Tom Greggs | Dogmatic Ecclesiology: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church
2:40PM Mar 5, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our huge pleasure to be speaking with Professor Tom. Greg's Professor Tom. Greg's is Marshall Chair of divinity at the University of Aberdeen and is the founding director of the Aberdeen center for Protestant theology. He's also the author of the text that we'll be discussing this morning, dogmatic ecclesiology, the priestly catholicity of the church available from Baker academic 2019. Professor graves, thank you so much for joining us today.
It'd be a pleasure to be with each
professor, Greg's this book is not a standalone volume, but is the first of a trilogy, a set that you're writing on the doctrine of the Church that is ecclesiology. Volume One covers the priesthood of the church in light of the priesthood of Christ. Volume Two will cover the prophetic apostolicity of the church. And volume three will cover the kingly holiness of the church. May I ask how you put together the structure for this wonderful trilogy that you're writing?
Yeah, it was a long and hard, hard fought battle, I think to find the Find the structure, I was very aware of the fact that if you start off on a project, that's probably in terms of the amount of work that into expanding something like two decades, and you go an inch wrong at the start, you'll end up a mile wrong by the end. So I put a lot of effort into thinking about how to structure with him. I guess there's both in and now retitle accounts for how I came up with a structure and a theological one. I mean, narratively, and personally. And having finished the work that I'd done previously, on salvation, and on religion, and eschatology, I decided that I wanted to spend some time doing things that were more focused particularly on the church and other things that could benefit the church more directly. I really am an accidental theologian, I fully intended to be a Methodist pastor. And I don't think anybody trusted me with a parish. So that's really how I ended up in the university context. And my commitment has always been there for that, whenever I do theologically, it should be for the church. And so having thought and prayed about that a lot, I decided that I wanted to write a book on the priesthood of all believers, which has been really neglected as a doctrine over the last 50 years. And I wanted to do something really trying to re examine some of the principles around that. And then I realized that I also wanted, having felt a call to preach at 14 and usually preaching three Sundays out of four, still, I wanted to write something about what preaching is, and supervise quite a lot of PhDs on homiletics. And so much of it was about style and practice. And instead, I wanted to write something about the miracle of the fact that God encounters as impulse worked in the congregation of people as we seek to hear God. So I wanted to write theological accounts of that. And I have a long standing interest in politics. And I wanted to write something really on, on the church and politics. And I was talking to some people that I did my own PhD with at the American Academy of religion. And some years ago, now probably a decade ago. And one of them Judy gittoes, really pushed me to say, Well, why don't you have a go actually seeing the coherence between these? I've talked to you about this stuff. I know there's a coherent pattern, would you not think about this as a trilogy? So I started to think in that way. And then I engaged a lot with, I guess, the two principal theological influences on my life, john Webster, who taught me when I was a student at Oxford, and David Ford, who was my PhD supervisor in Cambridge, and in long conversations with them, and they pushed me and pushed me to think more sort of systematically, more coherently more fully about this. So that's, that's kind of narratively how I decided to spend 20 years on, on three volumes. And theologically, I think I'm utterly convinced of the fact that ecclesiology is a derivative doctrine. That unless we have our theological foundations, right, the account of the church that we give will be insufficient. And in that way, I want you to think about what it meant for the church, to be located under the third Article of the creed, whether the apostles or the constantinopolitan Nicene constantinopolitan Creed, that the church is a creation of the Spirit, that the church belongs to the economy of the spirit that the doctrine of appropriations where we can say that it's more appropriate to talk about particular members of the Trinity in relation to particular aspects of the economy of God, that there was a really a real need, perhaps particularly actually Ah when sits Azusa Street, there has been a rekindling of interest in the spirit. And perhaps as Eastern and Western theologies meet each other, as well, there's been more and more emphasis on the spirit that I wanted to think theologically about what it means to speak of the Spirit, to speak of the church, as an event of the Spirit, who makes the church, Catholic, apostolic and holy, and in relation to all of those. So at the end of each volume has a code on the oneness of the church.
