Evangelicalism


PECUSA’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, preached a wonderful sermon at the Royal Wedding, almost everyone agrees. I thought the same thing myself as I listened, and thanked God that someone who could speak so comfortably about Jesus had been invited to preach. Everything he said was true; even if we are only speaking of human love, all those aspects of life he mentioned would be so much better if love were the way, and it is inspiring to imagine them.

The fatal flaw, of course, is that unless Jesus means far more to us than a wonderful example of human love, imagining those things is all we can ever do. We all know that love is the answer to all human problems, but we all also know that human beings simply cannot live as lovingly as the case requires. Love means always having to say you’re sorry when your love isn’t up to the demands made upon it, and most of us have enough trouble saying that to those we love the very most, let alone to those we go out of our way to avoid, and as far as saying it to God is concerned—well, God made us the way we are, and He must understand that it’s not us, it’s them.

The result was inevitable: Curry’s wonderful sermon is being praised by all, the British press as well as the Intermob, as a ‘celebration of Black culture’ instead of the key to changing the world we live in. And having praised it in that patronising way, we have said all that love can expect of us, and can go back to our bitter denunciations of those who voted for and against Trump, for and against Brexit, etc etc etc ad mortem eternam…

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A friend recently sent me a link to a website encouraging readers to consider ordination, and to attend a certain conference in furtherance of that goal. It appeared to be aimed at Episcopalians, and was being held at an Episcopal Church, although there was no clue as to who was sponsoring or organising the conference. The following paragraph is typical of its many words in praise of ordained ministry:

‘The privilege of standing in the person of Christ, representing God to humanity for the forgiveness of sins, welcoming them to the new life of Baptism, and placing in their hands and on their lips the holy food of heaven. We stand there representing to the World, her God and our God.’

This Old Testament view of priesthood is the exact contrary of the New Testament view of ministry. According to the New Testament, there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2.5) who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us (Romans 8.34). Ordained ministry in the New Testament is a ministry of preaching conversion to the unsaved and encouragement to the saved. I believe this attitude to ministry has weakened the faith of Anglicans generally and Episcopalians in particular, making too many of them dependent on their clergy for their spiritual lives. Those attracted by this sort of appeal need them to be dependent, for otherwise what privilege will be left for the clergy?

The closing words, ‘Who else gets to do this?’ are an appeal to the readers’ worst instincts. The answer to the question, given the antecedent of ‘this’, is NO ONE, Christ has already done it, and any suggestion that His work needs to be continued by others is bad news, the antigospel, because there is NO ONE ELSE who can do it.

God’s word says so.

Click this link to register

efac-usa-logoAt the ‘Evangelion’ conference of Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church held at Trinity School for Ministry in 2016, three ideas for the future found widespread support: renewing our connection with Evangelicals in the rest of the Anglican Communion through the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC); getting together annually; and participation in our events by Evangelicals who are members of the various Anglican churches that have come into existence outside TEC in recent years.

Following discussions among former board members of EFAC-USA, the American branch of EFAC, EFAC-USA will reorganise under a board of directors composed of equal numbers of TEC and ACNA members, and have its first annual Assembly at the Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center outside Orlando, Florida from April 19-21 2017. The theme of the conference is ‘Positively Evangelical’, and speakers include Greg Brewer, Andrew Pearson and Charlie Holt. All Anglican Evangelicals in the USA, whether in TEC or another church of the Anglican tradition, are invited to attend; to register, check the new EFAC-USA website, which will shortly be available at www.EFAC-USA.org, or go to the EFAC-USA Facebook page (Facebook.com/EFACUSA).

More information will be also posted on this blog. Please pray for a renewal of effective evangelical witness to the Episcopal Church and to the other American churches in the Anglican tradition.

RuskinThe Mediæval religion of Consolation perished in false comfort; in remission of sins given lyingly. It was the selling of absolution that ended the Mediæval faith; and I can tell you more, it is the selling of absolution which, to the end of time, will mark false Christianity. Pure Christianity gives her remission of sins only by ending them; but false Christianity gets her remission of sins by compounding for them. And there are many ways of compounding for them. We [Anglicans] have beautiful little quiet ways of buying absolution, whether in low Church or high, far more cunning than any of Tetzel’s trading.

—John Ruskin

Discuss.

church_society_logo_140_sans_strapAt the recent conference for Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church, there was much discussion of lay ministry (see this post). An ordinand in the Church of England, Chris Edwards, makes a great contribution to that subject on the Church Society blog:

When we say “the church’s ministry depends on volunteers” we are making a sub-biblical distinction between the church on the one hand and her people on the other. We restrict what we mean by ‘the church’s ministry’ to the corporate projects in which her leaders decide to engage. And our best expectation for everyone else – the ‘volunteers’ – is that they will wholeheartedly throw themselves into the leaders’ plan. The distinction is subtle, but it is a dangerous one, because it makes the church a two-tier place. Yes, of course there must be leadership – and, indeed, submission to leadership. And I am not meaning to undermine the notion of ordination. But drawing a distinction between ‘church’ and ‘volunteers’ does not help people marvel at the wonder of what it means to belong – fully – to the Body of Christ.

Check it out here.

The recent statement by the Anglican Primates is slightly more than I hoped for, and if the statements by Episcopal dignitaries and the comments on Episcopal blogs are worse than I feared, more fool me, I suppose. The Primates confirmed that ‘the traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture’ (is it my imagination or there a faint tinge of regret discernible in the wording there?) ‘upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.’ Since that is the teaching of Scripture, albeit not in those words, Evangelicals will be pleased that these leading churchmen are willing to say so, and would apologise on behalf of the Episcopal Church for all the vitriolic comments being directed their way.

The statement also asks the Episcopal Church to limit its participation in some aspects of the Anglican Communion, and hopes for the appointment of a Task Group ‘to maintain conversation among ourselves [the Primates, presumably] with the intention of restoration of relationship’ etc. Restoration of relationships with the rest of the Communion presumably depends on a return to the Biblical view of marriage, and unlikely as that it is to happen, Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church must assume that God expects us to lift up our voices in support of that return.

Perhaps this is the place to begin discussing how we might do that, and how to be faithful in a church that seems less tolerant of us than ever. Perhaps there will be some time at the Evangelion II conference scheduled for May 28–30 in Ambridge, PA for further discussion.

I could certainly use a little encouragement…

 

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