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The Tree and The Branches

 

Diverse and con­flict­ing fac­tions with­in Chris­tian­i­ty have often dri­ven the faith­ful to seek uni­ty through con­formist orga­ni­za­tion and enforced doc­trine.  At times the imag­i­na­tion of Church lead­er­ship would envi­sion and present the faith­ful with an idea of a gold­en age at the begin­ning of Chris­tian­i­ty — an era blessed with per­fect har­mo­ny and truth.  But such a con­di­tion nev­er exist­ed.  The only true uni­ty the Church has ever known is the per­son of Jesus Christ, him­self, and the ded­i­ca­tion of those who have tak­en his mes­sage to heart.  The core truth of Jesus’ teach­ings has moved for­ward in time not by doc­trine but by faith…not by orga­ni­za­tion but by the con­veyance of the Holy Spir­it from one through anoth­er by the pow­er of Love.

The true pow­er of Chris­t­ian fel­low­ship is through spir­i­tu­al uni­ty that has expand­ed beyond all expec­ta­tion and defied the con­straint of all lim­it­ing ves­sels.  Even those who walked with Jesus would often dis­agree about the sig­nif­i­cance of his life and the nature of the mis­sion he intend­ed for them.  There­fore, if we would under­stand the true char­ac­ter of the Church estab­lished by Jesus and the Apos­tles, we must see it as some­thing more than an ever-widen­ing com­pass.  A bet­ter image would be an immense tree with deep roots and count­less spread­ing limbs.  The tree sprang up from the seed of Jesus Christ, with its roots in the rich soil of Jew­ish faith, law, and cus­tom.  The trunk would be the spir­it and love of Jesus Christ pour­ing out to suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions through each per­son that took his mes­sage to heart and prac­ticed it in faith and ser­vice.  The inclu­sive nature of Chris­tian­i­ty has accept­ed even the lim­i­ta­tions of belief and prac­tice, or the human inse­cu­ri­ty of plac­ing con­for­mi­ty and agree­ment over the search for truth.  When­ev­er that would hap­pen a new “branch” of the tree would bud and grow.  Each denom­i­na­tion of belief, prac­tice, and cus­tom could be viewed as a new spread­ing branch.  Even the largest denom­i­na­tions are only branch­es of the Great Tree.  Because there is so much diver­si­ty with­in Chris­t­ian faith and prac­tice, the branch­es have often com­pet­ed for dom­i­nance.  To rein­force such con­tentions for dom­i­nance, the his­to­ry of a “branch” has often been con­fused with the his­to­ry of the Church.  Though many have tried, how­ev­er, nev­er once has a branch suc­cess­ful­ly cap­tured and redi­rect­ed through itself the whole growth of The Tree!

With a botan­i­cal tree there is a dif­fer­ent cel­lu­lar orga­ni­za­tion in the trunk than in the branch­es.  So fun­da­men­tal is this dif­fer­ence that any tree will cease to grow ver­ti­cal­ly if its cen­ter stem is dam­aged or clipped—regardless of how strong the branch­es are.  This is true also of the Great Tree of Chris­t­ian faith.  The Church of Jesus Christ is not entire­ly of this world, except that it instructs us to love one anoth­er and to con­vey the Holy Spir­it to one anoth­er by love, sup­port, char­i­ty, and com­mu­nion.  Those who know this under­stand the mys­tery and grace of the cen­tral trunk of the tree.  As Jesus was ever mind­ful to assert, “I am in the world, but not of the world.”  So too is the cen­tral trunk of the tree.  Through lov­ing grace and fath­om­less mys­tery He brought forth a ves­sel for faith with amaz­ing adapt­abil­i­ty.  Those who fol­low it most close­ly often do so with the least amount of vis­i­ble struc­ture and remain close to cen­ter.  Those who have less tol­er­ance and flex­i­bil­i­ty typ­i­cal­ly devel­op spe­cial­ized branch­es of faith and ser­vice.   As with any tree, the branch­es are often more vis­i­ble than the trunk until one moves in close­ly enough to see the true source of the tree’s strength and life.  What is unique about the cen­tral core, the Sacred Heart of the Church?  An eter­nal truth, abid­ing in love, with enough sim­plic­i­ty, strength, and adapt­abil­i­ty to sup­port all the nec­es­sary adap­ta­tions for the sur­vival of its branch­es.

