So far the word CHURCH has been used to mean the
universal visible Church,
the Bride and the Body of Christ (Eph.5.23; Rev.19.7; I Cor.12.13).
But the word CHURCH is used in several other senses,
which must be distinguished from one another.
The second meaning of the word,
which is also found in the New Testament,
is a local organization of the universal Church.
The ancient world was organized by cities.
Therefore the Church also was organized by cities.
Letters were written
To the church of God that is at Corinth (I Cor.1.2),
To the churches of Galatia (Gal.1.2),
to The seven churches that are in Asia (Rev.1.4).
Each of these local churches was probably at first a single congregation.
Later they included several congregations under one bishop,
and such a local church came to be called a DIOCESE.
The universal Church is made up of such local churches,
and no one can be a member of the universal Church
in the full sense of the word MEMBER
without belonging to some local church.
In modern times the world is organized by nations,
and so to some extent is the Church.
We are therefore justified in saying
not only the Church of London, or Paris, or Sydney,
but the Church of England, or France, or Australia
because such national churches, though containing many dioceses,
are local organizations of the universal Church.
(We may also speak of a building as a CHURCH,
but this does not concern us here.
We do not find this meaning of the word in the New Testament.)
These two meanings of the word are correct and scriptural.
I shall, as far as possible, only use the word in one of these two senses,
employing a capital letter for the universal Church
and a small letter for the local churches
(except in proper names, as "the Church of England".)
But there are several other senses in which the word is commonly but incorrectly used.
Many people believe with Calvin that the universal Church is invisible,
the company of the elect whose names are known only to God.
This is an incorrect use of the word
because it is not what the New Testament means
or what most Christians in any age have meant by the word Church.
If the Church were invisible, it could not be organized or compared to a body.
No one could be admitted to it or expelled from it.
Therefore the invisible company of the truly faithful is not to be called the Church.
It has a real existence,
but it is not what St. Paul calls the Body of Christ.
[In this book it is called CHRISTENDOM.
The phrase "soul of the Church" is not satisfactory.]
But those who take this view
also believe that the invisible CHURCH expresses itself in local congregations,
and that the sum of all such local congregations is the visible CHURCH.
This is the second incorrect meaning of the word.
For a great mass of totally independent groups
differing widely in faith and order
is not an organized body.
In the first centuries the Church,
though she had no headquarters and no supreme organ of government,
had one faith and one order.
She was a society,
not a loose federation,
still less a chaos of competing sects.
The third incorrect meaning of the word is a DENOMINATION
or independent religious society,
which may or may not have a historical connection with the ancient Church.
Thus the CHURCH OF ROME (ecclesia Romana) ought to mean the diocese of Rome,
which according to the Council of Trent is "mother and teacher of all churches".
But as popularly used it means the whole body of Christians in communion with Rome.
(Romanists believe that that body is the universal Church,
and that there is strictly speaking no church outside it.
Therefore they call it the Catholic Church,
and since they believe that the Catholic Church must be Roman,
the Catholic Roman Church.
But those who do not accept this claim
ought to speak of it not as the Roman Church
but as the Roman Communion;
for it is not the universal Church,
and it is not a local church.)
Again, we often hear of the Methodist Church
meaning all Methodists in all countries.
But the "People called Methodists", the society founded by John Wesley,
is neither the universal Church nor a local church.
Strictly speaking it is not a church but a connection or denomination.
We may call the Anglican Communion or the Roman Communion a denomination.
Each of them is made up of many local churches.
Each of them is a part of the universal Church.
But we must call them COMMUNIONS, not "churches".
A Communion is a group of local churches in "full communion" with one another.
There is no one ANGLICAN CHURCH.
The Anglican churches form the Anglican Communion.
The world is confronted today not by one great Church
but by an immense and bewildering mass of denominations.
It is not true (though some people think it is) that each of them claims to be the one true Church.
There are only two that make that claim,
the Roman and the Orthodox Communions.
The situation is much more complex than that.
Some of them hold the universal church to be visible,
and others hold it to be invisible.
