autokrates , from autos - self and kratos - power.]

    'Autocratic' power seems to me to be diametrically opposed to the kind of management that Christ envisioned for His Church.

    I am aware that 'Prince of the Church' is a much later innovation, but the Church changed character significantly after Constantine post 400 AD and went from bad to worse on the subject of leadership, (compared to Christ's command, except for a few enlightened, saintly examples, sprinkled liberally through history, usually persecuted by 'autocratic church authority', in their own time).
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    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
  4. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    Once again, the Church did not change it's character significantly. "Monarchical" bishops date back to the late first century, he did not direct Church doctrine. Additionally Christianity was made a state religion by Theodosius in 392 not Constantine. The "Constantinian shift" is a non-trinitarian and Anabaptist myth who seek to recreate the early Church into a creature of their own image.
     
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  5. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Mark 10.42-52
    So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’​

    Ignatius, very early 2nd century, was clear about the value of the Episcopate to the Church, and their authority was found in service, and a particular charism of their service was order. The Apostolic Church met in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to resolve the issue threatening Church Unity at the time, and James spoke for the Church, based on the authority he found in the Church in Council.

    John 12:49-50
    for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.’​

    Whilst it is clear that Jesus taught with authority, we also find that Jesus finds his authority in the Father, and does not go about demanding his authority be recognised. The compelling moment between Jesus and Pilate discussing authority is very telling.

    To be autocratic is to find your authority within yourself, which carries with it the danger of a self-referencing authentication. One of the marks of this style of authority is found in the idea of being in charge, rather than being in a position of leadership. And yes, you can hear that in the Church as well as in the world, and I am not sure that it helps us. Jesus sent the Apostles out - and indeed in the Nicene Creed we affirm that we are an Apostolic Church from the greek apostolos (sent out) - yet we enthrone Bishops and Install Clergy.

    The Challenge isn't Bishops having authority, clearly they do, and for us to function they need to exercise it. The issue is about where they find the source of the authority they exercise.

    Constantine changed the course of world affairs and that included the life of the Church. Through his reign the Church found a reprieve from relentless persecution, and Constantine found a faith that like the Empire was not tied to geography. He endowed some great buildings including Hagia Irene, Holy Apostles, St Peter's in Rome, and Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. His reign marks the beginning of the Conciliar period of the Church, and a new intensity in scholarship and much for which we may be thankful. It should be noted that he was not the first political leader to be Christian, that goes to Armenia which has been a Christian Country longer than any other. Under Constantine the church found social respectability, and whilst to some extent we may be losing that in our own age, we should remember that faithfulness and service trump respectability every time. (it is actually quite hard to say that as an Anglican given my great preference for decency and order).
     
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  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    What is a "Constantinian shift"? (Sounds like an ancient sexy garment :hmm:), I know only what church History has revealed concerning the way the Christian Church was profoundly changed in nature and practice during and after Contantine's reign. Before, largely persecuted, after largely doing the persecuting. That is pretty well indisputable. What the Baptists might make of it, I don't know and don't much care. They are not right about everything, particularly Infant Baptism.
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  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    Yes, and Theodosius also made draconian laws against heretics, which within 100 years became legal basis for closing down all pagan lecture halls and giving the pagan population three months in which to get baptised, or else. He also ordered the massacre of thousands of rioters against tax increases, increased the taxes on pagans and turned a blind eye to Christian anti-pagan riots and pogroms.

    Welcome to the modern church 392 style.
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  8. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    That is not wholly fair on Constantine, and really refers top things that happened some time after Constantine was dead. There is a sense that had the Diocletian persecution continued unabated the Church may have been extinguished, however due to the actions of Constantine, including the Edict of Milan the Church prospered. Some fifty years after his death we find places where the Church appears to wield an unchristian to others. So whilst the before and after comments, are ostensibly correct, they should not be taken to imply causality.

    Constantine was a flawed leader in many ways, and his approach to the Church whilst very favourable, may well have been induced by a number factors, and ultimately he came to a position of faith for himself. Had he done that earlier he may have been kinder to his brothers in law, his child and his wife, yet all of that must be conjecture.