But I also wanted to think that if the church is meant to be the body of Christ, Who is it, sometimes we presume we know what that means. But for me, to have a thick description of that means means that we have to dig deep in Christology as well. Who is this warm, whose body the church becomes, I would say, autonomously. So in closest possible Association without an absolute identity of the two, because for all of the images use of the body of Christ, Christ is still the head of the body. So how do we think about this one who is the head of the body, and the classical Protestant Muniz, triplex really stuck out for me that, that Christ is priest, Prophet and King, that the church has a function in relation to them, and I guess I, what I began to do was to tie up, as I read around and planned the book try and tie aspects of the Muniz triplex, who Christ is two particular markers of the church. And so it struck me that the prophetic take an apostolic Ministry of the church really belongs together. That capitalist city and priesthood really belongs together and that kingship and holiness really has a kind of natural affinity. I'm not saying that that has to be the case, I think you could do each one of them in relation to any other one, I'm very committed to the idea that systematic theology is done like, like fractals that go on and on, and we can slightly change the pattern, or we'll have slightly different description. So I paired those up. And then I was also concerned that we didn't, not simply to reduce my account of the church to one on tick, or ontological account. And by that I mean, one account of the way in which who God is, and impacts upon the way in which we account for God's relation to the church. So sometimes all of our emphasis can, for example, be on participation. So you know, lots of theology borrowing from neoplatonic categories. categories that have followed us throughout 2000 years of Christian history can really emphasize participation. And we really lose something if we forget that because we participate in the body of Christ. But there's also an authentic account and account of the being of the church in relation to the being of God, which involves encounter. I'm an evangelical and for me encounter with living Christ through the Spirit, is a really powerful expression of what it means for me to belong to the church to encounter God in the preached word, to come across the Christ, who in his resurrection speaks now, in that palpable, meaningful encounter. And then there's also, I think, an account, which is about transformation. That we are, that the church doesn't derive its origins simply Historically, the church derives its origins in terms of what it will be, in terms of who God ultimately is when God brings all things together. And that that account of transformation also was really important for me. So I spent about I mean, in real terms, I probably spent the best part of 10 years mapping this thing. Because I was very concerned that I couldn't read write a word of Volume One, until I really knew where I would want to be in volume three. And when I mapped it, the way that I've mapped it is so that each volume can be read independently through the volume. So 1234, chapters one to 13, or whatever there is going through, but equally, the books can be read horizontally. So in each volume, for example, the first chapter is on the Holy Spirit. The spirits who is the Lord and giver of life, who spoke through the prophets, and the apostles.
And who were the father and son is to be worshipped and glorified. There are the three chapters across similarly with Christology crisis priests, prophets, and kings. And then there's chapters on prayer that run across chapters on baptism across chapters on polity and so forth. So the structure is designed to be a kind of framework going through might sound like it's very, very tight. And in some ways I've tried to make it quite tight. But it's not tight in any sense that this is the last word. It's tight because I think that this side of the eschaton, and perhaps throughout the eschaton, if we believe that we journey ever deeper into God, so life, we will discover more and more and more of the vast horizons of riches of God's grace. And this is just really one attempt at that. It might seem very structured, but I have a very humble view of what systematic theology can achieve. It's a light coder to help us to go back to Scripture, to read Scripture, having a sense of what some of these key terms and phrases might mean, but also constantly being informed by scripture in order to do that. And recognizing that we can the way that we engage in what I call dogmatic typography, the way that we place doctrines in relation to each other will give subtly different accounts, and that it isn't a zero sum game. It's actually an attempt at trying to capture the God whose plenitude of magnificence even in the body of the church is wildly beyond anything you could grasp.
really a remarkable project. We're grateful to have discovered it and to be able to read your work. Tell us when when might it be that volumes two and three appear in this trilogy?
