21st November 2018
(I am currently struggling to read books. I tell myself every day that I should read on my lunch breaks at work etc, but my mind races from one thought to another and I mainly fail at opening a book and discovering what is contained within.
Today, I have decided to chain myself to my desk for much of my lunch breaks and copy from whatever book I have to hand.
It forces me to read, write and concentrate at the same time, in the hope that over time it may replace some bad habits with some good ones, and generally help me become a better reader and writer.)
The Kingship of Christ
THE STORY OF
THE WORLD COUNCIL OF
BY G.K.A BELL
Bishop of Chichester
THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
The purpose of this book is to give an account of a remarkable movement towards Christian unity which has grown rapidly during the past forty years; and, in particular, to tell the story of how the World Council of Churches (on which all the principal Christian Communions except the Roman Catholic are represented) came into being, and its far-reaching work today.
A book of this size can only tell a portion of the story, and there is much more that one would like to describe. But I have tried to give a truthful picture of the whole. I have been greatly helped in writing it by many friends. I owe a special debt to Dr W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, who has read each chapter in manuscript, and has both saved me from mistakes and given me stimulus of his counsel. I have, with his permission, borrowed the title of this book from a work by him published in 1948, before the inauguration of the World Council, and now out of print.
I should also like to express my gratitude to Miss Ruth Rouse for allowing me to see the proofs of her comprehensive and admirable History of the Ecumenical Movement. In preparing my book, I have studied the Minutes of Meetings of the Central Committee, and Reports of the Departments and Commissions of the World Council. I have at times embodied some paragraphs from the Reports, without on every occasion specifying the source. I have done this in the interests of both accuracy and of easy reading.
To my secretary, Miss Mary Balmer, who has typed the manuscript under great pressure, I owe a particular debt. And I am also very grateful to the Publishers and the Printers for their consideration and speed.
I add four Appendices. There is first a Glossary, indicating some distinctive feature or features in the Member Churches mentioned in the course of this book. This is followed by Diagrams giving certain religious statistics in a broad way. Lastly, there is a Bibliography, followed by the Addresses of the Offices of the World Council of Churches.
THE KINGSHIP AND A
‘WITHIN the last few years we have had the laws of natural science opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinding by its brightness; and means of transit and communication given to us, which have made but one kingdom of the habitable globe. One kingdom; – but who is to be its king? Is there to be no king in it, think you, and every man to do that which is right in his own eyes? Or only kings of terror, and the obscene empires of Mammon and Belial?
Vexilla regis prodeunt. Yes, but of which king?’ – Ruskin, Lectures on Art, SIXTH EDITION, p.36.
Many things have changed since John Ruskin spoke these words at Oxford, in his famous Inaugural Lecture on Art in 1870. Wars between nations have given way to world wars. Discoveries in the field of atomic knowledge have attached a new and grimmer meaning to the blinding rapidity with which the laws of natural science have been opened to us. Distances have been overcome by all manner of new means, both in the form of travel and in the methods of communication. The press, the cinema, the aeroplane, and the radio have each contributed in different ways to the making of a habitable globe much more completely into one kingdom. But the very greatness of these new inventions, and the power which they give for good or for evil, only underline the gravity of the issue. The question ‘Who is to be King?’ has still to be answered; and on the finding of the true king, and on obedience to him, the destiny of mankind depends.
The answer to which the Christian Church is committed is that the true King is Christ. Indeed it declares that with the birth of Christ in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era, the reign or kingdom of Christ had already begun. It also declares that although the forces opposing his kingdom are tremendous, his complete victory as King of the whole world will be established beyond all doubt at the end of history. Further, the Christian Church is committed to the service of that kingdom in a unique way. But its effectiveness in that service, and therefore in bringing the message that Christ is the true King home to men everywhere, is most seriously impeded by the divisions within it. The importance of healing those divisions, of bringing the divided parts into the closest possible fellowship or unity, can hardly be overstated. This task, which has always been important, has a greater urgency than ever today. It is the purpose of this book to tell the story of a remarkable movement over a very large part of Christendom in recent years, to come together in a new fellowship in order to proclaim the message of the Kingship of Christ, and the meaning of that Kingship in action.
The Kingdom in the Bible
Before we tell the story of the movement, some brief account of the origin of the Kingdom and its development un the Bible will not be out of place. The doctrine of the Kingdom runs right through the pages of the Bible. It is the doctrine of a King and his people.
God’s kingly rule over the entire world that he has made is a present and abiding fact. But this rule is only effectively realized when men in word and deed accept God’s sovereignty, and this obligation was assumed by Israel in the covenant at Mount Sinai. Hence, in the Old Testament, the doctrine of the Kingdome is closely linked with the whole ordering of the life of the Israelite nation as an expression of the people’s obedience to the divine Law. The association of the Kingdom of God with a concern for moral, political, and social righteousness in the history of a particular community is fundamental to Biblical thought.
But there is something more in the Old Testament picture of the Kingdom. God’s rule could only complete when it was recognised over all the earth and fully accepted by all men. The Israelites did not see this in the world around them and their own history was full of suffering and trouble, disaster after disaster, wandering and exile, apostasy and failure. So the Kingdom came to be associated not only with an existing community but with a hope for the future. Ultimately, God himself would act, and, at the end of history, establish royal rule over the universe. This hope was held by Israel in many different ways. Often, there was the expectation of a prince visibly ruling the kingdoms of the world, and of a kingdom established in a visible way, with Israel in power and great glory. But, at its highest, the Old Testament pictures Israel as God’s servant, chosen for mission as much as for privilege, with the task of proclaiming the coming Kingdom to all nations, and bearing in hope the suffering and evil of the world until the Kingdom should come.
In the New Testament, the hope of the Old is fulfilled. Christ came and announced that the Kingdom in its full sense was at hand. He brings the Kingdom with him. Where he is, it is, and he reigns in God’s name. The Kingdom he brought was very different from the earthly power that many of his contemporaries expected, for it was achieved in the very crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. By his death, all the forces hostile to God’s rule were deprived of any real power once and for all: his resurrection showed that death itself was no longer the final and negative answer to human existence. The Kingdom and eternal life are one in the New Testament and this is the realm into which men can enter Christ.
Jesus chose twelve disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and this act establishes the foundation and functions of the Christian Church. Significantly, the Church is the New Israel. On the one hand, it is the body of Christ, and therefore the sphere in which men consciously serve the Kingdom and taste the reality of life. But the Church also has the duty to proclaim the fact of the triumphant Kingdom to all men and to work for its complete realization in all the world. The Church’s proclamation of the establishment of a Kingdom of perfect righteousness is based not on an uncertain and imperfect longing, as was that of the Old Israel, but on the sure and certain hope given by the victory of Jesus Christ. Hence the Church is vitally concerned not just with ‘religion’ or its own existence, but with the whole ordering of human life which it seeks to make an expression of God’s will for the world over which he rules.
The Church, then, is not itself the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. It serves the Kingdom, and is not an end in itself.
In Emil Brunner’s words* it is ‘an essentially imperfect society . . . the Church transcends itself…. It can only be understood from the end. To be in Church is to be oriented toward the final goal…. The Church can therefore not be an end in itself; it aims at that which comes afterwards, the Kingdom of God, of which it is only the earthly, historical, hidden aspect in the form of a servant.’
And the Church looks forward to the day when the Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11, 15.)
*. Das Gebet und die Ordnungen, pp. 511-2. E.T. The Divine Imperative, p. 526.