    Whilst Constantine called the First Council of Nicaea he was not invested in the running of the Church per se, but rather knew that peace in the Church helped peace in the Republic. Late in his life he did lean on the Patriarch of Alexandria to accept Arius back into Church which would have happened had not Arius died. If the character of the Church changed in this period, then it would be simply trying to avoid responsibility for the us to blame Constantine for that.
     
  9. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    I would like to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not placing the blame on Constantine, for the visible church behaving in ways abhorrent to Christ's commands. It has always, since its inception done so.

    Acts 5:1-11, 1 Cor.4:14-21, 1 Cor.5:1-8. (I imagine that Paul would have had a lot to say also about pedaphile priests had they been skulking in the church at Corinth in his day).

    Nevertheless, although Constantine was not personally responsible for the sins of The Church, he did enable the melding of the church with the secular world and start the process of the church weilding temporal and civil power which it had, previously to his reign, neither had, nor desired. The priestly vestments of the church of today have their origin in the era of Constantine since they model the garb of Roman Magistrates, many of whom, though pagan, entered the church under Constantines jurisdiction. This was the era also when church buildings began to be modelled upon secular Roman Courts of Law and became instruments of human as well as spiritual 'laws'.

    These changes were a vast improvement on the previous ages of intermittent severe persecution that the church had suffered from the Roman State, but it was a compromise which was spiritually very costly to the church and history records the gradual but inevitable slide toward some of its darkest, most mismanaged and ignorant eras.
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  10. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    The tendency to invest church leaders with the commonly desirable attributes of male secular leadership, is a very 'worldly' mindset which is common to many who are not yet mature in the Spirit. The visible church is a complex organism and requires leadership which is both astute and shrewd but also insightful and compassionate. The spiritually mature of the invisible church, require no leadership other than the Holy Spirit. The attribute of austerity has little room for compassion but is admired in secular leaders. The church has sometimes been beguiled into thinking that austere, autocratic leadership is more effective than 'humble servanthood'. This was the danger that Christ was trying to spare the church when he spoke against modeling church leadership styles upon the secular Gentile world. It is not the fact of the church having and electing leaders that is the problem. Bishops, Priests and Deacons are merely words by which we delineate the church's 'ministers' and Christ has no objection to the words we use to diferentiate the church's leadership roles. What Christ warns against is the way those leadership roles are either undertaken or imposed upon the church.

    And the way in which that authority is either compassionately undertaken or regally imposed.
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  11. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    The Constantinian shift is what you're describing and what I bolded.

    Beyond a legalization and widespread social acceptance, there is no change in the nature and practice of the Church due to Constantine's reign and certainly not in church offices. List me a single doctrine Constantine changed.

    It is quite amazing to see you claim it's Constantine who started the persecution of non-Christians and then switch to Theodosius without ever confronting your original mistake/falsehood. How can Constantine be responsible for Theodosius' policy 60 years later when Constantine was long dead?

    More myth making. Once again, Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion. This occurred 60 years after his death. While Constantine did not use government funds to patron pagan temples, Peter Brown in his Rise of Christendom explains how Constantine did not pressure pagans or execute them. Sacrifices remained tolerated in the empire. A.H. Drake points out that the emperor's Edict of Milan was replaced by the Edict of Provincials, protecting the freedom of worship in general: "Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which his soil wishes…"

    While individual temples or priests were executed (the Temple of Aphrodite in Lebanon or in Egypt) they were not targeted for being pagan but for disobeying Roman moral law codes, codes that were enforced in Roman pagan times.

    Additionally, Constantine does not start a close relationship between Christians and their respective states. Outside the Roman Empire in Kingdom of Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Armenia, Christianity was made the official state religion before Rome.

    Lastly, what vestments are we discussing? There are a number and the earliest (pallium, cassock) predate Constantine as normal Eastern Roman dress for males in general or postdate by centuries (ex. the mitre).
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
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  12. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I am less than convinced of this. Constantine made a decision to get out of Rome, which he saw as a hotbed of intrigue and political rivalry. The new Capital he created on the site of the old town of Byzantium was called initially Nova Romanun, and within a short breath referred to as Constantinople, until the fall whence it became Istanbul.