I think my publishers would be really glad to know that as well. I currently serve as head of divinity at Aberdeen. So I should say that the Coronavirus crisis is probably not doing any help to the production of these volumes, since there's a lot to deal with both in terms of logistics and finances with running a department under a year sabbatical in two years time, almost exactly two years time. And I'm hoping that that second year, that year, I can devote to writing the full draft of Volume Two, I have it mapped. I've done quite a lot of the initial work on preaching, I've been working on the doctrine of illumination, recently. So I'll be publishing some papers on that soon. And then I've always liked to workshop my stuff. So I've had a seminar on it with PhD students, colleagues, send it to people on trust. So I would imagine maybe four years time for the Volume Two, and I would hope, especially if I could get a grant, I would really hope that I could get volume three done maybe three years after that. That's that's my plan. So all things going well, 2014 15 to 2018. Three,
we're extremely glad to be following your work. And this is a very exciting project. Professor Greg's weird is your study situate itself in relation to ecclesiology visa v. Some of the other really major ecclesiological events of the past number of years. If I can just ask you about two of those major events. Where does your project situate itself? Visa v Vatican two? And where does your project situate itself? Visa v the 1982 faith in order paper baptism, Eucharist and ministry.
That's that's a really helpful way of trying to locate what I'm doing. I mean, I guess I am trying to give and we maybe can explore that in a bit. distinctively Protestant flavored account of ecclesiology. It seems to me that very often, Protestant accounts of ecclesiology either are really accounts of theological anthropology, their accounts of what what our will isn't how we exercise our will. The church is an expression of a federation a well, and not actually fundamentally an expression of what God does. So my overarching kind of principal concern in this is to be to say, what is the church in relation to the economy of God? What does it mean for a Protestant that says, My relationship with Jesus is the most important thing scripture stands above everything else, to still be able to say extra ecclesiam nulla Salus asked outside of the church there is no salvation. And I'm nervous, I guess live broadly with an ecclesiology of approaches to ecclesiology that are methodologically driven by other things. It's surprising to me how very, very faithful Christians who write about this can often employ what I see to be methodological naturalism, or even the methodological atheism when it comes to ecclesiology that use sociological categories or ethnographic categories or management tools. I mean, there's such a rise of that. So that would be the broader contemporary situation in terms of those two classic texts that you point to me as somebody I'm extremely influenced by Vatican two under theologians that came from Vatican two. I was really surprised when I wrote the sort of concluding chapters of the volume how indebted I am to what we might think of as the Catholic mountains. You know, people Like Khan, Gar and come skill of x, even those people who really are at the forefront of pushing through even a people I gave, regardless of helping with Vatican two and taking that agenda further. One something that struck me is very interesting as a byproduct perhaps of humanism is that as we moved closer towards each other Roman Catholic theologies that often emphasize the whole people have got much more than Protestant theologies, which have often emphasized poverty much more, as we've sort of moved closer together. And I guess what I'm trying to recover is that whole people of God accounts, I think, I still think that lumen gentium, I have two principal differences in relation to human getting to you. One is that for all it says a lot about the people of God, I still think it's disproportionate in terms of the amount that it discusses polity, structure, who does what To whom? Those types of issues, and I think that's the case throughout
the Second Vatican Council, it's the right move in the right direction, but I would want it to move further. Wanted to be more and then I guess I came as I was writing this to a really fundamental observation, that sets me aside for Vatican two. And that is that I think, lumen gentium for all of its promise and all of its generosity. I think lumen gentium works with an account of the church that says that the invisible or hidden church, the true church, if we might see the church that is known only to God subsists within the structures of the Roman Catholic Church. So we don't know exactly who the true church is, but we know that it subsist within the structures. Whereas I think following a kind of more magisterial Protestant account for me, the concern is to say the opposite way around, that the churches are expressions of churches are policies or structures of visible churches are empirical churches, they subsist within the invisible church. So the relationship is slightly different, if that makes sense with one the prioritization is the structure within which the true church subsists. The other is an unwillingness to easily straightforwardly identify the true church, but recognizing that the churches that we have in their distinctive forms subsist within that true church. So that would be the Vatican two stuff. In terms of baptism Eucharist in ministry, in some ways, I think my whole