Some are parts of the universal visible church,
and some are independent societies.
The easiest way to find out whether a particular denomination believes that the Church is visible or invisible is to ask whether it holds baptism to be absolutely necessary for membership or, merely at most, expedient.
The Anglican definition of the Church (Article 19) is this:
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men,
in which the pure Word of God is preached,
and the sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance
in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
There is here no mention of an "invisible Church",
and the necessity of sacraments duly administered
must be understood in the light of the rule,
rigidly observed throughout the Anglican Communion
(as throughout Christendom before the Reformation),
that the minister of the Eucharist must have been ordained by a bishop.
"Faithful men" (fideles) was a technical term for the baptized.
Nevertheless the Article is so worded
that a moderate Calvinist could accept it,
for the Articles date from precisely the period
when Calvinist influence was greatest in the English Church.
A modern definition of the Church may be found in the Appeal to All Christian People, issued by the whole Anglican Episcopate at the Lambeth Conference of 1920 (p. 27), and renewed in the Conference of 1930:
We believe that it is God's purpose to manifest this fellowship,
so far as this world is concerned,
in an outward, visible, and united society, holding one faith,
having its own recognized officers using God-given means of grace,
and inspiring all its members to the world-wide service of the Kingdom of God.
This is what we mean by the Catholic Church.
Elsewhere (p.10) the Church is identified with "the new and greater Israel".
It is clear, then, that the Anglican Communion uses the word Church in its
proper historical sense.
The question, which, out of all the various Christian communions, should
be regarded as the true Church, is a question which those who believe that
the universal Church is a visible society cannot avoid;
but it means nothing to those who believe that the universal Church is invisible and expresses itself wherever there is a congregation of professing Christians.
If the Church is prior to her members, like a family or nation,
we must be sure that we really belong to her.
But if the members are prior to the Church, like the members of a club,
it does not really matter which of the many visible organizations we belong to.
We need a test to show us which is the true Church.
Some have sought this test in the four "notes" of the Church proclaimed in the Nicene Creed;
but, as we shall see, they do not give us a satisfactory test.
We declare in the Nicene Creed that we believe
and APOSTOLIC Church
(the word "holy" which certainly belongs to the Creed was accidentally omitted from the Prayer Book, and its restoration was one of the most important reforms in the Revised Prayer Book of 1928).
THE CHURCH IS ONE in essence
that is, she would not be the Church if she were not one.
She is one organically
that is, she partakes of one life,
which goes right through her,
derived from her Head.
As we have seen, she is an organic rather than a contractual society,
a family or nation rather than a club.
She is one internally;
through she may be externally divided, as we shall see.
She has one faith and one order.
She recites the same Creed and lives by the same sacraments.
But she is not one in the sense of having the same traditions or customs everywhere, nor in having a visible headquarters or a permanent governing body.
She possesses that higher form of unity which consists in being a "society of societies", and each of the local churches of which she is composed has a life of its own and is not a mere department.
This, as Dr. J. N. Figgis has shown, is in accordance with the natural development of human society (Churches in the Modern State).
THE CHURCH IS HOLY
since she is separated from the world and filled with the Holy Spirit.
But there have been periods when the holiness of the Church has not been easy to see, and when the word holy applied to the Church could only be used in irony if compared with the standard of the Gospels.
Nevertheless, the Church has usually been more holy than the heathen world,
and even in the worst periods she has never failed to produce holy men and women such as St. Dunstan in the tenth century, Thomas ?Kempis in the fifteenth, William Law in the eighteenth.
THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC
that is, UNIVERSAL.
She teaches the whole faith to the whole world.
She omits no part of God's revelation to man.
She does not distort or pervert it.
She adds to it nothing that does not belong to it.
She is not confined to any nation, or race, or colour, or class, or sex.
All men and all women as Christians are equal.
The Church of the Old Covenant was Hebrew.
The Church of the New Covenant is Catholic
and seeks to bring every human being into her fold.
This does not mean that she is in fact working in every country.
