One of the many points made at the Evangelion conference by Lee Gatiss that really struck me concerned the value of institutions. Institutions live longer and work harder than even the most celebrated workers. He gave the example of William Wilberforce, the 19th century evangelical who devoted his life to ending Britain’s involvement with the slave trade. Wilberforce is generally credited with being the single most important individual campaigner for this cause, and achieving more for it than almost anyone of his time, but there was no guarantee that anyone would carry on this work after him, and although Parliament abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire just weeks after his death, further reform in this area did not come for generations. Church Society, on the other hand, has been at work for the evangelical cause in the Church of England for 200 years, and its work does not stop when any of its members or officers dies.
Gatiss also pointed out that Church Society is still working for the same thing in the church for which it was working 200 years ago. Unlike, for instance, the abolition of slavery, commitment to living under the authority of Scripture in the church is not something about which it can ever be said ‘we’ve achieved our goal, now we can celebrate and then wind up our activities.’ There will always be work to do. There was 200 years ago, there is today, and unless the Lord comes first, there will be work to do 200 years from now.
It made me realize how much Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church need an institution like Church Society. My prayer is that out of this renewed interest in the evangelical movement, such an organization may come. It’s not our first need, I realize, but even the most enthusiastic movements run into the doldrums eventually, and before too many years have passed, I hope we take steps towards a Church Society of our own, and that in 2215 it will be busy planning its second bicentennial celebration, as well as continuing to uphold the authority of the word of God in the Episcopal Church.
In the meantime, let’s support Church Society, which is willing to help the effort here as well as in the Church of England. Click here to learn how.
Lee’s talk should be available on Anglican TV shortly. When it is, I’ll update this post with a link.