The Gift of Communion – ACNS

What’s in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

What's in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

Posted By The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut

01 October 2015 11:53AM

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Would the Anglican Communion—and our Compass Rose—smell as sweet if we were a “Federation” or “Association”? What is in the name “Communion” that shapes who we are, and informs our mission as a global church?

First, it lies deep within the biblical vision of the Church as koinonia, the Greek for communion. Since koinonia is translated by several words, its significance is easy to miss.

When Paul speaks of “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13.13), the Greek says koinonia. The sign of reconciliation, the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2.7-10) is also koinonia. Paul’s “collection” for the poor in Jerusalem is a koinonia (1 Cor 16.1). The Lord’s Supper as a “sharing” in the body and the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10.16-17) is againkoinonia.

Anglicans around the world are studying the World Council of Churches’ report, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, a fresh expression of the Church as koinonia. It begins, “Communion, whose source is the very life of the Holy Trinity, is both the gift by which the Church lives and, at the same time, the gift that God calls the Church to offer to a wounded and divided humanity in hope of reconciliation and healing.”

Overflowing from the communion of love within the Trinity, this communion is irreversibly restored in the paschal mystery of Christ. The sign and the servant of communion is the Church, as we engage together in mission, reconciliation, justice and peace, and mutual accountability, and as we pray for one another, support one another in times of need, and receive Holy Communion together.

Photo Credit: ACO

Most of us are drawn to communities of similar language, culture, politics, or education. In the Church those similarities can be theological conviction, the last word liturgical practice, piety, or moral discernment.

The Church, however, is to be more than a community of similarity; in the New Testament it is a koinonia, a communion in unity, diversity and even disagreement.

Whenever Christians are unable to agree with one another, yet choose communion, refusing to say “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12.21), we proclaim that what binds us together is unshakeable.

Costly communion witnesses to the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1.20).

Canon John Gibaut is Director for Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion. The Church: Towards a Common Vision is available athttp://bit.ly/1MkpFwW.

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This reflection first appeared in the August Issue of Anglican World, the Anglican Communion’s quarterly magazine. Subscribe to Anglican World for more reflections and stories from the global Anglican Communion.

Costly communion witnesses to the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1.20).

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“Whenever Christians are unable to agree with one another, yet choose communion, refusing to say “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12.21), we proclaim that what binds us together is unshakeable.” – Canon Giles Gibaut

This statement, appearing today per courtesy of ACNA (Anglican Communion News Service) is the reality at the heart of what it means to be part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Canon Gibaut, Director of the A.A.O Commission, is surely correect in his estimation that one of the most significant barriers to ‘koinonia’ in the Anglican Communion at this present time is the refusal to share with one another at the Eucharist. 

This refusal to share in the bonds of love at the heart of the Eucharistic Liturgy is a sure sign of the unwillingness to share our common life together as Anglican Christians. No matter what else divides us, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist – across all cultures – may be the only common factor that brings together the great diversity that is a significant part of our heritage as Anglicans.

I am hopeful that, at the upcoming Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury will find a way through our present disunity, asking God’s grace to initiate in each one of us that desire to be one, as Christ and the Father are one – not in our instant esoteric nature, but in our common membership of the Body of Christ.

I shall be praying the Prayer for the Holy Spirit’s guidance at the Primates’ Meeting at the daily Eucharist. I hope many more will undertake this simple way of proclaiming our unity in the diversity of God’s infinitely variable creation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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