Monday, 25 September 2006

The end of the Communion?

InclusiveChurch has issued the following press release:

The end of the Communion?

1.0 As a result of the statements issued by the meeting of the Primates of the “Global South” in Kigali, the Anglican Communion has been moved into completely new territory. We are presented with a situation where the possibility of dialogue between believing Christians is being closed down. Both the tone and the content of the Communique of the Primates of the Global South reflect an understanding of the Church which is profoundly un-Anglican, and represents a radical departure from both our ecclesiology and our traditions. We are sleepwalking towards a new church, and unless the silent majority of Anglicans do take action we will wake up to find we have lost the Church and the Christianity we hold dear.

2.0 “One church, one bishop, one territory” is fundamental to our Anglican polity and identity; to say that it is now “outdated” is to deny the whole history of Anglicanism . To say that many of the Primates can either not be in communion or to be in “impaired communion” with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (TEC) represents a theological and ecclesiological nonsense, The sacrament of Holy Communion is a sacrament given to us by God which is not capable of impairment. We trust in God and give thanks to Him for the gift of communion; it is as the Body of Christ that we exist.

3.0 The proposal to create two parallel jurisdictions within the Anglican Communion, separate but both nominally Anglican through their relationship with Canterbury, rides roughshod over the Instruments of Unity and over the Windsor process. It also represents a misunderstanding of the nature of Anglican identity. If we are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury we cannot be out of communion with one another.

But we remember that many of the primates of the “Global South” absented themselves from a Eucharist to which they were invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Dromantine Conference in 2005. We draw the conclusion from that that their allegiance to Canterbury is at best skin deep, and subject to his confirmation of their particular position on matters of human sexuality.

We also note that the Communique did not involve or receive the assent of the Archbishop of Cape Town and the Province of Southern Africa, and we wonder how many other Provinces’ assent has been assumed instead of confirmed.

4.0 Those who believe in a church which is both inclusive and welcoming have until now sought to respond to the actions of the Primates of the “Global South” with reason and restraint. As a result, factions within our Church have pushed harder and harder at the bounds of communion. Their proposals now bear only a tangential resemblance to the Anglicanism which has until now defined and developed the Communion.

5.0 We note too that significant amounts of funding for many of the organisations which have led on these – notably the American Anglican Council, Anglican Communion Network and Anglican Mainstream – have come from the Ahmanson family and other non-Anglican, politically conservative foundations based in the United States. This funding has enabled the due processes of the Anglican Communion to be subverted and hijacked, raising issues of family life and human sexuality to a prominence within the life of our church which is unjustified and contrary to the Gospel values of love and justice.

6.0 We have noted with concern that although the Archbishop of Canterbury has implicitly on a number of occasions publicly been critical of the actions of TEC - for example in his recent Pastoral Letter he has as yet not been critical of the very serious breaches of the Instruments of Unity by the Church of Nigeria; for example, the creation of a Bishop in the United States in complete contravention of Windsor guidelines on provincial boundaries. Neither has he challenged the actions of the Church of Nigeria in its vociferous support of the criminalisation of homosexuality in Nigeria despite his condemnation of homophobia on several occasions.

7.0 We note that the Communique from the Primates of the “Global South” identifies the Church of England as being compromised by its attitude towards the civil partnership legislation in this country. We believe it is important in this context for the Church of England to be clear on its current practice. Namely, that hundreds if not thousands of same-gender partnerships have been celebrated over the past thirty years, in churches, by priests and deacons. Further, that there have been, and in the future no doubt will be homosexual bishops in relationships within our church. Any Covenant, therefore, which excludes members of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada will have also to exclude the Church of England.

7.0 In the light of what is being produced by the “Global South” we have the following questions for which we request urgent clarification from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office

7.1 Will they confirm that all Bishops duly elected or appointed and with current responsibilities in the Communion will be invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference? There can be no other way to ensure that those loyal to the principles of Anglicanism are duly and properly involved in the life of our Communion.

7.2 If “Alternative Primatial Oversight” is granted for the Dioceses seeking it in the United States, what equivalent oversight will be offered to LGBT Christians experiencing danger and discrimination in Nigeria and other parts of Africa?

7.3 What structures exist to permit the selection of an “alternative” to the Presiding Bishop of TEC to attend Primates’ meetings?

7.4 Is the development of parallel jurisdictions acceptable to the ACO? If it is, then what is to stop the development of more jurisdictions on other matters?

7.5 The “Global South” Primates appear to be seeking to pre-empt the Covenant process by preparing a draft with the clear intention of requiring assent to confessional propositions related to homosexuality. What implications does this have for the process of agreeing a Covenant which recognises the depth and breadth of Anglicanism, both Catholic and Reformed?

7.6 What brief was given to the Bishops of Durham and Winchester in their recent attendance at a meeting of Bishops of TEC?

8.0 We are also concerned by the silence from the Bishops of the Church of England. The implications of the “Global South” developments may well, in the near future, have an impact on the Church of England. Indeed there have already been actions which indicate the shape of things to come, such as the unauthorised ordinations in the Diocese of Southwark. There are significant numbers of English Bishops who are deeply perturbed by the actions of their colleagues across the world, and deeply concerned to counter homophobia and prejudice. Why are they not speaking?

9.0 Today we celebrate the life of Lancelot Andrewes, one of the fathers of our church. We deeply regret the way in which the Communion is being undermined and sidetracked by a false Anglicanism which neither reflects nor pays tribute to our history. We trust and pray that the dialogue to which we are all as Christians called will continue so that the Gospel of Christ may flourish in this country and across the Communion.

Giles Goddard
Chair, InclusiveChurch

Lancelot Andrewes; 25th September 2006

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Comments

Not "the Communiqué of the Primates of the Global South" but a communiqué by unknown parties in the name of the Primates of the Global South.

This distinction is important, being the difference between valid and void.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 4:11pm BST

This is excellent ! Thank you.

It really needs saying.

It is very clearly written and clearly thought through.

It will need to be the beginning of a clear and concerted process of both protest against what has been happening to undermine the integrity & polity of ECUSA, the ACC, and Canterbury; & constructive expression of the liberality & catholicity of twentyfirst century Anglicanism.

Posted by: laurence roberts on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 5:04pm BST

Thank you! Your clear and positive statement is deeply encouraging. However, in the last sentence of 1.0 the word not has crept in where it perverts the meaning.
All I'd like to add is that those so quick to withdraw from communion shoud have learned the comforting old saying, "the unworthiness of the minister hindereth not the effect of the sacrament."
Columba Gilliss

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 5:37pm BST

Like Giles, I, too, have wondered at the relative silence of English bishops (except those who set out to derail the American and Canadian Churches). Where the other voices? I know (from personal communications) that they are a considerable number.

Our American inclination is to think of a foregone union between the C of E and the Episcopal Church which needs little attention because it is so "basic". But we are at a time when we need to KNOW about that. We need to HEAR those voices standing with us against the thuggery of the GS folk.

We will certainly "go it alone" if we have to, but we surely do not WANT that, and it seems to me that ECUSA's stance fairly represents what I know of the minds and commitments of most western cultures and church people. But we do need to hear those voices.

