It is to be expected that a blog which contains Christians from so many different parts of the spectrum should, from time to time, end up discussing ecclesiology – if only by default. The question of ‘by what authority’ is, as Jessica has pointed out, one which each of us ultimately answers for personally. I have never seen a great deal of point in discussing ecclesiology formally in a space like this. When I was an Anglican I was one because I was convinced by its ecclesiology. When it seemed to me that there were unmistakeable signs that it was moving in a direction where I would be a hindrance, I ceased being a communicant Anglican – though I continued to worship in the Church of England for years thereafter. It is easier to changes one’s church than the habits of mind that go with it, and I have no doubt that had the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham existed back when I converted, it would have been an easier journey with a home that suited me better – but one goes where one feels that one is called.
Some, like Jessica and others here, have stayed where they always were, other of us have felt called elsewhere. The only thing to do here, I think, is to practice mutual respect. Perhaps someone somewhere was converted by internet apologetics, but I doubt its being a good idea.
Few, if any of us, have such a grip on the global history of Christianity to make anything but judgements based on the parts of it with which we are familiar. For my own part I have never come across men and women so obviously holy as the Coptic monks and nuns I have met; they radiated a sense of living for and in Christ. The idea that it mattered whether back in 451 their patriarch and the patriarch of all the west could agree on the hypostatic union seemed, somehow in their presence, profoundly irrelevant. I have had similar encounters with Indian and Ethiopic Orthodox Christians, well as with other Orthodox; similarly, I have met Anglican and Roman Catholic priests who struck me in the same way as men of obvious piety, merely to be in whose presence made me feel somehow closer to Christ. All of these would make the claim that they encountered Christ in the Eucharistic feast, and most of them belong to churches which, if one took their doctrine seriously, said that that was unlikely to be the case in any church other than their own. Who am I to tell men so patently obviously holier than I shall ever be that they are in error? It seemed, and seems, better simply not to get into such fruitless discussions – it it hard to see how such conversations and the points that go with them advance the kingdom of God. And if our witness does not do that, then for laymen such as myself, it is a moot point as to what we are doing if that is not part of it?
Jesus told us his disciples would be known as such by their love one for another. Sometimes the only question worth asking is whether, if that is the case, anyone would be able to convict me of being a Christian?