Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 27 February 2016

Bosco Peters Communion Means Communion

Andrew Lightbown Church leadership & strategy: some final thoughts
[This follows on from two earlier articles linked here.]

Nick Spencer Church Times Merkel’s strong, unshowy faith

Ian Paul Are evangelicals taking over the Church?

This is one I overlooked earlier.
Tom Ferguson The Crusty Old Dean The NFLization of the Anglican Communion: Primates Go Roger Goodell

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Father David
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Father David

Are Evangelicals taking over the Church – it certainly looks that way. Evangelical Justin is relatively young at just turned 60. He could be in post for another decade but what about the succession? In recent decades Evangelicals and Catholics have taken turns at being Cantuar. Ramsey (Catholic), Coggan (Evangelical), Runcie (Catholic), Carey (Evangelical) Williams (Catholic) and Welby (Evangelical) but where is the Catholic who might be next to sit on Augustine’s throne? Chichester (unlikely as some have him booked for a return to London) Chelmsford (a possibility) but I have a pound wager on him going to York –… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Does Ian Paul’s article about the creeping evangelical provenance of the Church of England sound a wee bit like the ‘Trumpet Call’ from the GAFCON Primates? If so, we’d all better look out! It could be that the Church of England could become less relevant to the rank anbd file of the people of the U.K. than is already seemingly the case. What is needed today is not the parsimonious piety of the Bible-bashers, but rather, an honest-to-God assessment of the Church’s still evident culture of sexism and homophobia. More mercy and less judgementalism for a start, might help to… Read more »

Tim N
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Tim N

From Ian Paul’s article about the rise of evangelicalism, ‘The one area largely untouched is that of cathedral deans’. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the phenomenal increase in the size of Cathedral congregations. In retirement I happily make a 50 mile round trip to enter into well ordered worship, using duly authorized resources that includes a good sermon and proper hymns. When chatting to others over the after service coffee one finds that they too have travelled from afar.

Rev David
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Rev David

I often wonder whether liberals anathematise people they see as sinners: “sexists, homophobes, racists, classists, and elitists..” rather more than evangelicals?!

Nathaniel Brown
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Nathaniel Brown

Fr Ron is spot on. I know SO many people who are turned off, turned away and virtually walk on the other side of the street when they pass a church – because of bible-bashing, flat-earth, OT fundamentalism and pushy evangelism. All of which simply pushes away the very people who have the most need of God’s love – and, though you’d scarcely know it – the love Christians are commanded to show to one another.

FR John Harris-White
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FR John Harris-White

Fr Ron and Fr David,

People often have told me the face is also the face of the soul. You have only to contrast the suited inhabitant of the see of Canterbury to Pope Francis. One shows his faith of the gospel of love and mercy, in the year of mercy. The other a dull executive officer. Let the Church of England find its Francis for the sake of the Anglican Communion, and the souls of the people of England.

Fr John

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

What Ron calls bible bashers , do actually engender thriving congregations..even in his own diocese.

James Byron
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James Byron

Undoubtedly true, Nathaniel, but let’s give credit where it’s due: evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories. For all the people evangelical worship alienates, plenty more walk through the door. Nor do they have a monopoly on exclusivity: since tastes are so diverse, all churches drive people away. Traditional churches alienate with inaccessible liturgy, liberal churches with an excessive focus on political issues, and so on. Instead of trying to undermine evangelical success, why not instead focus on the more pressing issue of why other traditions are declining, and ask how they need to change to reverse it? It’s… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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The Church of England needs, also, to take note of what is happening to the Anglican Church in Australia. The Sydney archdioces is currently flexing its muscles to threaten the other dioceses in Australia; that if they do not follow Sydney’s campaign against the LGBTQI community in the Church, they will either, not attend future bishops’ conferences or, opt out of the provincial Church into a GAFCON-like ‘Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans”. The Revd. David Ould and the former Archbishop Peter Jensen are advocates of these possible futures for these alternatives.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Bosco Peters is spot on. It is the Eucharist that unites us. Very good sacramental theology. Perhaps the primates couldn’t practice good sacramental theology because it leads to uncomfortable places. TEC’s inclusion is a result of this theology, “all the sacraments for all the baptized.” I’ve recently learned that for some in CoE, sacramental theology is more akin to our Protestant cousins. That is a much bigger issue than marriage, in my view. Regardless of who is “right,” it means that TEC and CoE, along with others, are not speaking the same language. It might sound like English, but we… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Tom Ferguson’s article (Crusty Old Dean) draws our attention to the fact that the meeting of the Primates was just a ‘meeting for conversation’ (part of the official description of meetings of the Primates). Was the January meeting, in fact, a properly constituted meeting of one of the official ‘Instrument of Unity” – having authority to discipline any one of the official members of the world-wide anglican Communion? One of Tom’s linked correspondents, Father Andrew McGowan, also has some pertinent and pithy comments to make on this subject. Another matter to consider is: What will the ACC have to say… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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The most telling statistic in Ian’s article, to me, is the one that says that in recent years evangelical ordination candidates in England have shot up from 30% to 70% of the total. With numbers like that, it’s not surprising that the church’s leadership is beginning to take on a different hue. Alas, the situation here in Canada is very different. If liberal and catholic folk see that as a problem, the solution is in their hands: find a way to inspire more people from their traditions to embrace a call to ordination. At the moment English evangelicals seem to… Read more »