Who is there in the C of E? "Inclusive Church", yes - is "Affirming Catholicism" with us? - Who else or what other gatherings are there in England who stand with us in defense of normative Anglicanism?

Posted by: John-Julian, OJN on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 5:50pm BST

Hm, can't remember the feller's name, but I recall some religious leftie or other saying that you couldn't serve God and Money. Just goes to prove Him wrong, doesn't it.....

Someone suggest a suitable Anglican variant on the old saw 'British Justice - the best that money can buy.'

Posted by: mynsterpreost on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 6:12pm BST

All excellent points, indeed. I am especially interested by this

'But we remember that many of the primates of the “Global South” absented themselves from a Eucharist to which they were invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Dromantine Conference in 2005. We draw the conclusion from that that their allegiance to Canterbury is at best skin deep, and subject to his confirmation of their particular position on matters of human sexuality.'

All along I have wanted to know just which primates these were -- I suspect that this will be an excellent indicator of where the fault lines will run. Certainly someone out these knows names & provinces, but so far as I know, these have never been revealed -- perhaps it is past time for a little honesty here.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 7:44pm BST

Praise be to God for the Inclusive Church's solid anchorage and continuing to be at the forefront of offering hospitality to all who would seek to know God through Jesus.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 9:47pm BST

John-Julian - IC works in partnership with WATCH (Women and the Church), AffCath, Society of Catholic Priests, Modern Churchpeople's Union, Changing Attitude, LGCM, Accepting Evangelicals, the Evangelican Lesbian and Gay Association and Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod; that's most of the major "open" groups in the C of E. I was in Columbus for GC: we're very keen to link more strongly with people your side and across the Communion. You're right, we need to build those networks we've been talking about for years -

Posted by: Giles Goddard on Monday, 25 September 2006 at 9:57pm BST

Prior Aelred,
The dissenting primates at Dromantine were listed in the paperback edition of my book A Church at War, republished last year.

Posted by: stephen bates on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 11:15am BST

Text on page 293:
When on the last day, Archbishop Williams requested that all the primates should attend the noonday service which he himself would conduct, his wish was pointedly ignored, and fourteen of his fellow primates failed to turn up. 22

Footnote 22 on page 319:
The following primates are understood to have declined to take Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury: West Indies, Southern Cone, Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria, Central Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, Tanzania, West Africa, Indian Ocean, South East Asia, Sudan.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 11:40am BST

Three points:
(1) Giles Goddard is right that the C of E should be clear and open about its current practice. It is the dishonesty implicit in the current practice that has been the root of the present state of affairs. We all agree dishonesty is a sin (or wrong) and if such things are left unchecked they can grow to unmanageable proportions.
(2) Whenever someone says something is 'profoundly unanglican' they have elevated the subset of a denomination above the very set itself, to which it owes its existence. This position has, in a technical sense 'lost the plot'. It is the Church / Christianity as a whole that is the plot, not Anglicanism.
The second mistake here is the idea that the essence of a given denomination can be infallible. Healthier are those who realise that their own denominations are not infallible, even in essence.
It also follows that 'allegiance to Canterbury' is a small matter compared to allegiance, in conscience, to Christ. Who is suggesting that the former is the more important of the two? How would they justify this position?
(3) 'Issues of family life and human sexuality' obviously have a large overlap with issues of 'love' (and indeed 'justice'). GG's statement, by contrast, seems to polarise and oppose them. I'm not sure of the rationale here.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 12:25pm BST

stephen bates -- thank you -- I have only seen the hardcover (actually, we read it in refectory) -- excellent work in providing that list!

Simon Sarmiento -- Thank you very much for the list of fourteen -- it is about what I would expect (OK -- I didn't know about the Indian Ocean & am disappointed about Sudan).

Anyone else think this might be a good indicator? I wonder if Nigeria leads the way it separating from Canterbury if a few of these might not hold back -- West Indies has strong sentimental ties to the old country -- Sudan?

Time will tell, I suppose (but things do seem to drag on -- so many "final straws").

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 1:07pm BST

Let me get this right. These folks refused to take communion with the ABC? I had thought it was with other primates present rather than ++Rowan. If this is so, haven't they already left the Anglican Coommunion by that act?

This is extremely confusing.

Posted by: Davis d'Ambly on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 3:55pm BST

There is not much point being excited with allies agreeing with you....it is the 99% of the AC that disagrees which you must convince.....and as Richard Harries says, from scripture.

Why is the ABC moving away even from his published views as an academic? Because he knows that the majority is not persuaded and his priority now is not stimulating debate but keeping the AC together.

The CofE to join ECUSA?
You really think the strong, growing "Alpha" and "Reform" and "New Wine" and many other "evangelical" churches are going to do that??

You really think the ABC will ditch these large, powerful English churches for ECUSA? Remember how keen he is not to be seen as a failure in his role.......as J.John! I doubt the ABC will sacrifice the strong, growing parts of the CofE (let alone the AC) for a small, shrinking group in the US....who have caused him a lot of trouble during his watch!!

Do you really think the middle-of-the-road English churches will choose Gene Robinson over their English "mainstream" and "Global South" Anglican friends??

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 4:06pm BST

Interesting that the Abp. of the West Indies was one of the Primates who declined to take Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Isn't this the same Abp. who was recently appointed to work on the so-called "Anglican Covenant" ? And do you see why the appointment of said Primate is so awfully discouraging to the mainstream-to-progressive majority of the Episcopal Church here in the U.S. ? (I mean *really* - they couldn't find anyone better than ++Drexel Gomez for this position ?! Sheesh...)

Posted by: David Huff on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 4:44pm BST

Christopher Shell makes an excellent point when he says, "It is the dishonesty implicit in the current practice that has been the root of the present state of affairs." When I became an Episcopalian (having been reared Baptist) I was struck by the fact that the choir director & organist at the parish were obviously gay (although I didn't at that time know that use of the word) & I found the tolerant attitude of The Episcopal Church a surprise (but the question of sexual orientation was never openly discussed). Many of us have known (or been confirmed or ordained by) gay bishops & I have been told by someone who should know that there are quite a number of gay bishops in the Church of England. Of course all of the gay bishops are in the closet (except Gene Robinson) but that level of hypocrisy is no longer going to work. And that is what this crisis is all about.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 4:49pm BST

"There is not much point being excited with allies agreeing with you....it is the 99% of the AC that disagrees which you must convince.....and as Richard Harries says, from scripture.

Why is the ABC moving away even from his published views as an academic? Because he knows that the majority is not persuaded and his priority now is not stimulating debate but keeping the AC together."

If debate is to be shut down, then where's the "Anglican" in "Anglican Communion"? I thought the benefit of belonging to this particular church was that debate was to be encouraged and welcomed; if not, then there are thousands of other identical sects to choose from. None of which are any more appealing than this one.

Ah, well. I guess that means that salvation can only be found outside the Church.

Posted by: bls on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 7:49pm BST

Writes the good Prior: "Many of us have known (or been confirmed or ordained by) gay bishops & I have been told by someone who should know that there are quite a number of gay bishops in the Church of England. Of course all of the gay bishops are in the closet (except Gene Robinson) but that level of hypocrisy is no longer going to work. And that is what this crisis is all about."