    The relationship between Constantine and Sylvester (Pope for pretty much all of Constantine's reign) is less than clear in the records. It would seem unlikely that they did not know each other at some level, and Constantine did fud the building of St Peter's Basilica on the site of Nero's Circus.

    It would seem that the shift to the new capital left a power vacuum in Rome, and it seems that from here there was a rise in the importance of the Bishop of Rome, perhaps simply filling the vacuum.

    Following the approach from Ossius of Cordoba (Spain), Constantine was instrumental in Calling the Council of Nicaea. He was not it seems invested in the result, save that the Church might get it's house in order for the peace of the Empire. Following the council he does seem to have trusted Eusebius of Caesarea (historian, and supporter of Arius prior to the council), and Eusebius ultimately was to baptise him (though he had wanted to be baptised in the river Jordan his failing health prevented that). The only real evidence of him applying pressure on the Church was his leaning on the Patriarch of Alexandria to restore Arius - ten years after the Council and perhaps Eusebius encouraged that, who knows. The Church did well under Constantine, and perhaps people that being a Christian was less of a commitment than it had been in former times, and he certainly bucketed some cash into the building of churches.

    The Bishop of Byzantium (without changing sees) became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 451 - Constantine died in 337 - so the changes we speak of are really post Constantine.

    Constantine's personal insignia was a form of the chi rho ostensibly connected to the story of the vision before the battle of Milvian Bridge, where he defeated his brother in law and became Caesar-Augustus in the West. Maxentius had drowned crossing the river, and so Constantine had him dragged out of the river, decapitated, mounted on a house and paraded through Rome the next day. Interesting Constantine's Arch, the great memorial to the event does not have the chi rho, or any other christian symbolism, it was of the old order of things, and Constantine at this time filled the role of Pontifex Maximus (the great bridge builder) which role he filled in the old religion of Rome.

    The reign of Constantine is remarkably important in the history of the world, the end of the Tetrarchy, the end of the major persecutions of christians, and following the Edict of Milan, a new freedom to hold the faith in the context of religious pluralism. Whilst the Church may not have handled that freedom especially well, it is difficult to advocate that we would have been better under another Diocles.
     
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  13. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    The collapse of the existing political order in the West and Old Testament Scriptures does more to weld Christianity into the political order than Constantine ever could. Outside of Rome, the kingdoms of Armenia and Ethiopia Christianized long before Theodosius. In many places in the West the Church was a sole institution that survived the barbarian invasion and the only one who could start tempering their violent impulses.
     
  14. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    I must reiterate then, I'm not holding Constantine responsible in any way for the direction the church took during and after his reign. He was basically uninterested in what the church stood for apart from the fact that he required it to be agreed on its doctrine. The reason he wanted that was nothing to do with seeking spiritual truth and everything to do with unifying his Empire and enhancing his ability to govern it securely. Thus the reason for the bucket loads of cash that he diverted into church building. Not out of piety, but out of cynical political pragmatism which may have mellowed by the end of his reign towards a genuine fear of eternal judgment. Hence the last minute 'death bed' conversion.

    The church , formerly a covert, reactionary movement, socially and politically subversive, seeking an 'alternative Kingdom where the Roman Emperor would be subservient and obedient to Christ', began to become 'Christendom' a kingdom on earth ruled by the Emperor as Christ's 'stand in' until Christ himself deigned to 'return'.

    The 'little flock' that the gates of hell could not stand against, had begun its spiritual decline into the Holy Roman Empire which eventually would emulate the gates of hell itself, in terms of political muscle, greedy ambition, lust for wealth and power with an insatiable appetite for dominion.

