The future among us

Published December 1, 2014

This column was first published in the December issue of the Anglican Journal.

Everyone of us has an interest in the future health of our church. We are, together and individually, working and hoping for a vibrant, united and effective community. Recognizing that we won’t get there by staying the same, a number of possible approaches to our common future have been proposed.

Risking oversimplification, we could say that two interests have governed contemporary approaches to the future: in one, the interest is to recreate the conditions and practices of years past-a time, it is thought, when the church was unified, faithful and influential; in the other, the goal is to create a church that is more responsive, relevant and consequential to the perceived needs of people today-the future is embraced with commitment and enthusiasm. One side aims for the past. The other aims for the future.

The gospel is hostile to both of these approaches. It reveals their puny potential and the vanity of a human-centred attempt to bring health and well-being to the church. The coming reign of God-as announced by Jesus, enacted in his death/resurrection and present among us through the Holy Spirit-is the only aspiration that the church is allowed to have. Any aspiration short of the reign of God can only be a deception, a vain hope that human effort might, after all, be enough to save us, enough to make the world right.

It may seem that placing the church’s progress and destiny in the reign of God removes it from the realm of possibility; placing the church’s hope out of reach in an impossible ideal. But Jesus tells us that this hope animates the first rays of its reality and, at the same time, initiates our progress toward fulfillment. The reign is not for the church alone-it is for all of creation-but it lives in the church as a spark, lighting our way to the summit of creation and history. It says that our success is never our possession or accomplishment. The reign of God is God’s gift, but we must seek it with all our heart. That is our only livable and real future.

Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.


  • Mark MacDonald

    Mark MacDonald was national Indigenous Anglican bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019, and national Indigenous Anglican archbishop from 2019 to 2022.

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