Indeed, that's what the crisis is all about! So many of the 'reasserters' want to turn the clock back to the time before the Civil Rights Movement, when in the divinely ordained U.S./British societies of the 1950s everybody knew their 'place'. In the good old U.S.A. people of color would sit in the back of the bus and were content with menial jobs. Women were submissive to their husbands, and saw their role in society defined by being mothers of at least 3-4 children. And gays were leading a 'double life' in the closet or even married pretending to be part of the 'happy society' that fully embraced the Christian lifestyle. In the Church, 'Father' knew best, performing as a soloist when celebrating the sacraments (no lay participation in the liturgy, except for the male lay reader). All that, too, changed during an era of liturgical revision when the Church sought to recover the ministry of all the baptized. Now that was embracing the secular world view of equality in a Church always hierarchically ordered! Now the "old boys'club" with its predictable structures is gone and the Duncan-Ikerites are so greatly distressed, especially ECUSA's HoB having elected a bright, well-educated female to be the new PB! Hence the craving for AlPO!

Posted by: John Henry on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 8:05pm BST

Prior Aelred's posting of 26 September is the crux of the problem for me. If we are interested in the Truth (after all God refers to the bible as the Book of Truth), then there are implications. For example, if we have been happy to have closet homosexuals as priests and active members of our church communities (some would probably quite rightly argue for centuries), then it is hypocrisy to deny their continuing involvement with the communion. And if their involvement is acceptable, then being honest about what they are is merely removing the illusion that they are "not there" when they have really been there all along.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 10:05pm BST

First, Alpha churches may be large and powerful but they are not the mainstream CofE. They are a very successful, business oriented 'franchise'. Some bishops (London comes to mind) for strategic reasons, are very supportive of Alpha. But Alpha doesn't figure much in General Synod and isn't mainstream English Anglican. They are not the only churches in the CofE which are growing.

Second, the ABC doesn't have the power to ditch or not ditch these churches.

Third, power is the word. The CofE certainly isn't aware that it has any power to influence the future divisions of the Communion which the Global South/American seccessionists are engineering. It will be their power-play that forces a split. And England won't then have a choice. The extremists have already made clear that the CofE has failed on 'the gay issue', according to their legalistic Biblical standards, because our bishop's statement on Civil Partnerships was deemed to be too tolerant.

These power-hungry and corrupt primates and bishops will make the decision about who is in and who is out, such is their arrogance.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 10:41pm BST

NP asked:
'Do you really think the middle-of-the-road English churches will choose Gene Robinson over their English "mainstream" and "Global South" Anglican friends?'

Well, yes, I think they would. 'Anglican Mainstream' is anything but, and the 'Global South' is increasingly revealing itself as hopelessly compromised in a number of ways. I'm sure that the extreme evangelicals will go with the breakaways, but it's worth remembering that there are such things even as gay evangelical Christians....

I wonder whether NP is a bit too Bible Belt to know what it's like out here in the provinces where, as one of our provincial people in the purple said, there are far more important issues being discussed in the Anglican churches of Lincolnshire than the gay issue, which appears to cause little comment or outrage.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 10:44pm BST

NP spoke of
'You really think the strong, growing "Alpha"'

Round here, Alpha is a dead duck. It may work well in metropolitan situations with a large transient population, but repeat performances here have produced few converts (but plenty of Alpha groupies eager to repeat the Alpha 'buzz') and the 'cost effectiveness' in terms of time and resources plotted against new members of any of the local churches has proved inferior to other, less partisan methods of evangelisation.

As for Reform, it's not even on the radar. Round here, growth does not seem to be related to hardness of doctrine (and having been forced at gunpoint to sing a Graham Kendrick ditty tonight, I have to say that doctrine represented in tonight's SingalongaKendrick would probably have been condemned by most of the ecumenical councils. I never thought, for example, that it was orthodoxChristian doctrine that it was human sin as kept Christ nailed to the cross....")

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 11:22pm BST

David Huff :-
Perhaps the idea is that Drexel will behave better as Chair? (Remember Tom Brown's School Days, and how the good Doctor got Tom to take young Arthur under his wing, as a way to get Tom to behave, after beating had failed to work ? Yes, that public school spirit must needs still inform the life and discipline of the C ofE !

Aelred :-
Of course there are CofE gay bishops, Aelred, --same as organists and music directors ! The majority of bishops must support their brothers in coming out. The expression "openly gay bishop" is a standing condemnation of the Church for all taht it implies; and condones.

Posted by: laurence roberts on Tuesday, 26 September 2006 at 11:40pm BST

David, re the appt of D Gomez: it is a well established principle of power politics that one can sometimes most effectively deal with a problematical person by appointing them to a committee charged with addressing the problem to which they contribute.
It works in the parish all the time, and even though ++Rowan comes from an academic background, I think such things are well known in the realm of academia. And certainly in the "Yes, Minister" world to which I have alluded earlier! Remember how Sir Humphrey always made a point of getting Hacker deeply involved (and feeling so awfully flattered) in the very matters in which he was in danger of upsetting the apple cart.
The old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer might come into play were it not for the reluctance I have for portraying any Christian as an enemy (even if they don't accord me the same courtesy!).

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 2:48am BST

"strong" "large" "powerful"? These are exactly the WORLDLY forces, NP, from which faithful CofE *Anglicans* are begging TEC to provide them protection! (Why should we Episcopalians not offer it to them, the way ++Akinola offers "safe harbor" to US conservatives, via +Minns?)

Shouldn't the "Church Alumni Association" in the UK (all those unchurched Brits---whose numbers dwarf your so-called evangelical growth-spurt---who can't stand the devolution that conservatives are bringing to Ecclesia Anglicana) get a say?

Why can't the CofE stay *Anglican*? (High, Low & Broad) Whereas, if ya wanna start-up the UK branch Nigerian-Calvinism, NP, go right ahead!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 6:28am BST

There is nothing wrong with "big", "large", "powerful" churches, you know - the point of sowing small gospel seeds is that some bear fruit...someone once promised that there would be a lot of fruit from his message.....and there is in Alpha and Reform churches (and others) all over the country.

Small, weak and shrinking churches are not marks of righteousness or being in tune with the times...don't kid yourselves.

Strange - in this forum, "Alpha" and "Reform" groupings are not considered very important but the ABC certainly seems to give them a lot of respect - as he clearly does to Duncan and the Network - he treats them like the mainstream.

Perhaps you should have a chat with J.John.
I do not rejoice in the way he was treated by his old friend the ABC, in being put forward and then rejected, even if the ABC had little choice in either decision, but it does show that perhaps you underestimate where the "mainstream" is - at least most of you seem to differ to the ABC's assessment......and remember he is basically on your side!

Solution: let "TEC Worldwide" come into being, let all who want to join it do so (with their buildings etc) and let the US mainstream people have the same freedom to stay in the Anglican Communion.

Why are TEC and its friends so scared to do this??? (pls don't say because TEC cares about unity....you can ask the ABC what TEC has done for unity on his watch!)