Dr Edward Prebble
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Dr Edward Prebble

James Byron – “…evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories…” I am not sure that is true, James, in any of the countries we are talking about (Britain, North America, Australasia). It is certainly true that many evangelical churches are runaway success stories, and it is possibly true that in most dioceses, the largest churches are evangelical ones. But I am aware of a good number of evangelical churches that are not succeeding, and a good number of non-evangelical churches (e.g.cathedrals) that are doing very well too. My explanation for these phenomena are that evangelical theology and forms of… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Instead of trying to undermine evangelical success, why not instead focus on the more pressing issue of why other traditions are declining,” That’s hardly difficult. There is a small, but by no means insignificant, portion of the population for whom the past fifty years of progress are all a hideous mistake. These people aren’t all elderly: these are also people who think that their parents had it better. It’s an imagined golden age in which women knew their place (the kitchen, or the primary school classroom until they were married), foreigners knew their place (abroad, subjects for mission) and gays… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Dr. Prebble, turns out, we agree! I absolutely want churches from other traditions to adopt the things that make evangelicalism accessible (contemporary music, support networks, etc) without adopting evangelical theology. Style, not substance. That’d appeal both to evangelicalism’s limited demographic (also agree with what you say about a ceiling) and, crucially, outside it. Other traditions should either be similar to evangelicalism in style (contemporary, relaxed, welcoming) or, like cathedrals, do what they do to the highest standard. There needs to be constant and ruthless focus on accessibility: “Is X aspect of our church driving people away? If yes, is it… Read more »

Alastair Newman
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I-P’s piece paints an interesting picture of the present and future (?) makeup of the CofE. But for me it leaves a few questions unanswered, and unasked. Firstly, is it desirable for any grouping within the CofE to “take over”? Now, that wording was probably just chosen to make for a good title, rather than any implication that a takeover was indeed taking place. This question needs to be asked though. If it was liberal catholics who were “taking over” I, as a liberal catholic, would be horrified, not least because I would wonder about who would be left to… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

James “Is X aspect of our church driving people away?” That’s a very interesting comment. How would a church know? How many churches do you know who follow up when people leave? How many carry out research in their region when old ones die and new ones don’t join? You mention popular music as if it was a given that this would attract people. Do we know? Anecdotally, I know just as many who don’t like the evangelical pseudo-pop. I’m also very wary about this narrative that evangelical churches are doing particularly well. Edward Prebble has explained why that is… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

There’s a difference, surely, between “driving people away”, “putting people off”, “not attracting people in the first place” etc etc. Churches need to consider all of these things. But I think to say that if there is something which is “driving people away” (all people? is it also attracting some people?), then it should be “changed yesterday”, risks forming church polity (and ultimately theology) on the basis of popularity rather than theological principles. I think where non-evangelical churches still have a lot to learn from evangelical churches is in organisation and use of technology. The evangelical churches I know of… Read more »

Marshall Scott
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Brother Byron: “evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories.” Noted – or, so it appears. In fact, the evidence is that those churches that are bringing in large number of folks are also losing them out the back door. Here in the middle of America, mega-churches have about as many people leave as come in. Most are looking for a smaller, more personal church in which they can feel more invested and less “spectator.” Some, of course, end up in no church at all (but I don’t know that the percentage is higher than for any other churches). The… Read more »