She was not the less Catholic on the day of Pentecost because she was confined to Jerusalem;
and there are still some countries, such as Arabia, Afghanistan, Tibet, into which she has not penetrated, or from which she has been expelled (for there were once bishoprics in Arabia and Afghanistan).
But the word Catholic is often used in senses that are not strictly speaking
It does not mean "liberal" or "broad-minded".
It does not mean indifferent to dogma or willing to accept anyone on his own terms.
All human beings are welcomed into the Church
if, but only if, they accept the conditions laid down.
It does not mean "Roman Catholic".
The Roman Communion is one part of the Catholic Church, not the whole.
It does not mean "High Church".
The name Catholic or Anglo-Catholic is in the Anglican Communion often applied to the party which emphasizes the universal rather than the national element in the life of the Church, but this is a popular, not a theological, sense of the word.
For if the Anglican Communion is Catholic at all,
it is Catholic throughout,
and all its bishops and priests are Catholic bishops and priests.
We may think that one school of thought is more Catholic
that is, more conscious of its Catholic privileges,
and more loyal to its Catholic duties than another,
but we must not say that any member of the Church who is in full communion with her bishops is "not Catholic".
THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC because she was originally
planted by the apostles,
because she proclaims the faith received from the apostles,
and because she derives her authority from the apostles
through their successors the bishops.
says St. Clement of Rome, before the end of the first century,
appointed the first fruits of their labours,
when they had proved them by the Spirit,
as bishops and deacons of those who should believe ...
and afterwards issued a direction (or continuance) that when these fell asleep
other approved men should succeed to their ministry.
It is a necessary mark of the Church that she should be continuous.
Christianity is a historical religion, not only because it is founded on historical facts but because it must always keep a historical connection with them.
The Church is said to possess "mission" from the apostles.
Authority that is not derived from them is fundamentally different from the authority of which we read in the New Testament,
for our Lord said,
As My Father sent Me,
even so send I you (John 20.21),
and no other authority was recognized in the apostolic age.
UNITY, HOLINESS, CATHOLICITY, and APOSTOLICITY
are called the Four Notes of the Church.
But they are rather descriptions of the Church as she ought to be,
and as she always is to some extent,
than tests by which the true Church can be recognized.
For, since the universal Church is visible and external,
she can only be recognized by visible and external marks.
There are many kinds of unity.
A small narrow sect like the Novatianists of old
may claim to be the universal Church because it is ONE.
Holiness is an internal mark.
No one but God can say whether a society or a man is holy.
CATHOLICITY may mean different things
and be claimed by communions with different principles.
So may APOSTOLICITY.
It is not possible simply by using these notes
to say which is the true Church and which is not.
If we want to decide
whether an existing society is the same as one which existed in the past
or exists now in other places,
we inquire whether it maintains the same principles,
whether it can show historical continuity by the succession of its officers,
and whether it is a mere intruder
into territory occupied by what is undoubtedly the older society.
If, for instance, we want to know whether a particular troop of scouts belongs to the Scout Movement, we ask whether it has a recognized scout master, and whether it is occupying territory which is its own and not another troop's.
Applying this procedure to the Church, we say that
that is a true church, which possesses
right faith, succession, and jurisdiction.
The faith of the apostles must be maintained and taught.
There must be nothing added or left out.
The definitions of the Faith,
which the universal Church has found to be necessary,
must be observed.
The sacraments must be accepted and used.
The different parts of the Church must confine themselves to their own territory
in normal conditions.
Anyone who secedes from the local church for insufficient reason, or presumes to officiate where he is not entitled to do so (again, in normal conditions), has no right to act in the name of the Church.
These are the external marks of a true church;
but a church may possess them all and yet fail to fulfill its purpose.
St. John the Baptist told the Jews that
God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Luke 3.8);
and the possession of faith, succession, and jurisdiction ought not to encourage
complacency but, on the contrary, to carry with it a great and grave responsibility.