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 10:18am BST

Hi Colin Coward-
In saying Alpha is not mainstream anglican, you raise a number of issues:
(1) The fact that Alpha crosses the denominational divide (even catholics included) indicates that it is to that extent mainstream (ie common-core) Christian even if it is not mainstream anglican, which by definition is more important and relevant.
(2) In my experience, all 'sides' use the word 'mainstream' in their propaganda. Usually, by coincidence (or not), to indicate that 'their' lot are the mainstream ones. This is not honest. Of course, if our sample is simply the Christians we talk to every day, this will probably be true, since birds of a feather flock together. But that anecdotal small-scale method is not how statistics are obtained.
(3) The largest, and also growth-wise the healthiest, group in the C of E is the evangelicals, as far as I know? How to define 'mainstream'?
(4) If we define mainstream by orthodoxy, then once again it is the evangelicals who are mainstream.
(5) Are there any other ways of defining 'mainstream'? (Of course, we are best to avoid the word and be more precise.)

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 12:12pm BST

See, NP, in so far as the Evangelical movement is growing through such things as Alpha, this is not seen by all as a "good thing". Oh, sure, you can argue about the spread of the Gospel, but what Gospel? A Gospel of judgement and condemnation, where Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a "core doctrine" as one Evangelical put it recently.

I have great difficulty with the "Gospel" of Evangelicalism, as you can tell, but I am no theologian and they may be right, though they are far more at variance with orthodox Christianity than some "liberals". Thus, I am content to be part of a Church where their path to God can be accomodated. They are unwilling to do the same for those whose path is different. I look on the rise of Evangelicalism in much the same way as many of their forebears looked at the rise of Anglo-Catholicism: with suspicion and dismay. If I can live with that, why can't they?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 1:55pm BST

“The CofE to join ECUSA? You really think the strong, growing "Alpha" and "Reform" and "New Wine" and many other "evangelical" churches are going to do that?? You really think the ABC will ditch these large, powerful English churches for ECUSA? Remember how keen he is not to be seen as a failure in his role.......as J.John! I doubt the ABC will sacrifice the strong, growing parts of the CofE (let alone the AC) for a small, shrinking group in the US....who have caused him a lot of trouble during his watch!!" NP

I suppose that is one way to look at it. On the other hand, Michael Hampson’s “Last Rites: The End of the Church of England” views “these large, powerful English [evangelical] churches” as part of the problem for the collapse of support for the English Church among the English people. Many Englishmen/women have no use for these neo-Calvinist Puritans no matter how “strong and growing” they may be. Their backward looking theology and arrogant triumphalism appear to turn a lot of English people off to the CofE.

Whether High Church Catholic, like Bishop Samuel Seabury, or Low Church Latitudinarian, like Bishop William White, we American Episcopalians have always defined ourselves against the Calvinism of the American Puritans. Even in colonial times, the further North one traveled toward New England Puritanism, the more numerous the High Church Anglican parishes became, as Episcopalians challenged the Calvinists on their home turf.

We American Episcopalians have historically always had more than enough of our own home-grown Puritan fanatics to deal with, don’t need a CofE Brit import stuffed with same, especially if it’s headed by archbishops who have tea parties.

Posted by: Kurt on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 3:07pm BST

Ford - thanks for your reply - not sure I understand why you think the gospel preached in evangelical churches in at all unorthodox - the articles of the CofE are what you might call "evangelical" and substitution is not a made up innovation if we look at Isaiah 53 / Mark 10:45 / Romans 5:8 amongst many other passages.

Kurt - I don't see how the large evangelical churches can at the same time be terribly off-putting for English people but also full of English people (including 20s and 30s) and growing......some people try to claim that their parishes are empty because people travel to the large churches....but we are a free country - don't blame the people!

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 3:36pm BST

Size doesn't matter. Diversity does.

God will graft what God will graft, if need be taking off the smallest twig from the tallest true, and it will grow as it needs to grow. Those who seek to stop it being planted or deny it of water are no better than the Edomites. We will be judged on how we judge others and how we show hospitality.

That does not mean we all have to be under the one set of tent stakes, but there will be at least one tent that broadens it stakes to accommodate GLBTs and those who would love them. The other side will either be as the Recabites and respect boundaries or they will be judged as vicious Edomites.

Depriving is not the same as providing, the issue is not whether there will be an inclusive church, but whether others will seek to destroy it as it is established.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 4:56pm BST

Well, PSA is a Reformation era development of a Medieval idea. It has value, and Atonement is certainly part of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but the way it is fleshed out in modern PSA is felt by some to be close to blasphemy. What are we saved from? The wrath of God,so God is the enemy, and the crucifixion becomes some sort of bizarre suicide/infanticide. For the Orthodox, who end many prayers with "for Thou art good, and Thou lovest mankind" it is not how they have always known Him to be, and Orthodox theologians I have read are appalled by it. It is certainly counterproductive in the circles I move in, and shuts people off from the Gospel. Christus Victor, a much older approach, works a lot better, I find. There are those laden with guilt for whom PSA works, I guess.

I have seen Evangelical Anglican websites where people are exhorted to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They must have a radically different doctrine of baptism than I do. What do they think happened at their baptism? If they claim to need a new "baptism of the Spirit", are they saying their original baptism was void? What is this "baptism of the Spirit" we are to pray for? Can it truly be said to be the Spirit and not human emotion leading people astray? You can give me stories of people prophecying and "speaking in tongues". I can tell you stories of people receiving visions that they wouldn't have to pay the back taxes they owed their local council! I'm not convinced there's anything Divine in it. These are but two issues. To go on would constitute too much of a derailment of this thread.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 5:23pm BST

It's unfortunate that the term "evangelical" has become synonymous with politically oriented right wing indignation because we are all called to be rivers of life for others. The allying of many churches with right wing politicos and consumerist theologies and metrics is disgraceful.

Interestingly a consensus seems to be "emerging" that the time for moving quite beyond the standard evangelical formula of "Join us! We're growing and have powerpoint sermons!" has come.

Posted by: RMF on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 5:36pm BST

RMF,
Indeed! It is the allying of Evangelical Christianity with the political right wing that bothers me most. That and the embracing of the the language, world view, and methods of the post-modern, mass market consumerist culture.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 7:17pm BST

the way it is fleshed out in modern PSA

For a possible illustration of the theology which underpins PSA in its present form I commend Bede, H.E. II; 9 (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book2.html) and the story of Lilla (Lilla's Cross on the North York Moors near Fylingdales EWS is a well known landmark to any Lyke Wake Dirger!)

PSA is illuminated by the Lilla story in such a way as to expose its theological and moral bankruptcy. For Lilla read Christ and for Edwin read humanity — so which character represents God...?

All I can say is that the Anglo Saxons managed perfectly happily without the PSA, so it's hardly de fide for those of us who regard William the Illegitimate as the end point in English history:-)

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 8:27pm BST

NP:"I don't see how the large evangelical churches can at the same time be terribly off-putting for English people but also full of English people (including 20s and 30s) and growing"

Simple: for everyone who is enthused by the worship style (and who manages to keep in line with the tight morality wherein it's OK to be rich 'cos God's blessed you and that eye of the needle stuff/rich young man/Dives and Lazarus isn't REALLY about us, anyhow that's justification by works etc etc) there's a load who are genuinely scandalised by (eg) the idea that to love Jesus you have to lose your marbles/accept a pre-mediaeval world view/throw in your lot with some rather distasteful beliefs about the vast majority of humanity/sing eye-wateringly embarrassing songs which are eroticism with the nuts cut off (I say this only slightly tongue in cheek, but it is possible to construct the whole of a torrid love affair storyline from the titles of evangelical choruses!)

