There is another new church in Christchurch with two Anglican clergymen involved in it, both of whom until recently were licensed clergy in the Diocese of Christchurch. This church - just planted within the last month - is called Church By The Tracks. Its pastor is the Reverend Dave Morgan. Local watchers will recognise the photo of the other Anglican clergyman involved in the church, although not as a member of staff.
What does not seem terrifically obvious from the Auckland church's site is that this church is a new planting connected to the Geneva Push which describes itself as, "an Australian network dedicated to recruiting, coaching and unleashing church planters. " This network is headed up by directors, the leading one of whom seems to be the Right Reverend Al Stewart, who formerly exercised his episcopal ministry within the Diocese of Sydney and who was once seen by some as a contender to succeed Peter Jensen as Archbishop of Sydney. Although not mentioned on the Church By The Tracks site, I recall the announcement from Dave Morgan when he signalled his departure from his previous parish as including reference to the role of the Geneva Push in his future plan. As best I can tell the Geneva Push is independent of the Diocese of Sydney. I wonder if it would be accurate to describe the Geneva Push as 'post-Anglican'?
Anyway, back to the Auckland Evangelical Church. It is always interesting to peruse the websites of churches because a key question to ask of any church is what its governance structure involves and how accountability works. This is what the Auckland Evangelical Church says of itself:
"Auckland Evangelical Church is an evangelical church that is independent in governance but united with Christians around the world and throughout history in upholding the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hold the Bible to be the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct and weigh all our teaching against its standard. We believe the teachings outlined in the historic church creeds (known commonly as The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed and The Athanasian Creed) are faithful expressions of the teaching of the Christian Scriptures. We hold to the Reformation teaching that God’s rescue comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Person and work of Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone."
"Independent in governance" sends alarm bells ringing in my ecclesiological mind (and, I presume, means that the Reverend Hilsden is not licensed to this ministry by the Bishop of Auckland). To make things
If the minister or ministers of the church err in belief or behaviour, to whom is a complaint to be brought?
Secondary question: is the body or individual to whom complaint would be made, themselves accountable to any body of believers, and will their processing of complaint be according to a process agreed by that body of believers?
Naturally I ask this question because it is not obvious from the website of the church to whom its leadership is accountable.
Incidentally, we have a church in Christchurch of similar ethos to the Auckland Evangelical Church, called Campus Church (although its start in life was prior to the existence of the Geneva Push). It is reasonably described as 'post- Anglican' because its founding senior pastor was simultaneously pastoring this church (evening services only) while also being vicar of a parish here in Christchurch (morning services only). Its current pastor I have heard in personal conversation describe himself as Anglican, but he has no formal relationship with the Bishop of Christchurch. Its site is here and I do not think you will find on it any sign as to whom the leadership of the church is accountable.
By contrast, Church By The Tracks does offer the following re accountability:
Lead Pastor – Dave Morgan In line with our statement of belief, Dave’s role is to lead the church.
Oversight team (includes 2 Trustee’s and elected members) Oversight Team’s role is to manage property and finance.
Board of Reference An external board of appointed Christian leaders who will provide wisdom and support to the Oversight team on issues of doctrine and employment of Lead Pastor." [Ed: would be good to know the names of who is on the board!]
In all three cases it is ecclesiastically fascinating to be drawn to 'biblical churches' which do not give any clear signal in their statements of belief that they practice the dominical sacraments.
Is it possible that their senior pastors have been taught a deficient ecclesiology? Deficient, that is, in terms of Article XIX,
"The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly- ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."
It is simply wrong to to truncate ecclesiology after the second comma.
Obviously (reading their web info) what is not deficient in these three churches is their passion and commitment to evangelism, exposition and education. But is an intensive effort to do these things in the name of the Lord properly called 'church' without a congregational life which in its self-description includes baptism and communion? Is it a healthy church life (in two cases out of three) to declare no accountability structure, to give no sign of what authority the ministry leadership is submitted to?
Indeed in terms of a truncated ecclesiology, it is intriguing to find this description on the Auckland Evangelical Church's site re one aspect of its belief:
"About the Church
The visible church is the gathering of believers around Christ in His word. It is a community of people intended by God to bear witness to Him and actively seek the extension of His rule. Within its community, both men and women are to seek proper expression of their gifts as they work to build the church in love. The Bible makes it clear that in church leadership, as in marriage, the roles of men and women are not interchangeable. We are committed to expressing the differences within relationships of mutual dependence."
Note the beginning words remind us of the article cited above, but without reference to the Sacraments. Despite the inclusiveness of 'believers' relative to the Article's 'men' the statement ends with a statement about the lack of interchangeability of roles of men and women in church leadership and in marriage. Clearly this is a helpful statement of the situation as it is used as well by Church By The Tracks which has the same statement:
"(g) About the church
The visible church is the gathering of believers around Christ in his word. It is a community of people intended by God to bear witness to him and actively seek the extension of his rule. Within its community both men and women are to seek proper expression of their gifts as they work to build the church in love. The Bible makes clear that in church leadership, as in marriage, the roles of men and women are not interchangeable. We are committed to expressing the differences within relationships of mutual dependence."
This statement underlines my sense that such churches are post-Anglican because, despite the Anglican background of their current pastors, the life of these churches is not associated with the oversight of a bishop.
Well, there you have it. A potted account of three churches in New Zealand which are (a) post-Anglican in appearance, (b) sharing a certain family resemblance, and thus (I would argue) on the way to becoming a denomination. A denomination, that is, of sorts at least, as the independence of each church probably stands in the way of becoming a denomination in the mutual accountability sense of that word.
Actually, haven't we seen this post-Anglican denomination of independent churches before? Indeed we have. The Plymouth Brethren bear remarkable similarity to these churches.
Funnily enough, one of their assembly halls is just down the road from where Church By The Tracks meets :)
Tomorrow I will attempt to draw out why I think that these churches, along with the Geneva Push have become 'post-Anglican', in the light of yesterday's post about the Word and Sacrament character of the modern Anglican church with its peculiar twist that no balance between the two is insisted on.
I will also offer (whether in the post to come or the one after it) a thought about why one other development in the 'Anglican world' can also be called 'post-Anglican' while another development is not post-Anglican at all.