I’ve been thinking about the following statement: The Church is part of the Gospel.
The statement was made to me by an Orthodox priest in the context of a post on his blog and a comment that I made about it. My comment had erroneously left him with the impression that I believe that the Gospel and the Church are not linked to one another; that one could receive the Gospel without receiving the Church. While I do not believe this as I’ve worded it, I do believe that the Gospel is not the exclusive property of any particular expression of the Church.
The reason that I’ve been struggling with the statement of the priest is because the word Church does not necessarily have the same connotation for me that I believe they have for him. In my life, I’ve interacted briefly with the Ukrainian and the Ethiopian Orthodox expressions of Church. Additionally, I’ve done a small amount of reading about the Orthodox Church and it is my perception that the Orthodox Church sees itself as the ONE TRUE CHURCH and others are not. There are RIGHT ways to fast and WRONG ways to fast and it matters. There is a PROPER way to perform the sign of the cross and an IMPROPER way to perform the sign of the cross and it matters. Consequently, when I hear that “The Church is part of the Gospel” what I understand the priest to say is “The expression of the Church called THE ORTHODOX CHURCH is part of the Gospel and those other guys are not.” I simply cannot accept this, even though I fully understand it.I grew up in a Protestant expression of church (sectsounds like such an ugly word) that also saw itself as the TRUE CHURCH to the exclusion of all others. Whenever my mother spoke of someone as a “member of the Church”, she meant the particular tradition to which she gave allegiance. As a young adult, I abandoned that belief.
Thinking about the priest’s statement lead me to this question, “How is the Church part of the Gospel?” I’ll give that some thought and post on my ideas another time.