And I've picked up too many casualties from evangelical churches over the years: a few have managed to stay within the Church, but most will never trust the Christian faith again. The price of evangelical success (and many apologies to those genuine, traditional evangelical Christians who have had their tradition stolen from them) is one paid by the rest of us who don't live in the Alpha borghetto.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 9:07pm BST

David

Your posting reminds me that a friend told me that a recent survey indicated that people were more scared of born again Christians than they are of death. Similarly, I think there are a lot of "covert" Christians who are too ashamed to be associated with any particular church because they don't want to be seen as supporting sociopathic cudgels (see Balfor University survey results).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 10:32pm BST

Well, its very easy to give the appeaRANCE of growth if you essentially gather up people who would otherwise go to alternative churches - what we have in England are a number of 'star' churches but many more which are largely empty. In this diocese, most of those are also evangelical.

Meanwhile, church attendance declines, and if you removed immigrants, the decline would be even steeper. If anyone seriously thinks that there is any enthusiasm for conservative evangelicalism amongst the vast majority of the public here, then they clearly don't live here or believe what their fundy friends tell them!

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 27 September 2006 at 10:39pm BST

Here in the notoriously liberal diocese of Southwark we have some large and growing conservative churches, some large and growing liberal churches and some large and growing catholic churches. And small and shrinking, ditto. And I thank God for all of them, with all their faults. At least we're still talking (some of the time and apart from the ministers of Dundonald!). The Gospel's too vast for each of us to have a monopoly on interpretation. There's truth, it seems to me, in Alpha. And in top-down authority. The disciples argued about all sorts of things (like, who is the greatest?) but I don't find Jesus chucking any of them out because they didn't agree with each other. Quite the reverse. So why are (some) Primates of the Global South so keen to chuck the rest of us out because we don't agree with them? Because our understanding of authority is different to theirs? Not very Anglican, really. And that's not to idolatrise Anglicanism; it's to say that we have a charism which is valuable for the world. I'm proud of the tradition I'm part of. Diversity's good. "Human beings were created by God in his love with such diversity in order that they might participate in that love by sharing with one another both what they have and what they are, thus enriching each other with their mutual communion" (Church as Communion (quoted in The Gift of Authority) para 35) Our tradition's too valuable to be destroyed by political agendas masquerading as "biblical" doctrines.

Posted by: Giles Goddard on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 12:18am BST

RMF writes, "Interestingly a consensus seems to be "emerging" that the time for moving quite beyond the standard evangelical formula of "Join us! We're growing and have powerpoint sermons!" has come."

Well - that consensus is on this site and in your circles.....but is it right in the AC as a whole??

Amazing to see the head-in-the-sand, denial of history and reality re the wonderful growth in charismatic and conservative evangelical churches in the last 50 years in England and the rest of the world, despite the decline of "liberal" churches continuing relentlessly .....the ABC is clearly aware of where the growth and health is or he would not have treated J.John as he did.

I think the lack of self-confidence of "liberal" church leaders in the last 100 years is evident in that they are still too scared to go it alone (rather than trying to subvert a larger organisation from within.)This shows "liberals" know they do not have a message that build long-term, viable churches which do not need endless subsidies and sympathy while churches down the road grow somehow.

Back to the subject - yes, we are seeing the end of the Communion because "evangelicals" in the Global South and North (and East and West!) are tired of the tail wagging the dog....even if the tail thinks it is the dog.

Before someone says there is scripture about different parts of the body needing each other - as you know, the majority of the AC do not regard "liberals" as part of the same body and have used very harsh language (eg saying "cancer" must be cut out)to show this......those looking for a fudge, hear what they are saying and know that that the ABC is not going to let the AC shrink to 0.7m people in ECUSA and some people from a few other provinces.

I am not trying to batter anybody but I do detect a lack of realism in some posts sometimes.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 8:42am BST

Cheryl's observation
'a friend told me that a recent survey indicated that people were more scared of born again Christians than they are of death. Similarly, I think there are a lot of "covert" Christians who are too ashamed to be associated with any particular church because they don't want to be seen as supporting sociopathic cudgels'

contains one flaw when seen from the extreme evangelical point of view - that 'the path is broad that leads to destruction' etc etc. In other words, evidence that aggressive Christianity is putting people off the faith is seen as proof of the fidelity of that aggressive Christian tradition to the Gospel.

What you end up with is, of course, polarisation — those who respond well to Christianity for Masochists, or who are able to tick all the boxes which indicate a righteous and holy lifestyle and sound doctrine (eg http://www.uccf.org.uk/resources/general/doctrinalbasis/doctrinalbasis.php) will support said churches. Everyone else will run like the clappers from anything which might even possibly be tainted with such a stench.

It is therefore inevitable that churchgoing will decline as long as aggressive Christianity makes the running. The few will join aggressive, exclusive, monolithic congregations. The majority will shun formal expressions of religious affiliation. Consequence — inclusive, traditional churches have to struggle to hold on to those turned off by the new nasties, and are ridiculed by said nasties for the difficulty of the task.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 10:11am BST

Giles, in top-down authority the apostle Paul was shunt aside for seven years. Then there was the stoning of the early Christians. Then there was the pursuit of the Israelites by the Pharoah's army. Let alone the plethora of examples from other religions' histories.

I loved an expression the other day that holy texts should have warnings (like cigarette packets) "Warning, these texts may contain passages that can be used to justify violence. Read with care."

One of the things about the bible, is that God often chooses to plant new churches, and not necessarily according to what we think would be suitable, and that God's idea of justice and worthiness often scandalizes humans. The book of Ezekiel is quite good for exploring this further e.g 17, 18 & 31.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 10:18am BST

Dave Rowett says, "It is therefore inevitable that churchgoing will decline as long as aggressive Christianity makes the running. The few will join aggressive, exclusive, monolithic congregations. The majority will shun formal expressions of religious affiliation. Consequence — inclusive, traditional churches have to struggle to hold on to those turned off by the new nasties, and are ridiculed by said nasties for the difficulty of the task."

So, why are the "evangelical churches full and planting new churches all the time?

More importantly to your point, why are the liberal churches not bursting with people warmed by the "inclusive message" of "believe what you like and be nice people"?