project has been spurred on by that. Because baptism, Eucharist and ministry starts off by saying that the most important thing to talk about in terms of the church is that the whole people have got. And then it says almost nothing about that. It talks about structure, it talks about who can do what to whom it talks about three fold orders, it talks about ways of doing that. And I find that question, a question of idea for, for me, it's, I think there is a real issue. I've written on this and other contexts, about what we mean by visible unity. And for me, I think, staying true to the magisterial reformation tradition that I belong to, I have to say that I don't have any opposition to any other structures if I think that they can have a biblical or historical foundation. But I don't see that that's the cause, in some kind of x operate aparato way of the church being present. So what I wanted to do was to reset the balance and say, No, let's spend the majority of our time not on the leaders, but on the whole church, and those who occupy positions of authority or those distinctive qualities, what that means in relation to the whole church, I was really strict. For example, I have a chapter in this, my first chapter on polity is on rogation. And I realized that there is almost nothing written theologically about what a congregation is, why we congregate, why we have connections at churches. Instead, it's very often you know, how do I see the authenticity of my church from the position of a particular succession or lineage or structure or whatever else? What I want to say is that the church exists for the world, and the polity of the church exists for the sake of the church, not the other way around. Does that make sense to you?
Professor grace, if I can ask you this. You are working as a Protestant theologian. In fact, as I mentioned, you're even the founder of the Center for Protestant theology at the University of Aberdeen. But this project is certainly a project that positions itself as of relevance and usefulness to Christians of all traditions. What is it exactly that makes this project? Protestants per se?
I guess, in the first instance, and one of the obvious answers is that the author is a Protestant. You know, I'm a Methodist. I belong to the evangelical wing of the British Methodist Church. I think that we grow where we are planted. And I think that there's no view from nowhere. And I think it would be really difficult for me actually, to ever imagine writing something without the imagination of those people who are most regularly in contact with. As a man, this, I believe that we started in succession for the magisterial reformation, from the insights of people like Luther and zwingli, and bullinger, and Calvin, and that we belong to a family of churches. And one of my ways of trying to describe this in the book is rather than some kind of family tree is to think about their irrigation, on a plant where you can you know, where everything can belong to one leaf, and there can be bits and pieces in other bits. And you can see how they relate to each other with their distinctiveness. So what I would hope I do is that I offer something from one position that might speak a bit more broadly, I guess, maybe, to distinctives that really come through, and then maybe two more theological comments. I mean, I think I would hope that the work feels distinctively biblical, that there is a strong emphasis on scripture, on on the fundamental things that Scripture teaches us about Christ in the spirit particularly, and that we derive things from that. I do think that scripture is the supreme authority in which we relate all other authorities going through and that that's the case with ecclesiology. And I think that that non emphasis on poverty is an attempt to try to recover from the Reformation tradition, the idea that there can be a family of churches that have relation to each other, and have all kinds of different polities, actually, but recognize each other completely as brothers and sisters in Christ for all of their differences. And I think that's a really significant insight, actually, within within the Protestant family of churches that we can have, I guess, theologically. I don't think that I'm I write in a magisterial Protestant way, in the sense that maybe Lutherans word where they would have a universal confession, or in the sense that the reformed traditions would where they have a localized, specifically geographical historical confession from which they work, I would use all of them. But I think my concern rather is to say that the these teachers, these magistrates, of the Protestant tradition, leavers with a body of texts, that are actually quite a rich resource to engage with, I think there's a real task for is not to be caught up in the polemics that they have. That's been a real concern. What I've written is to say, how do we rescue this from 16th and 17th century polemics which can be very fierce, what's the positive message that we can take rather than the negative, but that there is a core there? And then I guess the ultimate thing for me is that I feel as a Protestant, there's a need to not borrow insights from other traditions, but work our own through particularly from a distinctive Foundation, which I think we all share about that issue of visibility and hiddenness. That, that only God has the true overview of where the church is that we don't have the keys to the kingdom, that we have to be self critical about ourselves, and that our individual churches subsist within that one great invisible church no normally alternately and fully to God.