When Jesus began his work with only twelve Apos­tles, only the pow­er of love could sur­mount the harsh con­di­tions of con­flict and oppres­sion that spread across the earth at that time.  “Love your God with all your heart, might, and soul, and your neigh­bor as your­self,” was a sim­ple uni­fy­ing mes­sage that dis­solved resis­tance to build a new com­mu­ni­ty through the hearts of men and women need­ing a new life.  Soon that num­ber would com­prise the major­i­ty of the Roman Empire — which is to say also the major­i­ty of the world!  Not only did the out­reach of Chris­tian­i­ty spread as a faith and a com­mu­ni­ty, but also the orig­i­nal Apos­tles taught and con­se­crat­ed oth­er Apos­tles as Bish­ops to care for the grow­ing flocks.  So the cen­tral trunk of the tree would expand to car­ry its out­er growth.  For 2000 years there has been a lin­eage of stew­ard­ship that has pro­tect­ed and passed on the orig­i­nal mes­sage of love.  Through every gen­er­a­tion that cen­tral lin­eage has insured (through strange and diverse meth­ods) the tol­er­ance, accep­tance, and appli­ca­tion of these mes­sages for the strength and fur­ther­ance of the Church cor­po­re­al.  Often the keep­ers of the cen­tral trunk have served in an incon­spic­u­ous mis­sion­ary fash­ion.  Always the bless­ings and duties of respon­si­bil­i­ty have been con­veyed per­son to per­son, rather than insti­tu­tion to per­son.  Per­haps the great­est dif­fer­ence between the trunk and the branch­es is the rel­a­tive unim­por­tance of insti­tu­tion­al pow­er that exists near the true cen­ter.  Those who are close to the cen­ter may have served with­in the var­i­ous branch­es, or they may have swum like anony­mous fish in chan­nels of love known only to God and those they served.  Stew­ard­ship of this pow­er has been by ded­i­ca­tion to God, ser­vice to man, and ordi­na­tion or con­se­cra­tion by those who came before.  There­fore, the mem­bers of this sacred fra­ter­nal trust have often been less well known than those who led the ven­er­a­ble branch­es, and more hum­ble than those who had more fixed or promi­nent agen­das.  Yet like the spir­it of Chris­tian­i­ty itself, this cen­tral lin­eage con­tin­ues to move for­ward in unbro­ken suc­ces­sion.  It reemerges into pub­lic vis­i­bil­i­ty every gen­er­a­tion in often sur­pris­ing ways of new ser­vice and inspi­ra­tion.  It has now reap­peared as Spiri­tis Church.  To tell the his­to­ry of Spiri­tis Church is a bit like telling the his­to­ry of sun­shine.  The sun has nev­er changed in its direc­tion or ceased in its warmth and radi­ance, but due to the revolv­ing cycles of earth it seems to re-emerge each new day in a dif­fer­ent posi­tion on the hori­zon.  For this rea­son it is far more impor­tant to exam­ine the char­ac­ter of the Orig­i­nal Church and the vital sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship exist­ing between all parts of the tree, than mere­ly to retell the sequen­tial dra­mas of his­to­ry.   Paul wrote in Gala­tians 3: 28 “You are all Sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is nei­ther Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritis Church

Spiri­tis Church car­ries for­ward into the third mil­len­ni­um the Orig­i­nal Church of The Way and Spir­i­tus Sanc­ti.  Spiri­tis Church accepts and affirms the val­ue of all denom­i­na­tions of Chris­tian­i­ty, and does not espouse any doc­tri­nal lim­i­ta­tions or exclude the truths of God in any way they may appear.

We find our­selves stand­ing on a foun­da­tion of such ancient firm­ness that our per­spec­tive can embrace the hero­ic past of those who car­ried the light of Christ and the truth of the Holy Spir­it for­ward through chal­lenge and adver­si­ty.  We can appre­ci­ate the guid­ance of Spir­it when it has sur­ren­dered to serve with­in ves­sels of human con­for­mi­ty and restric­tion.  We can also see the indomitable courage of those who were cho­sen by Spir­it to expand the enve­lope of faith and con­scious­ness.  And now, in respect of an inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty of mankind emerg­ing for the first time, we are hum­bled and awestruck by the majesty of Spir­it unfold­ing from every nation.  Through advances in com­mu­ni­ca­tion, break­throughs in tech­nol­o­gy, and dis­cov­er­ies through objec­tive schol­ar­ship, we are find­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in the his­to­ry of Truth, heal­ing modal­i­ties, and inspi­ra­tional ful­fill­ment from every cor­ner of the earth.  We are dis­cov­er­ing that the same kinds of mis-direc­tion have hurt us all, and the same kinds of ded­i­ca­tion to good­ness, love, and ser­vice has ful­filled us all.

Per­haps it is sig­nif­i­cant that my own Con­se­cra­tion as a Bish­op on the first morn­ing of the third mil­len­ni­um marked a shift of empha­sis from the branch­es back to the trunk of the tree.   Strong con­no­ta­tions of con­trol­ling struc­ture are often attached to sit­u­a­tions of exclu­sive mas­culin­i­ty, and with the intro­duc­tion of fem­i­nine char­ac­ter there is per­haps a sub­tle sug­ges­tion that pri­or­i­ties will now adjust toward nur­tur­ing and sup­port in a more uncon­di­tion­al way.

The foun­da­tion of Spiri­tis Church is Jesus Christ.  Its pow­er is the Holy Spir­it. And, its future is an unchart­ed fron­tier of unlim­it­ed pos­si­bil­i­ties for inclu­sion, love, and ser­vice as nev­er seen before.  We hon­or all faiths and beliefs that tru­ly reside in the heart and are applied with benev­o­lence for the com­mu­ni­ties of man and nature.  As a liv­ing lega­cy of the “trunk of the tree” Spiri­tis Church stands in accep­tance of the many branch­es that already exist and the many unborn branch­es that are beyond our capac­i­ty to envi­sion.  We hold that the Church is of God not man, to be cre­at­ed and recre­at­ed by the will of God not man, and to exist by rev­e­la­tions of Truth, not by lim­i­ta­tions of struc­ture.  There­fore, Spiri­tis Church is all-denom­i­na­tion­al and is open to all the pos­si­bil­i­ties of God.  In the words of Paul to the Eph­esians (4:4–6) “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope, when you were called—one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Read more… The Apostolic Movement
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