Sorry, I really do not buy the argument that liberal churches are empty because people are put off by the full evangelical churches.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 10:57am BST

Giles-
Two points:
(1) 'Diversity is good' - I know what you mean: healthy Christianity is diversity in unity. But not all diversity is good. Dysfunctional families are not on a par with healthy ones. Criminal and non-criminal individuals: now there's diversity for you. And so on. In other words: there is nothing essentially good about diversity per se.
(2) In deciding what is biblical and what is merely 'biblical' we should listen to the biblical scholars. My challenge remains open: if you can find any major commentary on (or exegetical treatment of) Romans or 1 Corinthians, written by an accredited NT scholar, that agrees with you, then an explanation is required of why 99% do not. I have been in NT 12 years, and I have never come across such a thnig. It's the lack of openness on this point, and the lack of takers for my challenge, which speaks volumes to me.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 12:41pm BST

Well, NP, you should come have a drink with me and my friends some time. Granted, most are cradle RCs who have, usually quite angrily, abandoned the Church, but the patriarchal, repressive Irish style Catholicism of their youth is not that different from the repressive Evangelicalism they see around them. For them, the Church is the enemy. It is the enemy of freedom, of thought, of justice, of peace. It is, for them, the cause of most of the world's grief. They see Evos on TV, and their suspicions are confirmed. What they have experienced Christianity to be has made them hate the Church, even hate God. That the Church of Christ could come to be seen as the enemy of humanity and not it's salvation, that the Gospel can be seen as a work of hate and repression, these are sins the Imperial Church has to answer for. It started long before the creation of Evangelicalism, but it is very much nurtured by Evangelicalism today, and there will one day be a reckoning.

As to why such Churches are growing, I can identify:
1. They provide easy answers to hard questions
2. Some people need to know they are living by the rule book so that they can feel sure God approves of them
3. Some people need to have a rule book so that by obeying it they can feel better than others.
4. It is nice to be told that your middle class values are also God's values and that your own comfortable place in society is somehow linked to approval from God.
5. People can get very frightened by the threat of Hellfire, and get scared into joining.
6. Some people have very hard backgrounds associated with a lot of guilt. The Evangelical requirement for a dramatic conversion experience that requires a large amount of self loathing that the "blood of Jesus" can then wash away soothes these people's hurts and is quite beneficial for them. I actually consider this a good thing, as opposed to all the others.

And on and on.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 1:30pm BST

Christopher Shell's challenge is not quite what it seems, I think.

This is a recent area of study, and major commentaries are works of long gestation. Thus a majority of commentaries will not discuss the point because within the context of (say) the 1971 Pelican noddy commentary, the issue isn't on the radar. However, the issue does crop up regularly in even pre-schoolers' periodicals like the Expository Times, does it not?

There is certainly discussion in the commentaries about the hapax legomenon arsenokoitai, and suggestions in (eg) Barton that part of the condemnation of the sexual immorality of incest lies with greed - ie the wish to keep property 'in the family' (and therefore would condemn an awful lot of European nobility!) warn us that the apparent meaning of the text might not be entirely on-target.

To make better sense of the challenge, one would have to look at the modification over the last century or so in the treatment of previously controversial texts about divorce and about the status of women. In the latter case, 'cultural conditioning' has in many Christian circles been allowed to overturn the 'plain meaning of Scripture'.

And that is actually where the search needs to begin - not in NT commentaries, but in culture. If the Christian Church had consistently refused to embrace new cultural insights (eg status of women, slavery, etc) those who refuse to consider on cultural grounds a reappraisal of the gay issue and its relationship to the Christian scriptures would be on firm ground. That the Church has repeatedly revised its teaching cannot be denied, and unless CHristopher and his fellow travellers believe that homosexuality (unlike divorce) is a case which cannot be subjected to that same process, he's on very dodgy ground.

PS it's my day off, but since Significant Other's in her sick-bed, I have a bit of time on my hands: I'm not cheating the Church Commissioners by spending all this time scribbling, honest!

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 2:43pm BST

Why does this numbers game come up again and again?

Important as it may be on an institutional level--bums in seats means filling the collection plate and having successful and growing programs--it's not in any way relevant to who's being faithful or true.

Violent Islamists are increasingly popular in the Muslim world. Does that make them right? Hardly. Buddhism is increasingly popular amongst a wide segment of the population in the USA. Does that mean I should ditch Christianity? Not at all.

(I've chosen to list one example I don't approve of--radical Islam--and one I respect--Buddhism--to show that numbers have little to do with my 'take' on anyone's ideology)

Looking at the question of why certain groups grow and others don't is very interesting and useful--but not if you're trying to decide who's 'right.' Too many loathesome ideologies have been highly popular to make popularity any sort of litmus test.

So by all means look at the question of why some groups grow and others shrink-- but to this thread, that question is meaningless.

(One more aside, and then I'm done-- Liberal-leaning churches are in decline for lots of reasons. Among them, becoming too institutionalized; being tired out and lacking a compelling new idea; worn out jargon; demographic shifts. But one other factor, at least in the USA, is that Christianity has become so identified with Conservative Protestant Evangelicalism that a lot of people are simply turned off religion altogether. I can't tell you how many times I encounter serious, thoughtful people--people who seek a spiritual path--who have no time for organized religion of any kind because they see it as narrow, judgemental, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and fixated with what other people do in bed. It's getting hard for me to say they're wrong)

Posted by: Christopher Calderhead on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 4:43pm BST

NP said
"Sorry, I really do not buy the argument that liberal churches are empty because people are put off by the full evangelical churches."

Isn't it odd that it's only with the rise of the VArdyite academies (UK schooling, fundamentalist foundations with state support, would play a wow in the Bible Belt) that the attacks on the 'normal'faith schools have started to get anywhere.

We're being tarred with the extreme evangelical brush in education, I offer it as supporting evidence for a wider mistrust of Church because of the high visibility of extreme and innovative evangelicalism.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 6:58pm BST

Christopher,
Also, why is it that the very conservatives who accuse the left of trying to curry favour with "the world" turn around and smugly point to the growth of "their" churches and the decline of more "liberal" ones? Who exactly values the approval of the world?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 11:04pm BST

Ford,
Couldn't agree with you more. Ever been to a mega-church with a parking lot, food court, and sermon tapes for sale at the information kisok? Or listened to a 'Christian' song played on a piano while the liturgy stops dead in its tracks? Complete surrender to consumer culture.

Posted by: Christopher Calderhead on Thursday, 28 September 2006 at 11:39pm BST

Thank you for your comments and interesting posts, Ford.

Posted by: RMF on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 2:25am BST

Christopher - the "numbers game" comes up repeatedly because well-meaning liberal people always intended that relaxing the requirement to stay close to scripture would get more people interested and into church.......this has failed, even in the west.

Surely you are not going to argue that "inclusive churches" were so called out of a sense of irony?

Posted by: NP on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 7:40am BST

" Ever been to a mega-church with a parking lot"

Indeed. As an old pal of mine used to say, "Never trust a church with a big car park."

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 9:16am BST

NP,
Funny, in all the time I have been taking part in informal discussions with "Liberals", six years now since my return to faith, I have never heard anyone claim that any position must be taken so as to get people into church. In fact, the usual attitude to ideas people think are right but controversial is that this will probably mean that some will not be able to adapt, or will disagree, and will drop away, but that God's truth is more important, "God wants faithful churches, not full ones" is a commonly used expression. So, where do you get the idea that "Liberalism" is about attracting people? There is an abhorence of large, impersonal, "mega-church" style Christianity, in my experience. The only people I have ever heard refer to numbers in congregations are "Conservatives" gloating about the relative sizes of "Liberal" churches. Ever. And it seems to come from them with great regularity. Be careful of the attitudes you allow others to give you. A priest might say this from the pulpit enough times, and it may resonate with your own attitudes, but it ain't true.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 11:04am BST

Well, I am surprised by that Ford....I thought well-meaning "inclusive" people wanted to include as many as possible and by definition sought more members as a result.