Anne
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Anne

My church is in an area where the majority of churches would probably call themselves evangelical, and which has one very large conservative evangelical church. The congregation is 50 or so on a typical Sunday morning, but drawn from a pool of about three times that size, since many don’t come every week, and consistently attracting new people, at least at the rate at which others are dying or moving away. It consists largely of people who have made the very definite decision that evangelical churches are not for them. There are a lot of “refugees” who have left those… Read more »

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

“…if they [Jensenites] do not follow Sydney’s campaign against the LGBTQI community in the Church, they will either, not attend future bishops’ conferences or, opt out of the provincial Church into a GAFCON-like ‘Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans…” Fr. Ron Smith One would think that for most moderate and liberal Anglican dioceses in Australia, such an “opt out” by the Sydney Puritans would be a heaven-sent blessing! With these Calvinists out of the way, the Australian Church could mold Anglicanism in a much more open and welcoming direction, by consecrating women bishops, for example. The approximately 10 percent of Sydney parishes… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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Lots of stereotypes about evangelicals here – that we all attend megachurches, that we all like and use contemporary music, that we all love Facebook and Twitter and the social media, that we’re all racists (UKIP at prayer), that we’re all ‘Bible thumpers’ and ‘fundamentalists’. I’ve always been an evangelical. I’ve spent my entire ministry in small rural parishes – some of them two or three point (at one time, in the Canadian Arctic, I was the third most northerly Anglican minister in the world) – until my current parish which is a small suburban one. In our church the… Read more »

Victoriana
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Victoriana

Kurt, Australia has at least four bishops (who happen to be women), two of whom are diocesans. Yes, Sydney is a bit difficult around this, but the rest of the Australian church has done what it has faced problems there and found ways to compromise with some degree of integrity. We can evolve without being held hostage by the Church League.

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

Of course, Tim Chesterton, because choosing to be an evangelical is *exactly* like being LGBTI.

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

How *long* have evangelical churches been “a runaway success?” In what way? Mere numbers (and keep in mind that money is still mere numbers)? Do they actually create Christians, or just evangelicals? What are their main concerns in the society around them? What is the core of their worship and belief (not what they state, but what they do)?

Why worry about numbers? Do you really think that Christ will win with numbers? Where is your faith?

JCF
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JCF

“it’s many years since I’ve met an evangelical who bashed a Bible”

Tim, I don’t know exactly what Nathaniel meant by the phrase “bible-bashing”, but I doubt it means “physically striking a bible”. Rather, my guess is either 1) Bashing (banning from your institution) scholarly Biblical criticism (as in “Moses didn’t write the Five Books of Moses!”), or 2) using the Bible as a rhetorical cudgel against those whose sins differ from one’s own (failing to be a Christ-like in one’s same-sex marriage, as opposed to failing to be Christ-like in one’s opposite-sex marriage). Or both 1 & 2.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Can someone explain how a man ordained for 6 years and working at a seminary with about twenty students is a ‘Crusty Old Dean’? Or is this just a joke? Bexley Hall is now in its fourth peregrination in an effort to survive, merged with Seabury Western.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Of course, Tim Chesterton, because choosing to be an evangelical is *exactly* like being LGBTI.’ I don’t believe I said that. One area of commonality, however – an area in which we both have experience – is being the target of cliches and stereotypes. I’m also not at all clear what ‘choosing’ to be evangelical, or anglo-catholic, or liberal, or any other theological tradition, actually means. I doubt if it’s as clear cut as that. I’m not sure that’s how it feels to most of us. Could you ‘choose’ to be evangelical, Mark? Probably not – evangelical beliefs probably seem… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Thank you, Anne and Tim.

Simon Sarmiento
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Dr Seitz

Your question about Crusty Old Dean may be answered by this page
https://www.blogger.com/profile/10921729207953345589

Further biographical information on him is here
http://www.bexleyseabury.edu/tom-ferguson/

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim, I think one of the reasons evangelicals are increasingly having an image problem is that our lgbt debate is dominated by a group of evangelicals with a particularly rigid definition of what people must believe on a handful of topics, and who are very quick to disown other people who call themselves evangelical, if they don’t fit the mould. The rich tradition of what it used to mean to be evangelical is getting lost in this. Maybe it’s up to other evangelicals to fight back? After all, if nuanced, tolerant people don’t explain their brand of being evangelical, they… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

What else would you call being an evangelical? You were just born that way?

And, yes, I could choose to be an evangelical, but much of their belief is based on mere emotionalism, and that, while appealing, is not true worship.