Greg's you launch into this study in dogmatic ecclesiology, the priestly catholicity of the church, you launch into it from the article on the Holy Spirit. And this is, of course, appropriate since the church in the apostles creed or the Nicene constantinopolitan Creed is situated in the third article that is the the article of the Holy Spirit. But we've not seen this done before necessarily in systematic treatments of the church. And also, you speak of the church as a creature of the Spirit. Most of our ears when we hear that phrase, we expect creature of the word. That's what the church is, but you you articulate the doctrine of the Church, as The church is the creature of the Spirit. How did you come to this? How did you come to this position of introducing to the to us the church from this perspective?
Yeah, that's a great question. I'll say a little bit more about this, I think, in Volume Two, where I addressed the relationship between crates, or spirits, and crates, or reverb. But really, if I'm telling you this, really honestly, it came from preaching at Pentecost, I'm really struck by the fact that in Acts chapter one, we have a description, that is a description that looks like a church, what Calvin would call something with the semblance of the church. And, you know, you have a situation in Acts chapter one where there's a sermon, the disciples are mapped together, there's worship, there's a roll call, there's an election of officers, you know, all the things that you would normally sort of see in the way that we map something, but it isn't the church. And the church comes in there, Luke, and acts accounts with the gift of the Spirit, and what does the spirit do, the spirit stops the disciples looking inwards towards themselves, towards those questions of polity towards those questions of structure, and pushes them outwards, into mission to the world. And I was really struck by the fact that almost all of our accounts of church, I sit on different faith and order Commission's and I always think that there's so much accounts of order, and so little accounts of faith, and that it's really imperative for us, I think, to capture what it means that the Spirit is alive, on brings to the living message of the Ascended Christ. I then think, I guess, derivatively. From that, I think it's really important for me, that Christ is ascended, and seats at the right hand of the Father. And that the church is not some kind of dispersed account of Christ. I think sometimes too many accounts, kind of fall into what I would always see as a kind of mystical description of the body of Christ as if the church were a continuity of the work of Christ, or a completion of it or an addition to it. I'm wanting to say absolutely no, that the the church is the body of Christ only in a mediated way. And that mediation comes through the Spirit. And even when we receive the Word of God, the Word that we receive is a word that we cannot hear, except by the Spirit, of the doctrine of illumination, which is what I'm working on the moment that has become so important to me for this, and it actually, interestingly, I think, gives a particularly Protestant account, because what it does is diminishes find your humble slightly the role of the office. So you're not a continuity of Christ. There's a there's the disruption of the ascension. And everything that we receive from Christ is mediated by the gift of the Spirit. So I think we've often been insufficient in our account of the Spirit. But I think that sometimes we have been too strong in our accounts of ecclesia of Christ in relation to ecclesiology, such that we can't demarcate appropriately, the relationship between Christ and the church, we sometimes sibly them into one for me, as well, I also think that there's what I've come to think of, and when I say a lecture, sometimes there's a lot of ecclesiological pelagianism. About in the church, which I think means that we think that we do all of this somehow, you know, that it's our will, our volunteerism, our gathering are doing this. It's, it's really pay attention. It's we the preachers, we that read our Bible, and in fact, what I really believe we need to do is to be caught up in the ways of the Spirit, to move within the movements of the Spirit. And what we see in at Ron is an account of that pollici in church. And the freedom that comes in Acts to you with the gift of the Spirit is the freedom not to be orientated entirely upon ourselves, but to see that the purpose of the church the existence of the church, is always for the sake of God and always for the sake of the world without any contradiction between those two moments.
Professor, Greg's in chapter eight of your text you treat intercessory prayer. And in this chapter, you argue that in intercession, the church actively becomes one would you be willing to unfold A little bit for us.
