on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 10.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Angela Tilby Church Times Deliver us from the Evangelical takeover
David Goodhew The Living Church Lambeth 2020 and the Growth of Asian Anglicanism
An earlier article looked at Lambeth 2020 and African Anglicanism
Edward Dowler Church Times State-owned churches are not the answer, Sir Simon
“The cold hand of secular authority cannot replace the stewardship of a living, breathing community”
What a sensitive and thoughtful piece by Angela Tilby.
She has expressed something important for me, that I have struggled to find words for.
Opinion-pieces that express appreciation for other heritages, while critiquing the author’s own heritage, are surely more helpful than ones which do the opposite. I expect Angela Tilby can point to lots of pieces by evangelicals rubbishing her own tradition, and they’re just as objectionable, but two wrongs don’t make a right…
While ‘brand HTB’ is not to my taste in terms of worship style and theological outlook, to suggest that it is out of touch with existential distress seems grossly wide of the mark. This is, after all, a church that ministers in prisons, runs a night shelter, and offers counselling to divorced and separated couples, just to name a few of their activities. The liberal belief that all evangelical activity on society’s front lines is ‘proselytism in disguise’ is not only unhelpful, but simply wrong.
Thanks for the two David Goodhew articles on the lead up to Lambeth 2020. I must confess, I was not aware of the information (below) that appears in his article on Hong Kong. I took note because Hong Kong is picking up the next meeting of Anglican Consultative Council and Archbishop Kwong is ACC current chair. “Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong has forged a close relationship with the Chinese state as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee. Alongside this, the archbishop has attacked pro-democracy protests, using the disturbing argument that since Jesus was silent on the… Read more »
Well, sensitive or otherwise, I admire Tilby’s moxy! I’m less impressed by her mocking not only evangelical theology, but utterly inoffensive spiritual practices such as tea lights and paper flames (both of which I’ve seen in Catholic and Anglo Catholic churches in several countries). I strongly disagree with the central tenets of evangelicalism, but I’ve consistently praised evangelicals’ drive, organization and devotion. If they’re taking over the CoE, it’s because, as per their name, they’re the ones evangelizing. With success comes influence. I’d love nothing more than for mainline churches to enjoy equal success, but to do that, they must… Read more »
Here’s a response
Wow, thanks for that link, Simon: Fr. Craig Huxley nails my feelings about this, and does it with laser-guided succinctness. “Confidence and competence,” that’s it.
Mainline congregations don’t need to become carbon copies of HTB, Willow Creek, or whatever; but they can learn from evangelicals’ gifts for accessibility, clarity, and organization, and adapt it to their own traditions.
HTB made Fr. Craig feel welcome: that is, surely, the heart of it.
I note that my expression of my experience, and thoughts, feeling, has been dismissed too, without a moment’s hesitation, it seems.
It will hardly encourage me to share, here.
I wonder if the perceived ‘evangelical takeover’ is a result of those in authority looking at HTB and similar churches, seeing ‘success’, and thinking that is the way forward for everybody. But one or two flourishing megachurches in every city is not typical of the evangelical presence. There are as many struggling backstreet churches identifying as evangelical as there are anglo-catholic and middle of the road, and the success of HTB is largely due to its upper-middle-class confidence. Our evangelical archbishops and their colleagues ought really to bring a gospel critique to this capitalist-inspired notion of success.
For my part, I certainly didn’t intend to dismiss how the piece spoke to Laurie: indeed, as I said, Tilby’s views on spirituality spoke to me too. I may agree with the earlier concerns about how it expressed its criticisms of evangelicalism, but I value all perspectives, and hope everyone feels free to share them.
There are street artists who will quickly paint or draw you. If if you have a big chin, that will be exaggerated. Glasses? They will be prominent. In other words, the result will be a caricature. We know that. We value that.
For me, Angela Tilby has done the same. Her piece is a literary caricature of evangelism. Is it exaggerated and overdone in places? Absolutely. But are some of her cutting observations on the mark? Absolutely too.
Laurie, I haven’t read Angela’s piece so haven’t commented so far, but I’m glad you found it helpful. When someone puts into words something important to you that you haven’t been able to express, it’s huge. ‘The right word is a power and lends definiteness to the action” (attributed to GB Shaw).