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

One of the things that would attract all these young folks and families you want in the liberal catholic churches would be actually showing some moral courage as well as real community involvement. Nobody cares what you send overseas, they only see what you are doing here.

Kurt Hill
Guest
Kurt Hill

I apologize that I wasn’t clear, Victoriana. I meant no slight to the moderate and liberal Australian Anglicans who are supportive of both women and gay people. Nor to imply that Australian Anglicans have not successfully consecrated women bishops outside of Sydney. If I were an Australian Anglican, however, I would be overjoyed that the Sydney Puritans might finally alienate enough moderates and liberals to say “Enough Is Enough!” and to begin to at least provide Alternative Episcopal Oversight for the ten percent of Sydney parishes who would likely embrace it. Free of those Calvinist throwbacks and their “oversight,” clergy… Read more »

I_T
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I_T

I think it is worth recalling that “Evangelical” has rather different meaning in the US, where it is typically associated with fundamentalist conservative denominations that make up the “Christian Right”.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“I think one of the reasons evangelicals are increasingly having an image problem is that our lgbt debate is dominated by a group of evangelicals with a particularly rigid definition of what people must believe” That is, to judge from the debate as seen from this side of the Atlantic, what is killing evangelical churches in the American bible belt. Hatred of gay people (and to a lesser extent creationism) has been made a fundamental, salvation issue, and young people are presented with the stark choice: “hate your gay friends and abjure science, or leave the church”. “Uh, OK, I… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘And, yes, I could choose to be an evangelical, but much of their belief is based on mere emotionalism, and that, while appealing, is not true worship.’

I’ve heard John Calvin, John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, Charles Simeon, et al accused of many things, but emotionalism is not one of them.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Thank you Simon. They show a man with 6 years in the priesthood at a school without many students, trying to stay afloat. When I think of a ‘Crusty Old Dean’ I think of a man war-weary from years of service at a seriously demanding post, known to generations of former students. I have known such men/women.

But maybe he is being arch.

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

Thanks for your reply, Kurt. The liberal side of the Australian church seems to believe in the integrity of diocesan/provincial borders in a way that must look remarkably naive and hopeful in the face of Sydney’s church plants. That said, the parishes you mention manage to find episcopal ministry both from within Sydney as well as beyond. Sydney’s evangelicalism is monolithic, but I can dial up a good number of Moore College alumni who have seen the light and smelt the incense. The problem with bishops not turning up to meetings in Australia is that the Jensen crew will keep… Read more »

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

I’m not sure if Tom Ferguson is being arch but his tongue is firmly in cheek. As his blog notes, the title is taken from a quotation from “The Simpsons,” a biting and satirical U.S. TV cartoon show, and he notes, “OK, this title is only partly true. I am a dean but am not particularly crusty and not old (at least demographically for the Episcopal Church if not our culture).” His blog can be, perhaps, a bit pointed and biting. But he often shares a point of view that’s worth considering whether one ultimately agrees with it or not.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Thank you Dr Primrose.

The title would suggest to me someone of great seniority and long history in a post, overseeing generations of students.

My grandfather taught at Bexley Hall for over 40 years and trained generations of clergy. He was crusty and he was old. And I have known Deans in this category as well, as in the US a dean can be an administrative role one does not exchange with other faculty.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dear Tim, I think you may have missed the point – of the one who challenged the idea of ‘choosing’ to be LGBTQI as the equivalent of ‘choosing’ to be an evangelical! I think he meant that the idea of actually choosing – in either situation – is not necessarily true. One’s belief system – in both cases – is informed by one’s situation. In the case of an Evangelical Christian; this presupposes one’s evangelical upbringing in the Faith – not unlike that of an Anglo-Catholic; their belief is influenced by their A.C. upbringing. Similarly, ones sexuality is determined by… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Ron, I believe you may be a little behind in the discussion. Go back and read my reply of March 1st at 8.46 a.m. and you’ll discover that I agree with you.

And I would like to repeat (once again) that I think a few people on this thread have responded to a comparison that I did not actually make.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Thanks, Tim. Perhaps I needed to emphasise what I think to be the importance of any misunderstanding on the matter of homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) being – or not being – simply a choice for the person concerned. That is why the whole business of ‘conversion therapy’ is absurd.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Ron, my original point was that gay people and evangelicals have in common the experience that they have both been unfairly stereotyped and caricatured. That, and that only, was the point that I was making, as my original post makes clear. At no point did I assert that people choose to be gay.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Understand perfectly, Tim. Over and out.