The reading of the passage lead to a few critical comments. Critical to a uniting ecclesiology is, acceptance of God and of each other as Christ has accepted us. We do this for the glory of God? We could have many reasons for uniting churches, good reasons, but if it’s not rooted in the one objective: to the Glory of God, then we will encounter problems.
In the history of the church, many returned to this text:
Bonhoeffer wrested with these and what does it mean to be baptised, the sacrament of acceptance, in context of Nazi- Germany and the question of the acceptance of Jews and how the church structure itself.
Lukas Vischer, also did some work around this verse, and John Calvin
The question is: What does it mean to be church, for ecclesiology in difficult times.
The touchstone, Botman argues, is acceptance of each other. A person might feel accepted or tolerated and then they want to understand why I am accepted. Why me ? Could it be because I am like them, more palatable then others ? Is there a catch, for whose benefits? Acceptance in unity has only one goal- the glory of God;
But then he warns that an exclusive acceptance is not what Paul is taking about; This kind of acceptance is rooted in the ‘volkskerk’ idea and the unity of the volkskerk. Out of this the next step is the unity of the volk, this is an exclusive unity. Common acceptance is violated in volkskerk.
Unrestrained acceptance is crucial; it leads to tension between learned and not-so learned, strong vs weak, i.e. a complex plurality. This living in a perpetual acceptance of each other ( of the other) is life in the uniting church, this is radical benchmark.
He then also referred to Phil 2: 5 e.v and the fact that church unity is tough, here we discover how we are to be one with Christ, we experience it: the united church is this sacred space to be a radical disciple. It is here that we experience three (3) challenges:
•church unity is a challenge to your status, in the world, over against others, on who is equal, etc;
•it challenge one’s love for one’s own culture; If you don’t feel this challenge, then maybe you have not been in the depth of unity; you are still on the surface;
•we are challenged to let go of what we had. Acceptance is costly love, it will cost you, not someone else; its not spiritual or theoretical, but comes at the costs of those involved; what is the second mile; what is still possible if we have to give up more, what is the extra mile ?
It means translating acceptance institutionally- we give it form and this struggle is as important as the work for equality, it is a struggle to come to terms with the fact that much of our diversity led to inequalities- these inequalities sit within the old structures ( old church), but it also sits within the (new?)uniting church;
Secondly unity feeds on the roots of justice. There can be no unity- if justice is not pursued.
Then he grappled with a deep and critical challenge. He started with a question, I wonder", he said, why is Russel here ? We (my generation) have failed because we have failed to accept each other. I don’t think, maybe I deserve the honour to speak here because we (my generation) are part of this scandal. There is something rooted in my generation: we are at conflict, seen too much blood, we have perfected the art of exclusion- are we still of any use, should we not wait for the next generation? I think the next generation will be more Christ-like then my generation. So my generation must ask: what foundation can we lay so that gen next can faind church is the sacred place for the christlike experience;
He then went to the difficult unification process withn the NG family and stated:
In URCSA/NGK we have all difficult debates- Belhar- I am asking myself: is it possible that a community/church can get at a point where they cannot go any further; what if a church cannot look at history from the underside, or give up their whole hermeneutics- where the volkskerk is still in it too much ( is the current generation at the end ?)
If you take many issues in Belhar; justice is a matter of faith, not simply a matter of ethics; does the NG kerk has the theological roots to accept these ?
These are critical questions for all Christian faithcommunities, in pursuit of unification.