I am sorry, Laurie, that you feel that your feelings have been dismissed without hesitation. I too was warmed by some of Canon Tilby’s words, particularly the last paragraph about respect for privacy, slow nurturing of faith and gentle counsel. There is a great contrast between that and the brashly confident and intrusive approach that I perceive (rightly or wrongly) in much Evangelical worship, and I am attracted by the former but repelled by the latter. So I agree with you and with Canon Tilby. But, with others in this thread, I feel that other parts of her piece were… Read more »
I probably agree with Angela Tilby but her article is behind a pay wall. It is ironic that evangelicals can be successful, but are much more likely to put off the general population by their ghastly sickly-sweet version of religion.
Thank you to Simon for posting this link – my response is similarly enthusiastic to yours, James. As a former evangelical and now about to be ordained deacon to serve my title in a liberal catholic parish, I shall take Fr Craig’s two words ‘confidence’ and ‘competence’ with me into my ministry. PS to the Editor of Church Times: How about inviting Fr Craig to write a regular column? PPS to Fr Craig: Do come and visit us in Prestwood again!
Re “confidence and competence.” Fr. Huxley appears to have allowed himself to be finessed by what in show business are called good ‘production values.’
Don’t stop, Mr Roberts. I can’t understand why people are so keen to agree or disagree with the views of others. More than a few on TA are suspiciously (pathologically?) sure of themselves and quick to condemn. I find myself agreeing with most people in part – I can usually grasp someone else’s POV. I am thus a mass of contradictions – and happy enough in that state. FWIW I have some sympathy with Tilby, but it can’t be denied that HTB-ers bring people in, and from that brand, many move on. They are organised, sincere and efficient. I admire… Read more »
I reflect that in any era of the Church of England one tradition can be found making similar complaints about a currently other other. For the first two thirds of the last century Evangelicals were a despised minority in the Church of England. No bishops were appointed from their tradition. Their clergy were generally offered the remoter and poorer livings. They were isolated and behaved that way. Many of their most gifted minsters went on the mission field. How fortunes have turned around! But I think it may explain evangelical capacities both for conservative insularity and defensiveness but also a… Read more »
More on the David Goodhew piece, The Growth of Asian Anglicanism; Goodhew refers to a journalism piece in footnote 5. By following it, I was able to track down an article from The South China Morning Post titled, Divine to Divided: How Occupy Central Split Hong Kong’s Christian Leaders. It is a solid piece of Journalism. (see link). There is a section on the Archbishop Kwong controversy. “The remark generated accusations that Kwong was using his position to make charged political statements that favoured one side of the debate over the other. That criticism carried deep connotations given the influence… Read more »
Rod Gillis, I think you’re being a tad unfair to Fr. Huxley. He puts a heavy emphasis, in his blog, on the sincerity he encountered at HTB. It’s true that one person’s ‘sincerity’ is another person’s ‘overconfidence’, but his piece wasn’t just about production values. Incidentally I haven’t served in an evangelical church since 1992, but when I was vicar of a difficult housing estate it was clear that many of the blue-collar and unemployed there found evangelical churches more accessible than our middle-of-the-road Common Worship. I understand why many people here find evangelical worship off-putting, but it’s wide of… Read more »
Here’s another response to Angela Tilby
I think the odd thing about the Tilby article is that it uses, as a springboard for an opinion piece, something that is designed to be entirely unitive. Of course, one can dismiss the production of a novena of prayer or the use of the Church calendar as cynical marketing ploys on the part of a devious group that seeks to colonise the spiritually unwary. Or, of course, one can instead take it in the way it is intended – as a concerted opportunity for those from every tradition to pray for the coming of the Kingdom and the re-evangelisation… Read more »
Re Janet Fife, “I think you’re being a tad unfair to Fr. Huxley.” Production values can be slick and beguiling with regard to actual content. However, Fr. Huxley is a priest not a theatre critic, with charity being the difference there one assumes.
In any event, point taken. It was a wise guy rejoinder I could not resist.
Is the Church ever likely to get away from the belief that certain theologies can only be expressed through specific ecclesiologies. There are a large number of people who are theologically liberal and get a real spiritual experience from what would be described as “happy clappy” services. They are confident in their faith and sensitive to the feelings of those who aren’t. I fall into this category as do many of my friends, who are disaffected Anglicans who would like to get on with growing the Kingdom without having to fight our own side to do it.
