Jon Stovell’s Notebook


Vineyard sacramentality in relation to other Christian traditions

I loved a recent article on Not the Religious Type. The author (who appears to have left the Vineyard for an Anglican church) states that the Vineyard, like the Anglican church, has two sacraments... but they’re not baptism and eucharist. They’re prayer ministry and worship. He defines sacrament as something like an experience of the divine that transcends words, if I remember correctly. It’s an interesting proposition (full of problems depending on how you use the various words in there). I’ve enjoyed thinking about it.

– Peter Benedict, 2012-01-05, in Facebook discussion (now available on the SVS forum)

Peter, I have thought similarly myself about our Vineyard practices, in that worship and prayer ministry function almost sacramentally for us. This is interesting, given that officially we don’t have any sacraments, but rather describe baptism and Communion as ordinances. It seems to me that due to our being charismatic, we’ve actually moved from the Zwinglian view that we inherited, in which there are no sacraments, to something more akin to the Eastern Orthodox view, in which almost anything could function sacramentally. It is almost as though we’ve taken the normal spectrum of theology on this matter (Orthodox: undefined number of sacraments -> Roman Catholic: seven sacraments -> Lutheran: two sacraments [consubstantiation] -> Reformed: two sacraments [real, but perichoretic presence] -> Zwinglian: no sacraments, but rather two ordinances) and bent it around in a circle. We don’t consider anything inherently sacramental, but because the Spirit can do as he pleases, almost anything can become a means of operative grace. For us, worship and prayer ministry are chief modes of that operation of grace, but by no means the only ones. This is remarkably like what the Eastern Orthodox would say about baptism and Eucharist. It is perhaps not coincidental that the Orthodox traditionally have a much stronger pneumatology than most Western churches.