Things are up and running here in Atlanta for the Telos Collective’s 2019 Intersection Conference on Anglican Missional Ecclesiology. Here’s a brief recap of day one.

Hans Boersma: “Proclaiming the Gospel through the Eucharist”

After Archbishop Foley and Bishop Todd Hunter got things started, we heard from Hans Boersma on “Proclaiming the Gospel through the Eucharist.”

Boersma, who now teaches at Nashotah House, started with the question: “What’s the relationship between preaching and Eucharist?”

His answer was both brief and memorable: “It’s all about Jesus.”

I really appreciated Boersma’s focus on viewing the Table AS Word, instead of merely talking about (as we Anglicans so often do) Word AND Table.
In other words, Boersma focused on viewing the Eucharist itself as proclamation of the gospel.

This gospel proclamation can be seen and heard at the Eucharist in what’s called the Memorial Acclamation: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

In the Memorial Acclamation, all of us together preach the gospel at the Table.

Boersma also took us to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

How is it, Boersma wondered, that eating and drinking in the Eucharist is a form of proclaiming Christ’s death?

Ultimately, Boersma zeroed-in on the concept of eucharistic sacrifice. He considered the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, in which Polycarp gave a eucharistic prayer before sacrificing himself in martyrdom.

According to Boersma, we proclaim the gospel in the Eucharist by patterning our sacrificial life on Christ’s sacrificial life, even unto death.

However, this raises an issue. If we’re sacrificing ourselves, how are we not proclaiming ourselves?

For Boersma, John 15 contains a key: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” When we offer ourselves up to God, we’re not doing something on our own. We are instead participating in the sacrifice of Christ.

In the Eucharist, we gather up our mundane, everyday sacrifices and bring them to God in the Church. In doing so, we are participating in the sacrifice of Christ, without thereby replacing it.

If there were two different sacrifices—ours and Christ’s—we would have a huge problem! However, there really is only one sacrifice. That’s why our sacrifice doesn’t replace or add to Christ’s.

We proclaim Christ in the Eucharist through the self-sacrifice in the Eucharist.

Panel Discussion of Boersma’s Talk

Normally I wouldn’t go into the questions and answers during a post-talk panel session.

However, the exchange between Esau McCaulley and Hans Boersma is worth mentioning, because it shaped McCaulley’s presentation.

In response to a question from McCaulley, Boersma said that he thought cultural emphasis on social justice was a threat to the Church these days, in part because the end of the Christian life is contemplation (of God), and not action.

Personally, I thought this response dropped the ball a bit. Given Boersma’s emphasis on how our everyday sufferings and sacrifices—including sacrificial concern for the poor—are participations in Christ’s suffering/sacrifice, I thought he would handle social justice in a different way.

While I believe Boersma has the biblical and theological resources to make good sense of Christian ethics and concern for justice, calling social justice a threat first and only then clarifying that, of course, we should oppose evil seems like the wrong way to go about it.

Esau McCaulley: “Recovering Romans as a Document for Multiethnic Mission

It was evident that Esau McCaulley disagreed with Boersma’s assessment of the “threat” of social justice.

Before he got into the main topic of his lecture, McCaulley, who now teaches at Wheaton College, first responded to the exchange between Boersma and himself in the previous panel discussion.

I thought this was masterfully done. Without throwing Hans under the bus, Esau clarified that seeing social justice as merely a progressive/liberal threat misses the fact that social justice concerns have long been wedded to Christian orthodoxy in the Black Church.

According to McCaulley, the liberal elements in Black Liberation Theology/ies owe more to mainline progressivism than to the historic Black Church.

And, in addition to highlighting the importance of being able to make good sense of social justice concerns for minority communities, McCaulley also brought up how young white evangelicals —often not wanting to end up like their parents who largely ignored or opposed the Civil Rights Movement—will continue to head toward more progressive churches if they don’t hear social justice being talked about in evangelical churches.

McCaulley weaved his social justice response into his main talk about the book of Romans. After citing some demographic trends that are predicted to occur in the next couple decades, he wondered: What’s gonna happen in the USA if/when everything else but the church is ethnically diverse?

Esau is convinced that the changes in America give us an opportunity to recover a gospel truth. We should not become less biblical in how we respond as Christians, but MORE biblical. The Scriptures equip us to deal with the challenges that the culture poses to us.

Specifically, McCaulley argued that the theology of Paul’s letter to the Romans was designed to sustain and give birth to multiethnic churches.

His talk was broken up in to four parts:

  1. Recovering the kingdom in our preaching and teaching.
  2. Recovering Pauline anthropology and the doctrine of justification as a solution to racial strife.
  3. Recovering theology as a means of sustaining community.
  4. Recovering apologetics and practical ministry as central elements of our work as church leaders.

Without abandoning the importance of justification by faith to the book of Romans, McCaulley reminded us that the situation in Rome was multiethnic and missional. (Jewish church leaders were expelled under Claudius, then later welcomed back to find their churches run by Gentiles.)

For Paul, the gospel creates ONE Church, Jew and Gentile!

Now, McCaulley argued, there’s nothing wrong with justification by faith through grace, but Romans doesn’t begin at 1:16-17! We can’t forget the importance of Romans 1:1-5!

These verses set the tone of the letter as focusing on the kingship of Jesus—a kingship/kingdom that includes both Jews and Gentiles.

Why does kingship matter for multiethnic mission? Because diversity is a manifestation of God’s sovereignty.

Returning to the theme of social justice and cultural witness, McCaulley clarified that we don’t have to establish the kingdom on our own, but we do have to give witness to the kingdom!

For me, a particularly poignant and challenging section of the talk was when McCaulley said the following:

Rather than glory in the salvation of people who were like him, Paul gloried in the salvation of people who were different from him.

However, this was just the top highlight of a lecture full of highlights. McCaulley gave us an excellent overview of the missional and multiethnic implications of the book of Romans.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, despite their disagreements on social justice, I thought that Hans Boersma’s and Esau McCaulley’s lectures were complimentary, not contradictory. As we move into day #2 of the conference, I’m thinking about the implications and connections between eucharistic self-sacrifice and multiethnic diversity.

More to come! Stay tuned!