“who would like to get on with growing the Kingdom”
But what does “growing the kingdom” mean? To me it is measured in the number of baptisms and the old-style Anglo-Catholic church did very well ideeed against that measure.
Evangelicals seem to count active worshippers. They do pretty well at that, but I think they deter people from getting their children baptised. I think there is a good argument that evangels are not growing the kingdom but might be inhibiting growth. But it really does depend on what one means by “growing the kingdom”
I think that +Pete hits the nail on the head and spells out something that I’ve been thinking for a long time. He says ‘Personality preference and spirituality are closely linked.’ I put it another way that churchmanship / styles of worship relate more to aesthetics than doctrine. I am very uncomfortable in a ‘free worship’ type service and hate both the type of music and the physical expression that goes with it – I find it embarassing as I do any similar secular activity in the theatre for instance. But that’s me. I feel much more able to worship… Read more »
David Goodhew’s article in ‘Covenant’ indicates his pro-African view of Anglicanism in our world today: ” Will Lambeth 2020 be a rerun of Lambeth 2008, which large numbers of African bishops did not attend, and where indaba rhetoric was a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed appropriation of the least vigorous part of contemporary African Anglicanism?” The reality is that the ‘Anglicanism’ embraced by the majority involved in GAFCON separatism from the rest of the Communion – as expressed in its ‘Jerusalem Statement’ is far removed from the sort of Anglicanism that I have grown up with and which I have supported… Read more »
In trying to understand Angela Tilby’s excellent article on the dangers of sola scriptura religion, Simon’s link to the ‘survivingchurch.org’ article is most enlightening – and eirenic!
Deliver us from caricatures of others and a siege mentality. “If I disagree with you, I have to love you more” (George Bebawi)
The whole point of Angela Tilby’s column in the Church times is that, to a predetermined word-limit, she is asked to write an opinion piece that evokes a response. She understands the media well, and knows that her ability to rattle cages will draw a response, which is precisely what the Church Times wants – and why they ask her to write the column. She is responding to her brief very well indeed. May we be delivered from the day when she writes to affirm any tribe in their hard-won status quo. Angela Tilby is also a radical, in the… Read more »
The comment by Will Richards is insightful, about Angela Tilby as a first rate writer, about the media and about the nature of modern evangelicalism. “When did you last hear Welby and Sentamu and their like drawing on the riches of their heritage…” Good Question. One can distinguish between the crucial role an office plays, such as does the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the style or presentation of the person who occupies that office at any given time. Archbishop Welby’s leadership style can be fairly described as a certain kind of top down Alpha CEO (pun intended) bonded to a… Read more »
As someone who finds a different model of worship and theology to that of the evangelical wing of the CoE and in particular that of HTB and its plants more to my liking; I found Angela Tilby’s piece expressed very real concerns. It is certainly true that HTB and its plants sometimes display over confidence/arrogance and a lack of an understanding of church history or tolerance of other types of churchmanship and I would not argue with those who see them as a church within a church. They are however also very good at bringing people to Christ, which should… Read more »
“When did you last hear Welby and Sentamu and their like drawing on the riches of their heritage, people like the Wesleys, John and Henry Venn, Charles Simeon, John V Taylor, Richard Baxter and Jeremy Taylor?” In a video to promote ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, the thing which has evoked a response from Tilby, Justin Welby refers to a 6th century bible brought by Augustine to England, and presented to the Archbishop at his installation. Does that count? Perhaps there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the more people hear about ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ the more the church in… Read more »
I’m all for a historical base, Will, but often that’s best used to inform movements to liberate people from the dead-hand of tradition, whether that tradition’s the sanctification of royal power, the rejection of ordination regardless of sex or sexuality, or theology rooted in ancient cosmology simply incompatible with later centuries of discoveries. If the HTB crowd are guilty of anything, it’s in placing too much stock in traditional theology, and in refusing to embrace new insights. I couldn’t agree more with Lavinia Nelder: style is absolutely separable from substance. I’ve suggested many times on here that, in order to… Read more »
An illustration. Clicking on HTB’s site, I’m immediately offered a choice of multiple services in multiple locations, with many videos of teaching available to sample. I’m invited to attend a leadership conference and Focus 2018, a church week away that looks bigger and better resourced than many festivals. I’m offered an Alpha course (naturally!), invited to volunteer, or to donate to the survivors of the Grenfell disaster. Immediately, I’m given the impression of a thriving church rooted in its community, a church that’s confident, welcoming, and is going places. Yes, HTB’s atypical, the Willow Creek of English Anglicanism: but I… Read more »
James Byron I totally agree. It’s really not as if HTB and all those ghastly evangelicals are greedily hogging all the available unbelievers is it? There’s room for all. I am reminded of the saying that a sign of maturity is being able to tell our own story without blaming anyone else for it.