I would counsel against pride in being small. It is not necessarily a sign of holiness or correctness. It may be that you are wrong in your approach and have lost any power behind your work. (I am not saying it is, just pointing out what it might be - up to you to think about)

I would also counsel against thinking all "success" in growing congregations is bad somehow - sometimes God blesses people's work in growing their churches......someone once had 5000 people listening to him on a hill so a large congregation is not necessarily bad!

Posted by: NP on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 1:03pm BST

A few points in response:
Hi David R
(1) I would not dream of saying 'one rule for homosexuality, one for divorce'. The current divorce laws are if anything far more questionable. The very concept of no-fault divorce is equivalent to saying that in cases where there is one faithless partner and one faithful, it is the faithless who is preferable and whose wishes should be obeyed. This is not only wrong, it is just about as wrong as one can get: the very reverse of the Christian perspective.
(2) I was only referring to NT commentaries because some were persisting in saying that the NT says the very opposite of any of the range of possible meanings. 'Paul was wrong' is a respectable view, if supported by argument; 'Paul was a closet 21st century liberal' is not.

Hi Ford
(2) Getting people into church, or being instrumental in their being won for Christ, is not the same thing as winning favour with the world. Because in the process of their being won for Christ they relinquish one kingdom in favour of another, and therefore no longer belong to 'the world' in that particular sense (ie the present world order liable to sin). Paul in 1 Cor 5 addresses this confusion about 'in the world but not of it'.
(2) Each statistic represents a soul, and that is what essentially matters more than anything. 'It's not quantity, it's quality' sounds uncaring, elitist, and is probably a rationalisation designed to put a good spin on unwelcome data. It is also nothing to do with the explosive growth in the book of Acts or in modern Africa, Latin America and SE Asia.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 1:22pm BST

NP,

Thank you for call us liberals "well-meaning."

I'm perplexed by what you say. How do you know what "liberal people always intended?" What do you base that on?

Having travelled in liberal Church circles the better part of these last 25 years, I haven't encountered anyone who wants to adjust the core beliefs of Christianity in order to attract new people to our churches. The liberal critiques of the tradition are more often motivated by an earnest desire to be truthful. (And anyway, liberalism is hardly as monolithic as it sounds in your post)

I actually would espouse "the requirement to stay close to scripture," which is at the core of our inheritance. (But I probably mean that differently than you intend it)

So when you write, "relaxing the requirement to stay close to scripture would get more people interested and into church.......this has failed, even in the west." I don't recognize this liberal project you describe, and since that hasn't been the aim, it's hard to see it as a failure.

I'm well aware that liberal Christianity as a whole is waning in influence... but that's another discussion.

When you write, "Surely you are not going to argue that 'inclusive churches' were so called out of a sense of irony?" I just don't know what you mean.

Posted by: Christopher Calderhead on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 3:51pm BST

Good batting, Ford. One of the interesting things in the debating is what is ascribed to liberals without their knowledge or consent. We are then forced to defend ourselves on the basis of accusations that bear no correlation to what is important to us.

There was a court hearing that swept through my last corporate workplace in a matter of days once. The witness in the stand was supported by the judge when they refused to answer a question (the lawyer was scandalized that they could not manipulate the witness into an answer). The question was "Mr ___ when did you stop bashing your wife?"

This was an unacceptable question, because to answer with anything other than a date was to not answer the question, but the question was predicated on a "yes" premise.

Similarly, I am not concerned that there are many liberals or others who believe in God or a higher power but are not part of our church communities. They refuse to answer "yes" to blinding their psyches to cruelty, injustice, hypocrisy, complacency and self-righteousness. God would approve of the souls who do this as a conscious decision e.g. Malachi 1:10

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 5:46pm BST

NP and Christopher,

First of all, I count myself as neither Liberal nor Conservative. These are worldly political definitions that have no place in the Kingdom. The Gospel, if anything, is radical and outside of our worldly political structures. I'm not, believe it or not, a good fit in either camp.

Inclusivity is about making it so that people can hear the Gospel. I have in another place listed the reasons people might have for joining Evangelical congregations, aside from reasons of faith. I, and many that I know, would run screaming from an Evangelical congregation. I thank God daily my family wasn't Evangelical, I wouldn't be a Christian now if they were. What works for some doesn't work for all.

Christopher, I found this interesting:

"in the process of their being won for Christ they relinquish one kingdom in favour of another"

I would have to say that, in my experience, I haven't seen that many Evangelical congregations evince much of a relinquishing of the world for the Kingdom, more a smug sense that God approves of their middle-class consumerist lifestyle. Also, your comment on souls sounds like you think Evangelism is all about getting the souls saved. I think it's much more than that, and you do a disservice to the Gospel, regardless of your numbers, if that's all you are doing. Their souls might be safe, but how just is the world they live in? The Gospel calls us to work for peace and justice too, not just "get them saved".

My point about numbers is that they are not a sign of success/failure. I am not proud of being in a small parish, nor ought I to be proud of a large one. People go to church for many different reasons, not all of them to do with commitment to the Gospel.

So "your" message" is reaching a certain group of people, and for various reasons. The "Liberal" message is not, also for various reasons. My problem is that, while I have my personal misgivings about your message, I certainly wouldn't want you cut off from the Church because of it. You might even be right. Why, despite your misgivings about the "liberal" message, can't you behave in the same fashion? Because homosexuality is sin? So is usury, so is slander, so is reviling. So is letting the hungry go hungry, and the homeless stay homeless. There was a time when Christians weren't allowed to be soldiers because killing is sin. Why did that change? Do you think "liberals" don't see things they disapprove of in you? Yet they are able to remain among your number. Why can't you do the same?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 7:49pm BST

By far the fastest growing numbers are those who choose not to go to church or have any church connection at all.

I think there will always be a baseline number of people who want conservative religion - but they are a limited number - far more would find it either abhorrent or simply not for them in this postmodern society

I see the role of the liberal Church - and it has a long way to go in this aim - to try and provide some sort of spiritual outlet for the many who reject institutional Church and a lot of the religious dogmas and outdated obsessions of traditional and conservative Christianity, yet have a desire for spirituality

I don;t think that will include going to church on Sunday morning - in the UK that has largely gone, never to return.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 10:19am BST

Ford - I agree with you that there are many sins, as you say: "usury, so is slander, so is reviling. So is letting the hungry go hungry, and the homeless stay homeless"

Difference is "conservatives" are not trying to say rewrite scripture and tradition to say something is not a sin....(pls do not bring up the weak usury argument!) - even if conservatives maybe need to show more care on the social issues....but I hope you agree evangelical groups like TEAR Fund do a lot of good work in this area.


Christopher - thanks for your reply saying: "When you write, "Surely you are not going to argue that 'inclusive churches' were so called out of a sense of irony?" I just don't know what you mean. "
Well - it is ironic to claim to be inclusive and then shrink (including fewer people all the time). It is not surprising that "inclusive churches" claim not to be interested in numbers given decades of decline even in the West....while the "exclusive" conservative
churches grow - even in the West.

"If salt loses its saltiness......"