    We sometimes imagine that the Reformation was just some little disagreement over Biblical interpretation for the specialist interest of some learned clerics. It was actually a battle for the very life of The Church Invisible, fought over the bloodstained and corpse littered battleground of the Church Visible and Secular. In its own way it was "A winnowing of the Angels" and a parting of the waves. Truly a case of "Smiting and Healing". Isa.19:22. 1 Pet.4:15-17.
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    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  15. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Not convinced about this. I think Constantine was very aware of what was taken from Christians during the Diocletian persecutions, so hence things like the 50 copies of the entire Bible, a massive undertaking.

    I don;t know that I can buy that either. I think Constantine conversion was a slow process. I am conscious that his Mother was a Christian, and I think following the death of his wife Fausta who predeceased him in 326, and perhaps more significantly the death of Chrispus, his first born son by another Mother, though he probably ordered both their deaths, I think Constantine saw more in the Christian Faith than he had before. His late in time baptism was not uncommon in the day, given the concerns about post-baptismal sin that concerned many.

    There seem two schools of thought on Constantine, one which pains him as a christian hero, and one which paints him as a shrewd politician. The truth is that he was probably neither and both.

    I think that much of the Church you describe is the Church of Augustine.
     
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  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    We still seem stuck on blaming or absolving Contantine, rather than seeing his reign as merely a 'turning point' in the character of The visible Church. Before, at best tolerated by the state. After, employed, incorporated and eventually, virtually becoming the state.

    Blaming or absolving Constantine is missing the point. An examination of history establishes the fact that a change took place in the way the church could influence the state. It could be argued that Constantine lived at a key point in time during this discernable process. The question then is not whether a change took place but whether that change was detrimental or enhancing to the church's divine commission on earth.

    It would be difficult to argue that things in the Roman world and the world beyond it, actually got worse, they didn't. They just got different until the 'different' became as bad almost as what it had replaced before it got 'different'. The point though is how the church changed, not how the Roman world and the world beyond it changed, and the fact that the church is different now than it was on the Day of Pentecost at its nascent appearance, is irrefutably true.

    Is the church less or more effective at serving Christ's purposes after those changes though? In my opinion the Reformation was necessary and influencial in reviving Christ's initiative to 'save' the world rather than 'judge it'. John 12:47.
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    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
  17. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Both
     
  18. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    So change in the church is still necessary then?

    I say yes. Just as change is necessary in any individual both before and after regeneration.
     
  19. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    Constantine was, for the most of his entire life, uninterested in Christian Doctrine. His only concern was to ensure that the church was unified in what it considered to be Christian Doctrine. His concern was that his empire should have a commonality between all those who claimed to be Christian, because he intended to use that unity to unify and thus resurrect his Empire and establish his own position securely. His wife may have been a Christian but he made no declaration of Christian faith until the last minute, presumably hedging his bets and keeping his options open, especially when it came to disposing of people who he considered inconvenient to his purposes.

    So Constantine did not change doctrine himself. He just insisted that the whole Church within his Empire sang from the same doctrinal hymnsheet and did not present him with problems of dissention and disunity. Thus heresy hunting became fashionable in the church and had the approval of the state as long as it did not disturb the peace.

    The common dress of 2nd century Roman Province of Dalmatia is the origin of the liturgical dalmatic and tunicle. Another over-dress of the Romans was the paenula, a cloak akin to the current Spanish poncho, a large piece of material with a hole for the head to go through, hanging in ample folds round the body. This was originally worn only by slaves, soldiers and other people of low degree; in the 3rd century, however, it was adopted by fashionable people as a convenient riding or travelling cloak and finally, by the sumptuary law of 382 it was prescribed as the proper everyday dress of senators, instead of the military chlamys, the toga being reserved for state occasions. This was the origin of the principal liturgical vestment, the chasuble.
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    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
  20. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Change is of course the affirmation of life. Matthew Parker and others saw it in recapturing the classic integrity of the primitive church. Numbers of modernists seem to find it in relative relativism, which ends up like the sea, always on the move never getting anywhere and having nowhere to go.

    I think Sydney Carter said it when he penned

    All that was true at first is true at last, but there is no way back into the past but through the future. There, if anywhere, the miracle must happen.
     

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