What Kind of Family is the Church?

The title of this post is the title of the final chapter in Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey’s book, On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family. This will be my last post on this book, as we have been using this for opening reflections in Family Therapy this spring semester.


It is in this closing chapter that the authors introduce a new term: siblial.


A ‘sib’ by definition is a ‘group of persons unilaterally descended from a real or supposed ancestor.’ A sibling is a person in a sib relationship on the level of a brother or sister…. Siblial relationships… are those in which people are committed to one another and see each other and accept each other as brothers and sisters. We are ‘joint-heirs’ with Jesus Christ.


We are family, but the nature of family now becomes collateral/siblial. In that mysery of brother and sister there is a sense of commitment in a growing bond that pulls us to one another. The continuing functions of family and the necessary importance of the family as a unit can be very much served by a commitment that is siblial.


When the New Testament writers use siblial terms they were not meant to be mere euphemisms. ‘Brother’ and ‘sister’ are not simply pious jargon. They are real, permanent, and predictive. The church is in fact a family of families and the dynamic of that familial organization is our relationship with our Lord who then calls us to be brother and sister to one another. Because of him we are ‘sibs.’ (p. 159).

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