Posted by: NP on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 9:04am BST

NP,
First, if the usury argument is weak, it is only because we are used to it and no longer have the abhorrence to it of our spiritual ancestors. It used to be sin, now it isn't, and the damage to society is pretty obvious, when it is now accepted that young people will go into debt on reaching adulthood and never get out of debt again.

As to rewriting Scripture, well, "Thou shalt not kill" long ago got rewritten to "Thou shalt not kill unless the government tells you to". Again, something Christians once thought was incompatible with the Gospel, killing other people, has become acceptable. The difference is that it happened so long ago, as part of our compromise with the ruling powers, that we no longer think of it as sin. Suddenly, we are said to be compromising with the world over SSB. Well, it is part of a long pattern of compromising with the world.

Conservatives don't have to try to rewrite Scripture, the things they want to be able to do were rationalized a long time ago. My point is that Christians compromising the Gospel to get along with the world is not new, and we look pretty hypocritical now saying that some compromises are OK and others not merely by virtue of the passage of time.

I would suggest we stop ALL compromises. For instance, as long as we are willing to administer the sacrament of matrimony to people who stand in front of a God they don't believe in, and a congregation they have little respect for, making vows they don't feel obliged to keep, merely because we tell girls they have a right to a Church wedding, we have little to stand on denying the Sacrament to faithful Christians who happen to be gay. If we're not going to marry gay people, and I'm not arguing we should, then we should treat the Sacrament with more respect than we currently do. This is one example only. We began the process of compromising to the world when Constantine made us legal, and we haven't stopped.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 1:44pm BST

NP pleaded 'do not bring up the weak usury argument!'

why not? Unsettling?

For some of us the evangelical extreme lost its saltiness some time ago when it sold out to that most subversive western value, wealth.

Posted by: mynsterpreost on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 3:04pm BST

NP,

I notice you didn't answer my question--How do you know what "liberal people always intended?" What do you base that on?

But I see the irony you intended about 'inclusive churches' shrinking. Clever. Bit of a cheap shot. But clever.

Jesus saw his following shrink. (“Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66) So maybe we're in good company.

It ain't about numbers, anyway. I'm don't think low numbers are a badge of honor--I don't really care about numbers at all. I leave that to the folks who run institutions.

In any case, you'd better wait until we're actually dead to dance on our graves. Right now, you're just engaging in a polite form of heckling.

Posted by: Christopher Calderhead on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 3:23am BST

Ford / mynsterpreost - the main reason I think the usury and "thou shalt not kill" arguments are weak is that if I lend you some money, I will not charge you interest and unless you are trying to kill me or somebody else and I have to kill you to defend myself or them, I would not kill you. So, I do not defend hypocrisy in any part of the church nor am I allied to right-wing political parties and I am well aware (and come up against) the "conservative" idols too.

Christopher - my chaplain at Cambridge (a lovely man) certainly felt that his soft line on everything made chapel more accessible, friendly, modern and intelligent than the CU ....... I shall let you guess which had zero students (apart from the choir who came to sing for a free meal and a glass or four of wine) and which had over 20% of the college's students in it.....and yes, nearly all of those students are going strong over a decade later

Sorry - you are not in good company being small in following. The story did not stop with disciples deserting, as you know. The message they carried is true, attractive and strong and grew, like a mustard seed, from apparently humble beginnings to something huge ....and the message still causes growth, even in the West today....this is good news!

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 9:00am BST

NP: Doesn't your post re: usury place a radical separation between the individual and the corporate which is not entirely supported by the Christian tradition? The fact that The Church has turned its back on its earlier, scriptural opposition to the charging of interest cannot be ducked by someone saying 'well if I lend you ten pounds I won't expect eleven back'? Islam manages without interest-based banking as a tenet of faith....

And though I'm sorry that your Cambridge experience suggests the chapel was a spiritual desert (though personally I would shrink from assuming such base motives on the part of the choir or any other attender at worship), I cannot help but recall that my similarly accessible, intelligent (non-Oxbridge) college chaplaincy produced at least four priests, one of whom is now a bishop, another a dean of a cathedral, the head of a CofE secondary in this diocese.... and those are just the ones I happen to know about since the chaplain at the time now works in Lincoln diocese. Perhaps it's just that Cambridge students in your day were less discriminating;-)

Posted by: mynsterpreost on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 12:16pm BST

"the message still causes growth, even in the West today....this is good news!"

NP.
My point is that I'm not in any way sure that it is the message of the Gospel that is leading to growth in a lot of Evangelical churches. I've already listed some reaons for the growth of such churches that has nothing to do with the Gospel. And I'm not sure that the rise of Evangelicalism is good news, actually. If they ever get any kind of real power, us Anglo-catholics are going to have to find somewhere else to go pretty fast. I truly don't expect any tolerance from them at all. It's bad enough in some dioceses now.

re: usury and such, NP, we're not talking about whether or not you or I would charge each other interest, but about whether the Church has "rewritten the laws" in the past to accomodate to the world, the very sin the Right now accuses the Left of. She certainly has, and whether or not you personally would commit the same sin is immaterial. Compromising the message of the Gospel certainly doesn't become acceptable with the passage of time, so before the Right can get all fussed up about the Left rewriting the rules to suit the modern age, they really need to stop deluding themselves about the "purity" of the "orthodox" position they wish to reassert. As well, if we are to regain any credibility, we have to address these issues and repent of them. Trouble is, the Right has blinders on and cannot see how many sins the Church has committed in the past. They seem to think we were pure up till the gays started to show themselves. We were anything but.


Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 12:25pm BST

Hi Ford-

Yes, of course usury, letting the hungry go hungry etc are sin. But no-one is disputing that. What makes the homosexuality issue a different one, and therefore unable to be lumped together with these other ones, is that in this particular case it is being denied that the sin in question is a sin at all. Hence the different category.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 12:45pm BST

Further down on the web page following this bitter and largely incomprehensible article you say

"Our preoccupation with issues of sexual orientation and gender have distracted us from preaching a Gospel of inclusion, justice and fairness. It seems to us at Inclusive Church that it is urgent that we rediscover our voice to our wider society."

This I do understand. Its a good thought. Why don't you act on it?

Posted by: Andy Leeser on Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 1:44pm BST

But, Christopher, the point I have repeatedly tried to make is that it is NOT a new thing for the Church to declare that something that was once considered sin is actually not sin at all. She did it with usury. It was once considered sin, it is not sin now. It is the same thing. The Church 500 years ago did not say usury is a sin but we will tolerate it, or allow it. The Church said it is not a sin. Well, it was sin for 1500 years. This IS in fact the same thing. I'm not saying it was a good thing, in fact it has damaged our credibility, but it is not some new and alarming trend for us to say homosexuality is not a sin when we used to say it was. Whether we're right or not is another matter entirely.

Add to that the fact that we have frequently allowed those with the power or the money to get away with whatever they wanted (we allowed divorce for a king 500 years before we allowed it for a commoner, not to mention our complicity in his murder of a number of wives) and you have a picture of hypocrisy that it is not possible to explain away or excuse. It must be repented of.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 12:40pm BST

Agreed on usury. The big picture seems to be social conformity. It is not at all obvious what is so good or accaptable about usury or homosexual practice, or any of these things.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 1:25pm BST
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