Lent Course 2006: The People of God


Who are the people of God? What is the Body of Christ? As members of the Church of England (we will not use the term Anglican because, quite properly, people in the Anglican Communion use that term to describe their theological stance and sometimes the Church of which they are a member - a separate topic in itself!) how do we fit in with the rest of Christianity? How do we understand ourselves theologically, scripturally and sacramentally? How can we conduct a dialogue when we seem to disagree so fundamentally on key issues? Are these key issues and, if they are, how do we know?

This Lent Course will not attempt to answer these questions but it will provide us with some information and some tools for understanding ourselves. The Course is divided into five Units: Unit One provides background; Unit Two provides us with some analytical tools; and Units Three, Four and Five provide us with working examples of issues facing the people of God:

Unit One - A brief history of God. This Unit outlines the history and doctrinal position of Christianity before moving on to say something about the formation and history of the Church of England. It asks questions about where we fit with the rest of Christianity, how we would define Christian unity, and how the decisions different Christian denominations make impinge on each other.

Unit Two - Ranking as an analytical tool. This sounds fearsome but it simply clarifies what we do subconsciously; it looks at a range of issues and asks us to say which are more or less important; or which are sub issues of other issues. The objective is to help us to separate issues so that they are not all tangled in a large bucket labelled "Theology".

Unit Three - Lay presidency at the Eucharist. How important is this issue? How are we to understand the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which is so central to the lives of many of us? What happens at the Eucharist? Is what happens so important that it requires the active presence of a priest? How does this fit in with St. Peter's idea that we are all members of the "Royal Priesthood" (1 Peter 2:1-10)?

Unit Four - Women and the episcopate. How important is this issue? We are still living in the aftermath of the decision of the Church to admit women to the priesthood. Is admitting women as bishops a logical step or is there something different about being a bishop from being a priest? What can we learn from the controversy over women priests? What qualities do we expect from our bishops?

Unit Five - Civil Partnerships. How important is this issue? Why are some people in the Church so inflamed about homosexual people? What is the relationship between theology, ethics and natural science? Is homosexuality natural, inherited, socially acquired, or sinful? To what extent are homosexual people worthy to be people of God?

Units do not end with sets of questions; these are scattered in the text. By the end of the Course we may not know the answers to the difficult questions we have been asking but we should be better equipped to participate in, or even lead, a constructive discussion with those who disagree with us.