I’ve read Angela Tilby’s article and it seems to be saying that:
1. Evangelicals are so ineffective that people are going to their doctors for spiritual guidance; and
2. Evangelicals are so effective that they are taking over the church.
Can anyone explain the logic of this to me?
James Byron makes some good points. HTB and its plants are activist in promoting the gospel to the world and in encouraging people to engage with christianity and they deserve to be commended for this. I do however question how many people who are introduced to christ via the HTB approach move on to a deeper engagement in what it means to be a christian. ALPHA is great at what it does but presents what is “chistianity lite” and favours theologians who have not asked difficult questions. This means that many participants stick at what ALPHA has told them and… Read more »
You make compelling points, Confused Sussex: although I’ll gladly accept that HTB itself delves deeper than Alpha, being delineated by evangelical red lines, its theology will always be restricted in a way that liberalism isn’t. Just makes it all the more frustrating that mainline churches haven’t, on the whole, been able to emulate evangelicalism’s success. Their theological flexibility makes them ideally suited to interface with society. If only they weren’t held back by their style and organization. I genuinely hope that Tilby writes a follow-up op-ed with ideas to revive liberalism’s fortunes. Disagree as I do, I respect her courage… Read more »
Why is everyone assuming that ‘evangelical’ = ‘HTB’? HTB represents one strand of evangelicalism – charismatic – and one church size dynamic – corporate. Traditional evangelicalism in the C of E is closer to an All Souls Langham Place approach, and they don’t even use the Alpha Course there, they have their own home-grown course, Christianity Explored. And the vast majority of evangelical C of E clergy will spend their entire ministries in small and medium sized parishes. Granted, I’m a Canadian Anglican, so my situation is a little different, but my current parish with an ASA of 70-80 is… Read more »
“Why is everyone assuming that ‘evangelical’ = ‘HTB’?” For my part, I wasn’t, Tim: Tilby namechecked it, and, with her references to Welby and public (private) school, appeared to be focusing on that strand of evangelicalism, so I did likewise; but I also noted that the Brompton crew are atypical, and made sure to include the hundreds of regular evangelical parishes, along with the New Wine / Spring Harvest networks. Since she raised the transatlantic connection, also gave a fair bit of focus to Willow Creek (of Chicago, Illinois). Agree that the All Souls / Christianity Explored strand of evangelicalism’s… Read more »
Edward Dowler’s article presents a nightmare scenario of churches run by bureacrats. But that was not Simon Jenkins’ proposal. Jenkins’ notion of churches run by local parish councils is not far from the role originally envisaged for PCCs in the Church and State report produced during the Great War. This argued PCCs should be entirely lay, as clergy membership would lead to sacerdotal domination. The franchise to elect PCCs was baptism, not as some wanted, confirmation. This meant the vast majority of the population could vote for PCCs, and they might represent the views and interests of the parish, not… Read more »
Yes, I noted your more nuanced approach, James – thanks.
As far as a Willow Creek connection is concerned, I’m not sure whether Justin Welby or John Sentamu have one. However, one person who used to attend the Willow Creek leadership summit every year is Bishop Alan Wilson – I remember him blogging about it!
Bishop Broadbent’s comments about all being nice to one another sit rather oddly with this tweet from @petespurs posted at 2:09 PM on 29 Apr 2018 : “And she’s gone. At last an honourable resignation. Now what about the puppet mistress? ”
TP Except of course that Bishop Pete said nothing so crass as ‘all being nice to each other’. And is there not a gospel connection between working for the celebration of human diversity and confronting institutional racism.
I’d refer David to the comments on Twitter made in response. Some people might imagine that a bishop should choose more judicious words than to describe the Prime Minister as a “puppet mistress”.
TP You made a comment here so I replied here. I assumed this was your own opinion.