Yeah, absolutely. So So I think there's one level at which the church passively always is what Christ cannot be rented. We are warm ontologically. The question for me is how do we actively engage in wanders, and I'm very struck by the fact that, in the act of intercession, repress something really, unbelievably remarkable happens. I get very angry when I go to church services, or when I'm examining people training to be preachers, and they preach for too long and miss the intercessions out, because we live our priesthood in our intercession. If you think about what it means to enter the courts of the living God, the higher the King of heaven, to bow before Him in prayer, and to ask us something, not for ourselves, but for people whom we might never ever meet. How many times have we prayed for Syria or sit down or Iraq? How many times have we been in a situation where somebody asked us to pray for somebody we never know. That's an expression of the fact that we can be orientated towards that person, absolutely. As we are orientated completely towards God. And it strikes me that that's a moment actually in which we actively show what it is to be the body of Christ. Because who is the great intercessor Christ, where is the great intercession taking place, in the Ascended Christ at the right hand of God, but why there because Christ on the cross intercedes entirely for humanity. And it seems to me that that moment of interceding is an active participation in that which has already completed Jesus Christ. I'm struck as well by the fact that the cross community is made in the johannine accounts. You know, mother, Behold, your son, son, behold your mother, that in that moment of intercession, there is actually a uniting of people in distinctive relationships. I'm very, very influenced by john Wesley sermon, a Catholic spirits. And if people listen to this, do nothing other than go and read the Catholic spirits, I'd be very glad. But Wesley talks in this about the need for us he to not just be together, but to walk together to journey together. And one of the things that he says is the most palpable thing we can do is to pray for each other across our differences. For me, that that remarkable thing that the Spirit enables us to do to turn to God and not determine our own needs. But to turn with hearts outwards to the world is an expression of what the Unity the universality of the church is.
Professor Gregg's, we are recording this interview in late May of 2020. This is a critical juncture in the COVID crisis moving forward, what do you anticipate the COVID crisis means for churches as we develop into this?
Yeah, I mean, I think that we are facing as a church, our biggest challenge and our biggest opportunity. And let me say, with a very sad and pained heart that at least here, I feel that we're missing our opportunity. This is a time when people are faced with their mortality in a way that they haven't been for generations. It's a time when people are having to ask fundamental questions about what matters. It's a time when people are turning to God praying, I've been really struck by the number of people who I know no faith, talking to me about things of faith. And it's a time therefore where we need to find new and creative ways of engaging people. I feel that from my own tradition, it's a time to reclaim what it means to say that each of us shares in the warm priesthood of Christ. Well, that that I have unfettered and unmediated access to the Spirit of God who gives me access fully to Christ without any of the paraphernalia of religion. And what would it mean for us to be a people of prayer? At this time? I know there's a wonderful movement called 714. I think it's 714. I'll get my verse wrong. Now, on Second Chronicles 714. If my people who are called by my name will pray and humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways I will forgive their sin and heal that land. And, and it's a time for us to pray. But I've also been pleased to see some people using this as an opportunity for missions. there's one minister who I think has sparked a real movement within the UK, one Anglican Vicar, who has been driving the streets of his parish with loudspeakers, and getting everyone to look out of their windows during lockdown playing at him, getting them to say, the Lord's prayer and saying a prayer together, it's been amazingly moving. And he's been on morning TV, it's really touched the nation. And what a tremendously straightforward thing to do to help and serve people. Where I think we are failing, at least in the UK, is in terms of our prophetic voice about this. I am pained to my depths of my soul to the point where I almost feel it tears at the moment that this is disproportionately affecting oppressed and poor people. Something that's been brought in by people like me who travel the world who are on flights. It's disproportionately affecting people who have to get public transport, who have to do low paid jobs, you don't have protective wear, who live in highly densely populated populated housing projects. The church needs to say something about that, because when we read the Old Testament, the accounts of justice, that vague accounts, their accounts actually about how we deal with people like that. At the moment, I'm actually just I don't know whether this is of any interest to anybody, but with two colleagues from Aberdeen, two wonderful colleagues from Aberdeen, the New Testament exegete, Grant McCaskill, and the practical theologian john Swinton, were writing a book a very quickly turned around book called church in theology and appcenter. Where we're each contributing three chapters, about what somebody could learn from this situation, I'd like to do something I'm really struck by the fact that in the story of the of Holy Week, there's the amount of times that the isolation of Christ is described, he goes off by himself to pray alone, he dies, that there's something really for us to learn about that isolation goes through. And I'm also really struck as well by that prophetic issue, and by the fact that we are our own priests. So we participate in the one priests to serve Jesus Christ, that we still have God with us, the God who knows what isolation is like, so that we are never