For the Church in each place is the visible representative of our Lord;
and if her members fail to fulfil their vocation
which no one else, except by some special act of grace, can fulfil,
they will be more severely punished
than those who have less responsibility, less knowledge, and less grace
The ancient Church laid the chief emphasis on the necessity of right faith,
which includes a true succession because no one who had the right faith about
the ministry would be content to be without a ministry duly appointed and
Jurisdiction is of less importance and is partly a matter of order and arrangement; but if it were ignored (as it was by some of the Celtic missionaries), the result would be chaos.
The official Anglican definition of the Church quoted above recognizes the
necessity of right faith and succession.
A congregation of faithful men (coetus fidelium) means,
not those who are loyal in general,
but those who have the right Faith (fideles).
"The pure word of God preached" is the faith maintained and taught.
"The sacraments duly administered with all things that are requisite to the same" includes the right minister, which is one of the necessary conditions of a duly administered sacrament.
The right minister of the Eucharist,
as the Ordinal and the invariable practice of the Anglican churches bear witness,
is a priest ordained by a bishop.
The ninth and tenth canons of the Church of England, passed in 1604, excommunicate those who separate from the Church of England, form "a new brotherhood", or "take unto them the name of another church";
and the English Church is most careful not to intrude into the jurisdiction of other churches, and to build churches in foreign countries only when they are necessary for Anglican Churchmen living in those countries or for those who have been converted to Christianity by Anglican missions.
The proper meaning of jurisdiction has not always been understood.
The ancient rule was one bishop for one city.
No bishop might officiate in another bishop's diocese without leave.
No priest or deacon might perform any official act without the license of the bishop of the diocese.
But the ancient Church was more uniform than the modern Church.
Differences of nationality and language were few.
In modern conditions it may be necessary to have different jurisdictions in the same city if there are Christians of different languages and rites.
Thus in some Eastern countries there are churches of different rites Latin, Greek, Armenian, Maronite, etc. under different bishops, but all under the Pope.
There is a Greek congregation and a Russian congregation in London under different bishops but both in full communion with Constantinople.
There is an English chaplaincy and an American chaplaincy in Paris, a Swiss congregation and an English congregation at Berne under different bishops but both in full communion with Canterbury.
Such arrangements are irregular, but sometimes they are expedient;
and if both churches consent to them, there is no breach of order.
Jurisdiction cannot exist where there is not a right faith,
and those who do not accept the faith of a particular church
and therefore are not in communion with it cannot be under its jurisdiction.
Therefore if a church has a right to exist at all,
it has the right and the duty to provide for its members wherever they may be.
Some of the Tractarians, particularly W. J. E. Bennett of Frome, held that jurisdiction was strictly territorial, and that the English Church had therefore no right to establish chaplaincies on the Continent.
Such a position is so unpractical as to be absurd.
Jurisdiction is over human beings, not over acres.
We have to provide for our own people in foreign countries,
but in doing so we avoid interfering with the work of other churches even though we are not in communion with them.
We have never objected to the establishment of chaplaincies of foreign churches in England, provided that they do not interfere with the English Church.
Even in a reunited Christendom such arrangements would be required because of the differences of language and rite, and because uneducated Christians usually need the services of their own countrymen.
A foreign priest, however sympathetic, could do little for English sailors in a foreign port, and vice versa.
But all such arrangements are exceptional.
The rule is that each local church has its own territory
and may not intrude into the territory of others.
[Every church has the right to preach the Gospel in countries where no church has been planted.]
Its members, clerical and lay, are at once admitted as full members
on presenting their credentials when they enter the territory of another church.
This rule assumes that the churches are in full communion with each other.
As long as Christendom is divided,
rules of jurisdiction can only be applied within each particular communion.
It is not differences of jurisdiction that separate churches but differences of faith.
If the differences of faith could be brought to an end,
difficulties about jurisdiction could be settled by good will on both sides.
But we cannot regard as faithful members of the Church
those who break the rules of their own communion.
Members of the Anglican churches, wherever in the world they are,
are subject to the Anglican rules and to some Anglican bishop.
At sea and in countries where there is no Anglican bishop,
they belong to the diocese of London.