Keep Together, Fall Apart

The responses continue to come to the proposed covenant. One in particular that has been highlighted in a number of places is this great Lament for Evangelicalism written by Paul Roberts, someone who lectured for twelve years at one of the foremost Evangelical Colleges in the UK. Dave highlights a large section of it, which I won’t do here, but there are a couple of quotes that really sum up the feelings behind the piece:

There seems to be a sense that the ‘party’ animals in the Evangelical world have become so obsessed with their own importance that they seem to have not noticed that the big wide world is moving on.

This point pulls no punches either:

Now all you seem interested in is sex and church politics, as if without the Church getting straightened (sic) out on this issue, the gospel somehow is powerless. Do you still believe in the gospel? Or are you so concerned about the purity of the Church that you’ve made the gospel a function of ethics or ecclesiology.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Now I’m quite sure, based on the fact that he lectured at an Evangelical college that I won’t agree on a number of theological points with Paul, but I certainly agree with everything he says in this posting, and I agree with what he says about what the Church should be doing. That seems to be the really surprising thing about the reaction to the covenant. Whilst the reaction from the more liberal wing of the Church is as expected, what is amazing is that so many on the more Evangelical wing of the Church are saying the same things. Quite seriously, if we in Finchampstead, each split into a different Church over theological differences, the village would end up looking like those American towns that seem to have as many different Churches as people, there is a rainbow of differences across the spectrum of Anglicanism – indeed of Christianity in Finchampstead, but instead of dividing, as a village we’re going the other way, and for the second year the two Anglican Churches (between which there is a lot of difficult history) and the local Finchampstead Baptist Church have jointly issued a Christmas card listing the services, more than that we continue to hold regular prayer meetings during the year – held at one Church, led by another, with the food provided by the third – and the clergy from each Church meet together regularly.

This is what it should be about, not endless Church politics. It should be about the fact that our Carol Service last night had so many people wanting to attend that every seat was filled, and that over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we now have nine services in order to get everybody in, and more than half of those will still be standing room only – and people will be willing to stand in order to be part of the service. Last year we had over 1000 people through the Church over the course of the same period. Sadly, is that the image of the Church that the press is seeing this Christmas?

Update: Anglican Mainstream have published a list of all the signatories to the proposed covenant followed by twenty-two question and answers covering a lot of the criticisms that have been levelled at the document. Disappointingly the answers seem to mainly follow a pattern of trying to back pedal from the statements in the original document, and then saying much the same thing in a different way. Perhaps the most interesting answer is to question 5 – ‘Are You Really Anglicans?’ where they say that they are, but then go on to define Anglicanism in terms of scripture and tradition, whilst totally ignoring the third leg of the three-legged stood defined by Richard Hooker – reason.

In terms of the names, there are certainly no surprises on the list – certainly you can tick off the names from the Anglican Mainstream ‘Who We Are’ page and get a goodly proportion. Names also include both current and former vicars of St Andrews Chorleywood – one of the three Churches in the diocese to withhold part of their share in protest at the appointment of Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans. In case you’re wondering, the former vicar is Bishop David Pytches. It also includes signatories from several notable Reform churches such as Jesmond Parish Church, St Ebbe’s in Oxford and St Helen’s Bishopsgate. Also in the middle of the list is Philip Giddings who was a key player in the appointment of, and subsequent campaign against Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading, and also sat on the committee for the new Bishop of Oxford. In terms of senior people, although there are three bishops listed, only one, Bishop Wallace Benn actually holds a senior position in the Church of England, in this case Bishop of Lewes. The third, like Bishop David Pytches is a Bishop (in fact former primate) from the Southern Cone.

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

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