isolated. Professor Greg's we are really grateful for your reflections. And if I may close this interview with a question that we've been asking all of our interviewees on this program, and that is this, what would it mean for the church today to be united? How would we even recognize that unity? And what is it that we can do to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
I think one of the fundamental things that we can do is to affirm our unity that already exists in Christ. There are several bodies of Christ, there is one body of Christ. And one way I think that that for me is really important is through moving the emphasis more to the baptism. So often, we look at what divides us. And yet, it's really quite remarkable that churches have moved away from things like provisional baptism, that we are united in the warm baptism. And that's a really positive thing for me. And, but that constant reaffirmation that they're, that we are one, and it is into that oneness that we move. My great pain is that we can all receive Holy Communion from one another, or give Holy Communion to one another. And I think that might be a sign when we're able to do that, that we do see each other as fellow brothers and sisters as honored guests at the Lord's table, that we can get ourselves to a position where we recognize that it isn't us who preside. It is the Lord Himself, who presides at the table, and welcome sinners to sit and eat with him. I'm really influenced, I guess, at the moment by the idea of active unity. I think we spend a long time talking about passive unity, unity of polity, unity of structure. What does it mean to witness together to share together to mission together? What does it mean to do random acts of kindness together when I was a kid I used to leave share Jesus missions kids, early 20s when they run in the UK, and one of the things that he did through Christmas, all kinds of denote different denominations. And we would do things like turn up at the railway station for commuters going into London and serve them coffee. In the morning, well, you know what, it doesn't matter whether we agree about the I don't know the Genesis majesty to care more about the filioque way clause that we can do we can we can serve the world. And the more I think that we look to the fact that the existence of the church has always orientated to God and to the world, not to itself, that when we're on knees, our knees actually looking down on people is difficult when we're looking up to God. And when we're on our knees, serving other people, looking down on others who are serving alongside us is difficult to have, at the moment, the World Council of Churches with whom I'm involved, has been talking about the pilgrimage of justice and peace. And one of the mantras at the moment is that we shouldn't just be together we need to journey together. That sermon that I talked about before from Wesley is based on a verse from the books of kings, if your heart is right, with my heart, as my heart is right with your heart, give me your hand, and walk with me. And I wonder what it is for us to recognize a resonance in ourselves of the presence of Christ through the Spirit, so that we notice each other so that we gather together through that resonance. And that as Wesley puts it in his sermons, rather than walking together and arguing that we walk together and pray, and that we pray that whatever we find lacking in the other, the Lord, correct. And that whatever is lacking in us that the other sees, the Lord also corrects, what is it to say that we speak well of them, that we pray for them, that we engage in Mission and Service of them, that we uphold them in prayer that we passed it to them? I see that happening all the time of the Roman Catholic bishop in Aberdeen, for the north of Scotland, as part of the north of Scotland, is a remarkable, remarkable man. And even though we have such different theological commitments, he was an Abbot of a Benedictine monastery, he and I recognize something each other, and we can pray for each other, and talk about the things of God and recognize the shared service and witness. Let's look to that more. And let's along for that day, when we recognize that that means that we can sit down and feast together because that feast is already happening in God's kingdom. And all that we are having now is the tiniest taste of it.
It's been our amazing privilege today to be speaking with Professor Tom Greg's Marshall, chair of divinity at the University of Aberdeen, and also author of the text that we've been discussing today dogmatic ecclesiology, the priestly catholicity of the church. Professor grace, thank you so much for your time this morning.
Thank you so much for your time and for inviting me to do this. It's been a real joy.